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6 Decisions a Highly Sensitive Person MUST make (Part 3/3)

6 Decisions a Highly Sensitive Person MUST make (Part 3/3)

The greatest work of the Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) will be to fall back in love with his sensitivity. Or, to start the love in the first place if that is indeed the case.

This is assuming you are one of the many HSPs who are quite pissed off at the world for truly misunderstanding what it means to be sensitive. No, we’re not cry babies when people raise their voice at us. What we are is sensitive to the subtleties of this world. The things that 85% of the people miss, we don’t. It makes us more reflective and certainly more inward focused.

Another truth could be that we ourselves haven’t fully understood our own trait, so a part of us questions if we are to blame. Bottomline: We are highly aware, which can make us more creative. But we are also quick to getting highly stimulated, a frequently occurring state that often blocks out that creativity.

In parts 1 and 2, we explored the inward world of HSP. This article will elaborate on those ideas. Can we chart a plan that leads us to be at peace with ourselves? How should we get comfortable with who we are and eventually lead a life more in alignment with that?

We can. It starts with 6 Decisions.

1. Call it over stimulation, not fear

Are you always afraid and anxious? No. You’re sensitive and over-stimulated. It feels the same, but it’s not the same. And this is an essential reframe. If you label over-stimulation as fear, it will surely become fear. You know why? Because the mind is foolish. It can always conjure up something to be afraid of. And, once a state is labeled as fear, we rush into flight or fight and start scrambling for survival.

This takes us very far from what’s really true. We’re not fighting threats or dangers. All that’s happening is that we’re a little over-stimulated and in need of downtime to bring ourselves back to comfort. The best way to start is by actually removing the word “fear” from the picture. Don’t get me wrong. Fear is not a bad emotion, and in fact is a necessary one to keep our survival safe and intact. But over-stimulation is an overload on the nervous system asking us to slow down for a little bit. There’s nothing to be afraid of here.

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2. Don’t try to “overcome” over stimulation. You’ll just add more to it

If you try to overcome your trait, how do you think that’s going to go? You’re asking yourself to stop being you. Not only is that not going to happen, but it’s also giving you a very distasteful message about yourself.

Telling yourself not to get over-stimulated is a losing battle. It’s like asking yourself to not see a red car when you see a red car. It’ll never work, and you’ll just add more to your over-aroused state. Your trait, your high awareness, your sensitivity to nuance, your depth of processing are all innate. There are ways to get your life on board with your plans, but that cannot happen if you insist your inherent and intrinsic makeup has to change.

3. Let go of your need to be like the non-HSP.

It may seem unfair that we come with a trait that makes us so sensitive to the environment, when maybe instead we want to be happily ignorant of it. Like Sandy, the non-HSP, who escaped from noticing everything at the party except the missing piece of cake!

We have to try to remember that we also gain advantages because of the trait. If you’ll allow yourself, appreciate that HSPs actually have a big advantage with their inherent, intrinsically-handed-down, don’t-have-to-work-for-it, higher awareness of subtleties.

The higher awareness provides HSPs with greater opportunities to be more creative, perceptive, empathic and thoughtful. When you notice things that most others miss, that’s an opportunity to do something novel. It is no surprise then that many of the world’s most creative artists are highly sensitive people.

“HSPs are all creative by definition because we process things so thoroughly and notice so many subtleties and emotional meanings that we can easily put two unusual things together.” – Dr Elaine Aron, who discovered the HSP trait.”

Yes, it’s true. We feel things more intensely than others including difficult emotions like anger, fear, and pain. But, like Dr Andrea Wachter says “…you get to feel the sweet things in life very deeply too. While you may have to use more tools to weather the storms of life, when the storms subside and there are calm moments, you get to feel those more fully.”

4. Find ways to bring yourself back to your optimal range of stimulation

This is really what we are asking for.

Take a short walk. Leave the room. Mentally check out. Watch TV. Read a good book. Sleep. Meditate.

You need some mental space and it is critical you get it. How? This is a very individual matter, and the good news is that as an HSP, you will know best what activity helps achieve this.

For me, it’s going silent and politely asking people around me to excuse me. It is not always meditation although sometimes it is. Often, someone comes along who doesn’t understand. Sometimes, I offer him an invitation to read about HSPs, and other times if he doesn’t get it, I also offer him an invitation to go to hell (I don’t say it like that, but I sure as hell mean it like that).

The point I’m trying to make is that we should stop apologizing for our need to check out for a while. Look at it as nonnegotiable for yourself. We are taking in 80% more than others do. Your friends and family should understand exactly why you need private time to reboot.

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5. Introversion helps.

70% of HSPs are introverts. They get their energy from being inwardly oriented. The sooner you graciously accept that you prefer looking inward to recharge, the happier you’ll be.

But too many HSPs have kept their introversion a deep, dark, hidden secret. Society has given them the message that their desire to take time off for downtime and go off into their own private space makes them weird. And in the end, they’ve bought into it.

The majority suspects that we need to do this because we are “afraid of” or “shy of” people, and they show little hesitation in making this known to us. “Why are you so anti-social? Why would you want to leave the party already?”

If you don’t understand your trait holistically, you will forever be left feeling like there’s some flaw in you. It’s the reason why some HSPs are in ill-suited relationships, marriages, friendships, and professions primarily because they try to portray themselves as the opposite of who they are. As Extroverts.

Ironic and tragic at the same time, this has made HSPs more miserable than peaceful. And why wouldn’t it? You haven’t been able to wrap your head around why exactly you have been labeled as “flawed”, “shy”, “timid” when deep down inside you truly feel you are not.

There comes a time when you’ve had enough pretending. If you’re an introvert, accept it, own it. Choose your own ways of navigating your path. In the process, you will find your peace. If society gets in the way, train yourself how to say “Screw it. I’m doing it anyway. From now on, I’m being me.”

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Decision 6. Forgive your past by reframing it.

If while growing up your sensitivity was received by people, particularly by close family and friends, as a problem that needed fixing, then you are rightfully angry. We’re angry at them for asking us to change who we intrinsically are, and we’re also angry at us for believing their flawed verdicts about our value. And now, after we’ve understood our trait, we are angry at how much of our life got wasted in this whole, painful ordeal.

This anger can be toxic and can keep our healing from starting. This is where forgiveness can help us. Forgive the people who did not understand sensitivity as a trait. Isn’t it true that if we HSPs are just now understanding it, how could anyone else have known any better? Forgiveness doesn’t mean I like what happened, forgiveness means I no longer take it so personally. When we do this, the act of forgiveness is more in our favor than anyone else’s, because it empowers us to finally move on with our life. That has otherwise been put on hold.

“Don’t be so sensitive” can now be answered as “I will be. Thank you very much.”

***

Off we go into a life of our choosing without a flinch of disrespect for our sensitivity. Finally.

More by this author

Namita Gujral

Anxiety Coach

HSP, Highly Sensitive Person 6 Decisions a Highly Sensitive Person MUST make (Part 3/3) The Biggest Fight of the Highly Sensitive Person (Part 2/3) How to Thrive, Not Hurt, as a Highly Sensitive Person (Part 1/3) 5 Reasons to Quit Intellectualizing Your Emotions How to Overcome Anxious Thoughts With Milk, a Hat, and a Post Office

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Published on July 7, 2020

Brain Training: 12 Fast, Fun Mental Workouts

Brain Training: 12 Fast, Fun Mental Workouts

Exercise isn’t just for your body. Just as important is keeping your mind strong by training your brain with fun mental workouts.

Think of your mental and physical fitness the same way: you don’t need to be an Olympian, but you do need to stay in shape if you want to live well. A few cognitive workouts per week can make a major difference in your life.

The Skinny on Mental Workouts

Physical fitness boosts your stamina and increases your muscular strength. The benefits of working up a mental sweat and brain training, however, might not be so obvious.

Research suggests that cognitive training has short- and long-term benefits, including:

1. Improved Memory

After eight weeks of cognitive training, 19 arithmetic students showed a larger and more active hippocampus than their peers.[1] The hippocampus is associated with learning and memory.

2. Reduced Stress Levels

Mastering new tasks more quickly makes the work of learning less stressful. A stronger memory can call information to mind with less effort.

3. Improved Work Performance

Learning quickly and remembering key details can lead to a better career. Employers are increasingly hiring for soft skills, such as trainability and attention to detail.

4. Delayed Cognitive Decline

As we age, we experience cognitive decline. A study published by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that 10 one-hour sessions of cognitive training boosted reasoning and information processing speed in adults between the ages of 65 and 94.[2]

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Just like in physical exercise, what’s important isn’t the specific workout. To be sustainable, cognitive workouts need to be easy and fun. Otherwise, it’s too easy to throw in the towel.

Fun Brain Training Exercises for Everyone

The best about fun mental workouts? There’s no need to head to a gym. Feel free to mix and match the following activities for daily brain training:

1. Brainstorming

One of the simplest, easiest ways to engage your brain? Coming up with solutions to a challenge you’re facing.

If you aren’t good at solo ideation, ask a partner to join you. When I’m struggling to come up with topics to write about, I call up my editors to bat ideas around. Friends or co-workers are usually happy to help.

2. Dancing

Isn’t dancing a physical workout? Yes, but the coordination it requires is also great for training your brain. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.

Studies suggest that dance boosts multiple cognitive skills.[3] Planning, memorizing, organizing, and creativity all seem to benefit from a few fancy steps.

3. Learning a New Language

Learning a new language takes time. But if you split it up into small, daily lessons, it’s easier than you might think.

With language learning, every lesson builds on the last. When I was learning Spanish, I used a tool called Guru for knowledge management.[4] Every time I’d learn a verb tense, I’d create a new card to give me a quick refresh before moving on.

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4. Developing a Hobby

Like languages, hobbies take time to develop. But that’s the fun of them: you get a little better—both at the hobby and in terms of brain function—each time you do them.

If you’re trying to train your brain and improve a certain cognitive skill, choose a hobby that aligns with it.

For example:

  • Attention to detail: Pick a hobby that requires you to work patiently with small features. Woodworking, model-building, sketching, and painting are all good choices.
  • Learning and memory: Choose an activity that requires you to remember lots of details. Your best bets are hobbies that require lots of categorization, such as collecting stamps or coins.
  • Motor function: For this brain function, physical activities can double as fun mental workouts. Sports like soccer and basketball build gross motor functions. Fine motor functions are better trained through activities like table tennis or even playing video games.
  • Problem-solving: Most hobbies require you to problem-solve in one way or another. The ones that test your problem-solving skills the most, however, take some investigation.

Geocaching is a good example: Using a combination of clues and GPS readings, geocaching involves finding and re-hiding containers. Typically done in a wooded area, geocaching is a fun way to put your problem-solving skills to the test.

5. Board Games

Playing a board game might not be much of a physical workout, but it does make for a fun mental workout. With that said, not all board games work equally well for cognitive training.

Avoid “no brainer” board games, like Candy Land. Opt for strategy-focused ones, such as Risk or Settlers of Catan. Remember to ask other players for their input.

6. Card Games

Card games build cognitive skills in much the same way board games do. They have a few extra advantages, though, that make them worthy of special attention.

A deck of cards is inexpensive and can be played anywhere, from a kitchen to an airplane. More importantly, a deck of cards opens the door to dozens of different games. Challenge yourself to learn a few in an afternoon.

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7. Puzzles

Puzzles are great tools for building a specific cognitive skill: visuospatial function. Visuospatial function is important to train because it’s one of the first abilities to slip in people struggling with cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s.[5]

Choose a puzzle you’ll stick with. There’s no shame in starting with a 500-piece puzzle or choosing one that makes a childish image.

8. Playing Music

Listening to music is a great way to unwind. But playing music goes one step further. On top of entertaining you, it makes for a fun mental workout.

Again, choose an instrument you know you’ll stick with. If you’ve always wanted to learn the violin, don’t get a guitar because it’s less expensive or easier to pick up.

What if you can’t afford an instrument? Sing. Learning to control your voice is every bit as challenging as making a set of keys or strings sound good.

9. Meditating

Not all cognitive exercises are loud, in-your-face activities. Some of the most fun mental workouts, in fact, are quiet, solo activities. Meditating can help you focus, especially if you have pre-existing attention issues.

Don’t be intimidated if you’ve never meditated before. It’s easy:

  • Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or lie down.
  • Set a timer for 10 minutes, or for however long you have to meditate.
  • Close your eyes or turn off the lights.
  • Focus on your breathing. Do not try to control it.
  • If your thoughts wander, gently bring them back to your breath.
  • When the timer goes off, wiggle your fingers and toes for a minute. Slowly bring yourself back to reality. Remember the sense of serenity you found.

10. Deep Conversation

There’s nothing more mentally stimulating than a good, long conversation. The key is depth: surface-level chatter doesn’t get the mind’s wheels spinning like a thoughtful, authentic conversation. This type of conversation helps in training your brain to think more deeply and reflect.

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Choose your partner carefully. You’re looking for someone who’ll challenge your ideas without being confrontational. Stress isn’t good for brain health, but there’s value in coming up with creative arguments.

11. Cooking

When you think about it, cooking requires an impressive array of cognitive skills. Developing a cook’s intuition requires a good memory. Making sure flavors are balanced takes attention to detail. When something goes wrong in the kitchen, problem-solving skills come into play. Motor control is required to stir, flip, and whisk.

If you’re going to cook, you might as well make enough for everyone. Invite them into the kitchen as well: coordinating with other chefs adds an extra layer of challenge to this fun mental workout.

12. Mentorship

Whether you’re the mentee or the mentor, mentorship is an incredible mental workout. Learning from someone you look up to combines the benefits of deep conversation with skill-building. Teaching someone else forces you to put yourself in their shoes, which requires empathy and problem-solving skills.

Put yourself in both situations. Being a student makes you a better teacher, and teaching others gives you insight into how you, yourself, learn.

Final Thoughts

Your mind is your most important possession, and training your brain is needed to maintain its health. Don’t let it get soft.

To keep those neurons firing at full speed, add a few fun mental workouts to your schedule. And if you’re still struggling to get your brain in gear, remember: there’s an app for that.

More Tips for Training Your Brain

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

Reference

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