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Count on booking a job when you’ve got tickets to go on that long awaited vacation to Hawaii. Be assured that your car breaks down as you’re about to take off for an audition. Expect bad weather on opening night. The universe is not out to get you. Everyday stress is part of life. It’s nothing more and nothing less.  However, when you start slapping on negative statements to ordinary occurrences, you are automatically making your life harder than it needs to be.

I don’t think most people wake up every morning and say to themselves, “Mmmm let me see what I could do today to screw things up for myself.” Self-sabotaging is usually very unconscious, but that doesn’t make it less dangerous. It doesn’t make sense to live your life expecting wonderful things to happen to you when A) You don’t feel that you’re entitled to be happy, B) Feel on some deep level that you are terribly broken, or C) Are stuck in the past. If you truly want to be happy and successful, start doing things that will take you towards your goal, not away from it. Here are two tips to get started in the right direction.

  1. SHORT TERM

Learn how to deal with everyday stress and difficult emotions with the breath. When you learn to access your breath, you can access your peace of mind. Everyone has been in situations where they’re anxious, upset, or angry at the world. In those moments when you feel out of control, you are most likely to say or do things that you will regret. Instead of losing your cool, gain some tools to have a smooth landing. I’m sure you’ve heard people say, “Just breathe,” or “Take a deep breath.” But maybe you never learned just how beneficial it is when you do that.

The latest research is saying that it’s something that you should take very seriously. Emotions and breath are very closely related. In a research study, Dr. Pierre Phillipot was able to show that certain emotional states are associated with particular respiration patterns. When participants felt anxious or afraid, their breathing was quick and shallow. When they felt happy it was fuller and slower. When the participants were instructed to breathe quickly and shallowly, the emotions they felt were anxiety and fear. And when they took slower deeper breaths, they were able to access feelings of happiness. In other words the breathing patterns corresponded to the emotions. They discovered that you can change how you feel by using the breath. Several studies also suggest that controlled yogic breathing can have positive effects on the body such as lowering the heart rate as well as the blood pressure. There is even better news when daily breathing practices are incorporated in your life. It can have a positive effect on lowering your cortisol levels (stress hormone), which can give you an overall calmer state of being and lower your risk of heart disease. Deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is in control of rest and digest. It has also been found to help reduce pain. Start to take this tool seriously and use it to help ease your way through your everyday challenges.

  1. LONG TERM

Learn about your brain. Don’t miss out on the latest research on the brain; neuroscience is on your side. In his book, “Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation,” Dan Siegel, M.D., a Harvard-trained physician, shows how scientific research can be applied to create positive changes in your brain and your life. There are simple things that you can do to help change happen. It’s not as hard as you think. Deeply ingrained patterns of behavior have the capacity to change. No more excuses. Don’t settle for, “Well that’s just the way I am.” Explore how your views of the world were formed, and how they effect your reactions to what happens to you and around you. The brain has the capacity to stimulate the growth of neural fibers that enable your mind to flourish, no matter what your early history is. The brain never stops growing in response to experience, therefore it is essential to create more positive and new experiences for yourself.

Do some people get dealt a bad hand? You bet. It’s unfair and sometimes heartbreaking. You can’t go back and have a better past, but you can definitely work towards a better present. In fact, you can begin right now, in this present moment to make positive change happen.

Simple meditation for quieting the self-critical voice:

  1. When you notice your inner critic, acknowledge it by saying, “Thank you, but I choose to think positive thoughts about myself right now.”
  2. Pause and take a nice deep full breath. Visualize yourself opening a window and watching a big wind push all those critical words out. Close the window.
  3. Breathe in and say to yourself, “Breathing in, I am aware that I am breathing in.”
  4. Breathe out and say, “Breathing out, I am aware that I am breathing out.
  5. On your next inhalation wish yourself well the way you would for a friend in distress.
  6. On your exhalation let go of everything that isn’t serving you on your journey towards health and healing. Just let it go and relax.

I’ve created The Conscious Actor Inspiration Journal; to help actors develop awareness of what inspires them. Beautiful pages filled with inspirational quotes to help keep you strong minded. For New York actors, the journal is available at Drama Book Shop Los Angeles actors may pick up the journal at Samuel French Bookshop

Conscious Actor articles are not a substitution for professional psychotherapy.

Bonnie Katz, MFT is a licensed therapist in private practice. Her goal as a therapist is to help clients reach “optimal mental wellness”, so that they can feel happiness, fulfillment and joy in their everyday lives. For more information on Bonnie’s therapy practice, visit her website.

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