Karen Richards has over 20 years’ experience in Nursing, Public Health and Sociology and is a Mental Fitness and HeartMath® Certified Coach. She is a parent of 3 daughters. Whilst in the turmoil of anxiety, overwhelm and depression, she was introduced to a handful of simple heart-based techniques with biofeedback, which, with daily practice, have transformed the way she approaches stressful circumstances.
Mental Fitness and Your Inner ‘Judge’ Voice
Self-sabotage is like an internal enemy that sounds plausible in your head, but certainly doesn’t contribute to feelings of happiness. Everyone experiences it, so don’t feel alone if you find yourself constantly criticising your behaviour or self worth.
The ‘Judge’ is essentially the voice in your head, your inner critic, that constantly finds fault with what you do or how you’re feeling. It’s also constantly finding fault with other people, or your circumstances. No matter how hard you try, it’s never good enough for your Judge!
We deal with our ‘Judge’ in different ways
Do you identify with any of the below?
● Some of us bury our head in work and try to shut the voice out by forcing ourselves to be better than everyone else
● Some avoid dealing with issues, but the Judge is still there, nagging us in the background and causing us anxiety
● Some keep trying to please other people, then later feel resentment because we don’t feel appreciated
● Some take complete control over a situation, believing other people incapable, resulting in them feeling angry towards you.
While these all differ greatly, they each have the same root cause. Although it can appear to be the most effective way of getting stuff done, there is another way. One which achieves even better results and happier feelings.
Shirzad Chamine’s book Positive Intelligence talks about the difference between judging and discerning
Both judging and discerning are active and decisive states, but they use different areas of our brain. Judgement comes from our Survival Brain. It’s limited. Black and white. No room for creativity or considering other people’s ideas or solutions. Discernment on the other hand, lights up and activates another part of our brain, something Shirzad calls The Sage. The Sage area comes up with deeper insights that can surprise you!
How do you know which is which? Notice what you’re feeling. Your Judge will keep you angry and blaming. Your Sage will pause for a few seconds and observe the situation, then explore possibilities or take immediate action if needed. The difference is in the pause, and then literally shifting into a more powerful mindset – activating a different area of your brain. No anger, blame, scorn or disappointment. Just laser-focused, objective discernment without all the baggage!
Recognising and labelling your Judge’s thoughts for what they are, is one of the most empowering acts you can take. You stop it damaging how you feel about yourself, the people close to you, and your external situation.
Naming it can be very helpful. Some people call their Judge, the ‘Destroyer’ or ‘SOB’. Shirzad Chamine calls his the ‘Executioner’. I call mine Mr Happy. It certainly isn’t and has wreaked havoc with my emotions in the past! To name it this way, though, gives me back control and although it’s still around, I don’t take it seriously like I used to.
Mental fitness is like Physical Fitness
You can build mental fitness up through practical exercises that activate your Sage, so that you can tackle harder and harder challenges with ease.
Here are some simple exercises based on Shirzad’s Chamine’s Positive Intelligence Program which have been proven to activate the Middle Pre-Frontal Cortex and Right Brain, and quieten the Survival Brain.
The rationale behind them is that they ‘rewire’ your brain by forming new neural pathways which remain active even when you’re no longer focusing on them.
Realistically, it takes daily practice (15 minutes minimum, which can be spread out over the day) and at least 6 weeks to shift and create a new habit. However, the shift in moving from your Survival Brain to your Sage happens when you practice these exercises over 10 seconds (around 3 breaths), so you will notice a difference straight away.
These can be done with your eyes open or closed.
● To start, sit comfortably, with your spine straight and relaxed, your head straight, your chest open, and your feet flat on the floor.
● Use your sense of touch. Rub two fingertips gently against each other with such attention that you can feel the fingertip ridges on both fingers (for 3 breaths).
● Now rub all the fingertips together on one hand gently against the fingertips and palm of the other hand, and notice all those sensations (5 breaths).
● Use your sense of hearing. Hear the farthest away sound that you can hear (5 breaths)
● Now hear the closest sound that you can hear (3 breaths).
Build this gradually.
Don’t beat yourself up through negative thinking when you find something particularly difficult. That negative thinking is the work of your Judge, your Survival Brain. Remind yourself that it has outlived its purpose and you no longer need to believe it!