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Tools for Warming the Heart-- and Having a Happier Holiday

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This weekend I gave a talk titled "Tools for Warming the Heart." It was based on the close to 25 years of work I've done with Positive Psychology and it was aimed at preparing the people in the audience to get a little bit more out of the holiday season. I figure I can give the same message to my friends, colleagues and readers here on opednews.com.

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My journey to the point where I could claim to qualify to talk about tools to warm the heart started about 25 years ago, when I was a few years into a business I'd started, Futurehealth, which producted and distributed products related to biofeedback. I'd started the company when I invented a kind of high tech mood ring, which actually used the world's smallest self contained thermometer. It's called the Bio-Q ring, and over the years, I've sold, in different forms, over half a million of them, many for fifty cents to a dollar, in the form of stress cards. I decided to make a relaxation tape to go with the rings and cards. The goal was to make a tape that would include a number of different commonly used approaches to guided relaxation. One part of the tape, (now available as a CD,) included the instructions to "smile, think of a loving, happy, heartwarming experience with a child or pet, connect that with a warm feeling in your heart. Then let the warmth flow into your hands." The smile part was inspired by a technique called "The Quieting Response," developed by the late Chuck Stroebel, M.D., of the Institute of Living. tHE Heartwarming imagery-- I'm not sure where it came from. But my co-author, Keith Sedlacek, M.D., a psychiatrist friend and I put it in there as a cute transition to the next step-- handwarming imagery-- which is used by tens of thousands of practioners worldwide as a part of Autogenic training and therapies. The first time I tried it on a client-- I was seeing people with stress, pain, anxiety problems back then, as a biofeedback practitioner (I have an M.Ed. in counseling) when the client got to the point in the tape where the heartwarming imagery was discussed, all the biofeedback signals I was monitoring-- heart rate, sweat gland (GSR,) muscle tension and finger temperature all went in the right direction. I asked, "What happened?" And the client replied that the remembering the heartwarming memory made her feel good. I tried it on a few more clients and each time, the same result-- heart rate steadier, muscles more relaxed, breathing slower, hands warmer. What was going on? I was intrigued. What was the psychophysiology behind heartwarming that caused people to feel better just tapping old memories? There was no google, no internet back in 1981-82, so I went to university libraries to check out Index Medicus and Psych Abstracts. But "heartwarming" is not exactly a great scientific keyword. I had to look for other words and concepts that tied in with heartwarming-- smiling, love, orgasm, thrills, ecstasy, happiness... and none of them really fit, exactly, but they started to give me a handle on this phenomenon I came to conclude was a huge blindspot in science. And I realized, I loved the idea of exploring a blindspot. After a while, I started asking clients to start keeping a record of the heartwarming experiences they encountered in their daily lives or that they remembered as memories. Most therapists tend to assign a different kind of homework to people-- to record the unpleasant moments, the levels of stress, pain, tension, depression that they experience. I did too. I'd send clients home with forms they could fill in that enabled them to record their discomfort, hour by hour. This idea of asking clients to record the good stuff was a new concept, back in '81-82 and the result was astonishing. People would come into my office, carrying the composition book I asked them to record their heartwarmers in, with big smiles on their faces, eager to share them. But there was a minor problem. Many people would bring in anecdotes of experiences that I didn't see as being heartwarming. They were certainly positive experiences, but didn't seem to me to be heartwarming. I shrugged my shoulders and just went with it. Positive experiences were good. Actually, asking for positive experiences might be even better, since it would widen the range of experiences that people could record. I felt that by recording these experiences, people would be more concretely connecting with those experiences, more deeply integrating them into their selves. The problem is, people, too often, ignore opportunities for positive experiences and even if they have them, they forget about them as soon as they slip from the present to the past. My theory was that people see the world through lenses with filters composed of the experiences that they've had-- all added up into a filter that can be happy, sad, angry, positive, negative-- and that if people connect with, record and integrate their positive experiences more effectively, they'll have a better attitude to engage the world with. Between my work with these ideas, I came up with some ideas and a model I called Positivity Training, or, for professionals, POsitive Emotional Self Regulation training. By 1985, I was giving workshops, training other practitioners and health care providers how to help their clients to learn skills for turning on good feelings-- to develop positive emotional self regulation skills. That led to me writing a book, The Happiness Response. Click on this link to access the intro and a few chapters, or to download the whole book for a fee. The idea of the book was to present concrete ways people can turn on good feelings when they want to. Here's an excerpt from the first chapter:
"A happy life on what depends? On knowing how to live." Voltaire Think about good feelings and positive experiences you've enjoyed-- special moments of sparkle and wonder that filled your heart with a warm glow, or thrilled, uplifted, strengthened, inspired, or energized, you. You can learn skills to help you turn on or intensify those same feelings at will. Happiness is a skill too often taken for granted. Why are some people happier than others? Why do we have some days when we feel great most of the day, and other days, when we forget about sunshine, flowers and eagles soaring, only noticing the dark, dirty and down parts of life? You can maximize your happiness by learning a repertoire of skills that enable you to increase the frequency and strength of your positive experiences. Turn On Good Feelings At Will Over 20 years ago, researchers learned we can use biofeedback techniques to control body systems previously believed to be involuntary-- beyond our control, including; blood flow, brain waves, heart rate, even single cells in the spine. Now, biofeedback is a common tool used to teach people to control stress and pain disorders. Stress control helps to clear the path to happiness, but it doesn't get you there. You can combine it with other self control and awareness techniques to maintain a positive attitude, turn on your happiness, and increase the percentage of time you feel good and enjoy life. You'll develop the ability to activate and/or intensify positive feelings, to identify and remove happiness inhibitors and strengthen your smile muscles to enhance your happiness "reflexes" so you can make the most of PE opportunities. You'll also learn cognitive psychology techniques to reinterpret negative experiences or attitudes in new, more effective, surprisingly powerful ways. The aim of this program is to help you develop these new skills as permanent, positive habits so you can make better use of the positive experiences (PEs) you've already enjoyed so you can get more out of life and perform at your peak potential. Here are just a few of the benefits the Happiness Response program offers. Enhance your performance. Strengthen your self esteem and ability to cope with or eliminate stress, pain and depression. Increase your motivation. Enhance your everyday mood and attitude. Strengthen your immune system to help healing and boost your resistance to disease. Become more aware of PE opportunities. Develop the confidence needed to take risks. You'll be able to control irritability, pain, anxiety, fears, phobias and panic attacks, bad habits and anger. While this list promises a lot, remember, all these powers come easier to relaxed, people who are at peace with themselves. Big O's and little o's Except perhaps for orgasm, science has not progressed very far in understanding the little PEs, the "little "o"s that most of us experience so much more often. But recently research and clinical advances in related areas have led to some exciting new ideas that promise advances in the science of feeling good and happiness as great as those that have occurred in medicine. "When man is born, he opens his eyes to tears before he opens them to the sun." Marini At birth, our mind and nervous system are empty vessels, waiting to be filled with ideas, attitudes, memories, beliefs and points of view. We take our first breath, cry and then we start a life of seeking happiness. We each have shining strengths we must learn to take full advantage of to be sure we capitalize on each moment of positive opportunity. But it's important to realize that sometimes we just have to wait through the tough times, or times when we're not at our peaks of positive experience (PE), self esteem, performance or pleasure, knowing that eventually things will get better. That's when we need techniques and coping skills to fall back on, to help us bridge those gaps in our happiness. We can begin by mastering maximum use of our positive experiences.
While my agent landed me a $20,000 contract, the book never came out. The editor who acquired the book was promoted and the replacement editor was, shall I say, disappointing. Anyway, after some time, my model changed a bit, from how to turn on good feelings, to a more general model that goes like this:
Your positive experiences and the good feelings those experiences produce are your most valuable assets, your greatest treasures. These positive experiences, PEs for short, are the basic building blocks for your most valuable inner strengths. They give you the ability to face adversity, enthusiastically meet challenges, feel good and confident about yourself. These are the cherished possessions which enable you to love and to be loved to be happy and have fun, to be caring, committed, courageous, and willing to take risks. So it makes sense to build skills in all aspects of positive experiences and good feelings. The varieties of Positive Experiences (PEs) include not just times when you are happy and have fun. but also those character building events where you experience pain or adversity, yet you find the inner strength to persevere and ultimately to make things better.
The development of this PE model led to the development of what I call The Anatomy of Positive Experience.
An outline of the Anatomy of Positive Experience This is a minimal outline of the model I have developed since 1984 based on the belief that positive experiences are our most valued personal assets and inner resources. I offer training seminars and coaching based on this model. {1} Be prepared for Positive Experiences (PEs) mentally and physically Be relaxed and comfortable feeling and expressing strong positive emotions. Maintain healthy habits, positive attitude and self talk so you have robust positive emotional reflexes and lots of bounce and energy to make the most of PE opportunities whenever they appear-- planned or unexpected. {II} Plan, schedule, research, anticipate PEs-- not just vacations or weekend evenings-- but throughout each day of the week. Study your own behavior patterns, your inner and outer resources and your environment to build a PE knowledge base that helps you zoom in on PE opportunities-- planned or unexpected-- and schedule challenges, fun, pleasure, and good deeds. {III} Recognize, identify, Initiate and Embrace your PE Opportunities. Sharpen your skills for recognizing positive experience opportunities and initiating them most effectively. Develop a positive attitude that expects to find and seeks out positive experience opportunities. {IV} Intensify and Prolong the positive experience. Increase its complexity, extend its length, enrich its sensory, emotional, social and spiritual content to make the PE more meaningful and memorable. {V} Encode to memory: Store the PE (in your brain, diary, photo, audio, video or computer) for integration into your memory, your view of yourself and your relationship with the world. Do a post PE stretch to etch the experience even more solidly into your memory. {VI} Use the PE later: Transplant the feelings to new situations, clone it, strengthen your self esteem and positive attitude, face adversity with greater strength, character and equanimity, and brighten your happiness.
The message of the PE anatomy is that you can prepare for and plan for positive experiences (PEs.) You can learn how to identify opportunities for PEs that you, ordinarily might miss altogether. You can enhance, strengthen, deepen and improve PEs as you are having them. PEs are among our most valued possessions-- our memories of them, that is. Think how people scrimp and save for vacations and special moments. Yet, so often, we lose them by just forgetting them. When I do talks and workshops on the Anatomy of Positive Experience, the Happiness Response, Positive Psychology, the Art of Positive Experience, Positivity, Positive Emotional Self Regulation training, etc., I ask people to dig up memories of heartwarming experiences. And they dust off memories they haven't thought of in decades. Give it a try. Take a moment and try to recall some experiences you've had in your life-- specific, concrete moments, not generic ones-- write them down. Start a positive experience diary-- a treasure chest. You can use the positive Experience Inventory I put together from analyzing thousands of anecdotes I collected-- the KPEI, available in English or Spanish, free. It lists several hundred different kinds of positive experience. Check out your patterns of positive experiencing-- the ones you do a lot of, rarely or never. Now, go out today, tomorrow, and get ready for positive experiences. Pump some smile iron so you are ready to boost your PE with strong smiling. Relax and let go and trust yourself to new PEs. You may find that this holiday season is the best one ever.
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Rob Kall is an award winning journalist, inventor, software architect, connector and visionary. His work and his writing have been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, ABC, the HuffingtonPost, Success, Discover and other media.

Check out his platform at RobKall.com

He is the author of The Bottom-up Revolution; Mastering the Emerging World of Connectivity

He's given talks and workshops to Fortune 500 execs and national medical and psychological organizations, and pioneered first-of-their-kind conferences in Positive Psychology, Brain Science and Story. He hosts some of the world's smartest, most interesting and powerful people on his Bottom Up Radio Show, and founded and publishes one of the top Google- ranked progressive news and opinion sites, OpEdNews.com

more detailed bio:

Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind. Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives one person at a time was too slow, he founded Opednews.com-- which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big) to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, (more...)

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