Highly Sensitive Introvert - Eva Rubin - How HSPs Can Cultivate Peace

How HSPs Can Cultivate Peace

Peace equals sanity for many Highly Sensitive Introverts.  And, yet, how many times during a typical day can you say “I’m at peace?”

Peace can come from the “outside-in” because environment does matter.  It can help soothe an overactive mind, and give you the space to breathe again.  Nature, anyone?  Quiet?

I work in a prison.  I’m in a cave of an office with fluorescent lighting and typically see one inmate after another, or sit at my desk writing up my clinical notes.

The only time I see the light of day is if I go over to a unit to pull a guy out of a cell to assess him.

But every day I’m there, I spend a few minutes looking out across the Bay before and after work.  Two moments, a few breaths each, and an ocean of peace that’s always there–when I tap into it.

But even though peace in your environment is essential, it’s not always controllable.  So, how do you also cultivate peace from the “inside-out?”

It takes intention and work to plan and make moments in your day that bring peace and take you out of the demands and hamster wheel of life.

And, sometimes, no matter how much you plan and work at it, life conspires to throw you a curve ball that veers you from your plan.  But, even then, your plan lays a foundation for creating peace, one moment at a time.

Sometimes I get or make more time, but those two moments at the start and end of the work day are the minimum.

Two moments?  Maybe that sounds pitiful.  Not even worth the effort?

I mean, what can two moments and breaths that barely outnumber the fingers on one hand really do?

It can give you a place to start.  And sometimes that’s all you need.  And when life does conspire to throw you those curve balls, there’s a doable minimum.  It’s hard to fail.

It’s a commitment to self care.  It’s not anything anyone can take from you.  It might mean that it takes experimenting, though.

It has to be something easy.  So easy that your mind almost says to you: “that’s not worth it!” or “how’s that going to do anything for you?”  So easy that you can hit the mark without having to think about it.

When you’re ready to dismiss your chosen moment because it’s too easy and not really going to have any impact, you’ve probably identified the perfect place to start.

That dismissal is your mind sabotaging you.  It tells you to climb a mountain, but that a single step is worthless because it won’t take you to the top.

And, yet, when you make that first step your goal (a moment of peace in your day) and you complete it, you’ve reached the top of that mountain.

You’ve created a pattern to follow and repeat until each step takes you closer to where you want to be.  Don’t take my word for it.  This is the science of habits.  It’s the science of the way your brain works.

It’s the science of creating micro-habits that lead to change.  Check out Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit.  Take Stanford professor BJ Fogg’s free Tiny Habits course.  Check out zen habits.

It’s also how I watch change happen in front of me in my work.  I help people find that one little thing, that one little experience they want, and help them find more of it in their lives.

But there’s a second part to making moments in your day.

As any good clinical social worker will tell you, change happens from the outside-in (person in environment), but it also happens from the inside-out.

It’s not only which moment and where you choose it during your day, but also what you do with those moments.  Ultimately, the goal is peace, so how you arrive there is unimportant.

When you are overwhelmed and over-aroused, you start overthinking and feel “frazzled.”  You lose your center, access to your internal ways of knowing.

The chaos that can come from a world that is so loud and can feel so violating is destructive.  But you can learn to quiet it from the inside out.

What is it for you?  Maybe, it’s writing.  Going for a walk in nature.  Looking at the ocean.  Taking in the warmth of the desert.

If you were to choose a step that has the potential to grow that peace, science shows that a meditative state is it.  Here’s a TedX video that may be interesting to you.

I have a bias toward TM or Transcendental Meditation because that’s what I practice (not perfectly, but I keep working at it).  It is a kind of non-directive meditation.

Non-directive meditation is receiving some attention for helping to address a wandering mind.  In mindfulness practices, a wandering mind keeps you from being present.

And, presence, is key to focus, clear thinking, the ability to enjoy the current moment without rehashing the past (over-thinking), or worrying about what the future might bring (anxiety).

Non-directive meditation (or prayer practice) uses a word or phrase that allows the mind to find a place of quiet and calm in a gentle way.  It is compassion in practice.

Non-directive meditation means a practice where you repeat a mantra (like “Om”).  At some point, your mind naturally wanders off and you think about what you have to do or what happened earlier in the day.

Once you realize your mind wandered, you return to repeating your mantra until your mind wanders off again.  You repeat the cycle until there are no more thoughts.  Just a deep quiet as infinite as the universe.

And then another thought emerges, and you begin again.

There is some evidence to suggest that this method may be more effective (than other kinds of meditation) with “emotional processing” and “episodic memories.”

There’s even one study that looks at how meditation may affect your DNA.  This research claims that the Relaxation Response (RR – the counterpart to the Stress Response) is boosted by meditation.

And, most importantly, that the RR may enhance expression of genes that benefit your health (and reduce gene expression of inflammatory responses.

Among other things, meditation helps emotional self-regulation.

Emotional regulation is a fancy way of saying you’re able to communicate even when you experience a strong emotional reaction (your nervous system defense systems are activated).

It doesn’t take away your reaction, it just means you’re able to tolerate it and still process information.

Emotional dysregulation can separate you from your words, leave you feeling intensely and without the ability to ask for what you need or take thoughtful action.  It can lead to reactivity.

Emotional dysregulation steals your peace.

Research shows that early relationships in infancy shape brain development.  They shape your ability to regulate your emotions.  So, too, can meditation.

But whether you start from “the outside-in” or the “inside-out,” it doesn’t matter.  Just that you start practicing peace.  In moments and meditations.

Image Credit: woodleywonderworks

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Eva Rubin, MPH/LCSW

Hi! I'm Eva Rubin, LCSW. I study the psychology and the art of how to live well as an introvert and sensitive person so that I can learn and share it with you.
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