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Manage Stress Through Mindfulness

Lesson 7 of 9

Shift from Negative to Positive Mindstates

Rich Fernandez, Ph.D.

Manage Stress Through Mindfulness

Rich Fernandez, Ph.D.

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Lesson Info

7. Shift from Negative to Positive Mindstates

Lesson Info

Shift from Negative to Positive Mindstates

Now I want to talk about a different type of mindfulness activity that really impact stress which is our mind state how do we shift mind states specifically how do we shift from a negative mind state toe a positive mind states so let's first talk about what is a mind state it's a pattern of thinking and the thinking often informs are feeling right and the important thing is that this comes and goes but it stays if you feed it all right so if you keep kind of hovering your attention there and keep going with that thought and that feeling it'll expand whatever you focus on in your life will expand but the key thing is that whatever your thought or feeling is whatever your mental state is it's a state not a trait in other words it's a condition you're experiencing in that moment I like to tell this story about my son when he was five years old this is a picture of him with he was five years old we were hiking a really beautiful trail in the santa cruz mountains not far from here in northe...

rn california but it was a hot summer day and it was very important for him to wear this junior ranger vest that you see up there because it was awesome had a lot of pockets you could pull out of rocks and it got really heavy he's hiking along in his jeans and his the ranger vest filled with rocks on dh. I thought we were having an awesome time, but when I turned to him he was not having an awesome time. I could tell that he was in a sort of negative mind state, and sure enough, he came up to me and he said, I could just tell him sweating. He just had a long face and he said, dad, I'm just really tired and I'm really grumpy and I'm really hot, so I just need to sit here and meditate, okay, we're talking about was awesome, okay, so now I teach mindfulness and I don't teach him meditation per se. He sees me doing it sometimes, but he just he was five years old. He just said this thing think that something is going to do and he sat down. He did this. I literally took out my phone and took this picture of him, and he did this for about two minutes because he did it, and he sat like that. I was like, oh, he's, just humoring me or something, but he was really doing it. On if you look at this picture you know he's really kind of connecting in internally I would say and he kept doing it so I kind of walked around take another few pictures and just stood there was about two minutes okay then he opened as I said ok I feel great now let's go and we hiked for another two miles in two miles back out not a word of complaint it shifted his mind state and it shifted his mind state specifically in a way that I like to call moving from below the line to moving above the line. All right? And so, uh this is a very, very simple way to think about our mind state is there's above the line and there's below the line and above the line is a positive mind state and below line is a negative mind state they all know what I mean by negative mind state I mean, I told that story about my son but you've experienced negative mind stadi it's not hard to think of a situation like that, right? Similarly a positive mind state you know, when you I feel happy, for example but there's certain things that certain qualities that are related to our mind state in above the line or below the line, the positive and the negative mind states so when we're above the line, we're curious open we're learning and we're constructive about things and the list can go on right? These are positive attributes or qualities that we embody and then below the line it's almost diametrically opposed instead of being curious when we're in a negative state were defensive right? We are closed, we don't want to hear about it, we can be critical of ourselves or others and you can play the blame game, so a great example of this is I don't know how many of you experience performance evaluations ever at work. If you've ever had that experience, this could be a great opportunity for falling into one or the other mind state, right? And what I want to suggest to you is that it's actually possible with mindfulness to move from one mind state to the other, to move from a negative mind state to a positive mind state so if you think of the case of a performance review being aware that you're a defensive using that mindful awareness that labeling that we had talked about earlier to know that your defensive closed in critical and perhaps blame ful of the person that's giving you this unfair, unjust, whatever it is review too kind of getting curious about this, why is this happening? You know, and sort of being opened, so what can I learn from this and constructive? And then how can I perhaps remedy this or address it right and that's assuming sort of review you're not happy with in this example, but it's really just an analogy for any time you feel like you are so triggered into a negative state, see what it would be like to exercise some of these other qualities of mind I like to call them of the positive mind state, and so I'm going to need to ask for ah brave volunteer in a minute, so I just want to prepare you for that because I'm hoping one of you in the room will volunteer for this, but it's a way to enter into that into that capacity to shift from negative to positive. I want to share one more mindfulness skill with you, and this is called the skill of the body scan and here's what? I want to share it with you and you know, it may sound a little counterintuitive. Wait, we're talking about mind states, but we're going to do this exercise called the body scan something about mine, but we're going toe focus on the body on dh here's like because the body contains our every emotion happens in our body, the body contains our emotions, so think about this for a second emotions are a physiological process, right? They happen in the body that's just human biology think about a very powerful all negative emotion you might have felt recently and I say negative again because we have the negativity bias it tends to be pretty easy for us to access negative but just think about an experience of frustration or anger fear anxiety or worry just called to mind nothing traumatic but just very briefly something that was negative where exactly precisely do you experience that just call it out think of a situation that would it was a negative experience that with some negative emotion related and think about or just allow yourself toe pay attention to where you experience that initially I would say heart rate but yeah elevated heart rate mental mentally okay, what about your body? Where on your body would you when you think about this as you're pointing your neck you're pointing to your shoulders you feel in your chest yeah so these are all physiological responses right? Because that's what emotion is right and so in order to understand mind state we first have to understand emotion as it's occurring and playing out in the canvas of our body because emotion again is a bodily or physiological process. So there's this mindful acts in this exercise that's called the body scan that you see here where we pivoted attention before broadly and openly and open monitoring or in this very directed focused way tow our breath and focused attention what we're going to do now with body scanners were going pivot the spotlight of our attention into our bodies and there's a technique that's related to this that's really useful which is it's almost like you're scanning your body but you're doing it from top to bottom some people do it from bottom up today I'll just walking through the exercise from top down okay and we're just going to scan our body for whatever sensation that we have on dh the reason that this is really useful is because when we are feeling negative mind state this can often be really really hopeful tow us help us understand what that is ok so again sitting in a way that's alert relaxed upright but not rigid let's do this body scan exercise closing your eyes if you like or directing your gaze downward let's direct our attention to the top of our heads the top part of our body just noticing if there's any sensation there the very top of your head the crown of your head and now scan slowly downward bringing your attention slowly downward to your forehead your face your jaw often our faces hold a lot of tension attention so just noticing that and continuing to just observe drawing your attention downward down your neck your shoulder area now the front of the body to your chest when your torso moving your attention to the back of your body the back area by your shoulder blades your mid back and your lower back and continuing the attention down for your waist noticing your upper legs your knees on the backs of your knees you're lower legs and your feet on the ground and finally allowing your attention to just notice your entire body at one time whatever that means to you and if there's any area and your body in particular where you might feel tension seeing if you might release that with a couple of slightly deeper in breaths and slightly deeper out breaths now with the same quality of attention on the body I want us to work on shifting mind state so as you are with attention focused on the body I want you to call to mind again a difficult situation or person or circumstance nothing traumatic but just something that was challenging or someone that was challenging and notice what happens in your body notice if there's any thoughts or feelings that occur in your body and paying attention in this way see if you might even then shift from a difficult experience of this situation or person tow a reframing of that situation or that relationship into more of a positive mind state and the associative feelings shifting if you can your thoughts and feelings that you're aware of in your mind in a body shifting from below the line to above the line if you could register these positive states and it doesn't necessarily mean you condone people's behavior or justify it but it's simply developing some positive mind states about it such as curiosity such as openness such as the ability to potentially learn can you see how that feels in your body and holding this in awareness with attention slowly bringing this mindfulness practice to a close again with three slightly deeper breaths again at your own pace and rejoining the group when you're ready so um I'd be curious to know uh if we can get the white board up here if anyone in here experienced the shift that anyone experience a shift from positive to negative that you'd be willing to share with us you sure ok come on up here uh you know no no okay so tell us if just as a reminder here for uh you who are viewing this the above the line below the line model and then this exercise so tell us a little bit about what that was like uh you know to do the exercise and then what shift the experience now draw the line ok and this is some regard we started the exercise just thinking about our bodies yeah and that's just neutral right yeah, yeah yeah and then we called to mind a challenging personal situation and then we tried to see if we could shift from below the line to above the line okay when I was recalling the experience uh I could feel my forehead case definitely yeah and it's interesting that I could remember my how my body reacted yeah situation yeah yeah and what were some of the qualities that you would describe from a mind state perspective but if it was, this is negative below the line given mind state what were some of them the qualities of that the attributes that frustrated yes. Oh, frustration. Okay, um I wasn't feeling like I could connect or work together with someone okay your situation yeah, yup. So disconnected yeah, feeling stuck okay, great. And then did that shift as you went through to the you know, as you focus a little bit more on how could we shift mind state had how did that shift for you? What are some of those things when I think that way I thought of different ways of talking with that individual uh um being more open about sharing how I felt about ok what was happening? So you talked about having a convo being open about that? Yeah, it was more active it was not an active rather than being acted upon. Okay, okay, great switched and how did it feel? Right? So we know that these air feelings the negative feelings pretty easy to associate with those but how did it feel to, you know, kind of being this in this region? Well, it's interesting is it's the same situation? Yeah, but rather than being acted upon and just passive, being passive aggressive about it and just going through it and being below the line. I was thinking my way through the situation and realizing that there was a lot that I could do that wasn't being negative towards that person. You're in situation. Yeah, but rather being honest about it. Oh, well, ok, so that's really interesting. So then that promoted what I'm hearing is a state. Well, first of all, sort of an orientation that was constructive, right? And then, you know, and then more honest about, you know, your part of the situation. That's great. Yeah. Thank you so much. That's a great example really appreciate it. Okay, great. Well, again, I want to share this with you because, uh, what the value of scanning and labeling your mind state khun b is exactly this, right? Because this was your point of departure. This is where you were when we started that very brief exercise and that was about a four and a half minute exercise. So is a little bit longer, right, but it allowed for a shift. I believe it sounded like in mind state and so but to get there, you have to do that as a skill, you have to exercise the scan and you had to be aware of you know, above the line below the line. So that's, a tool that I hope you can take with you because a lot depends on what we think. I love this quote by henry ford, which is whether you think you can't you can't, you're right.

Class Description

Your job doesn’t have to overwhelm you! Learn how to skillfully navigate daily challenges and invite more peace into your daily life in Manage Stress Through Mindfulness with Wisdom Labs.

In this class, you’ll learn science-based techniques designed to help busy professionals manage stress amidst the chaos of work. 

You’ll learn: 

  • Breathing and relaxation techniques 
  • Mindful communication practices 
  • How to have difficult conversations 
  • Strategies for labeling and reframing stress 
 All professionals face deadlines, competing priorities, and challenging personalities at work. Manage Stress Through Mindfulness will help you develop the skills and resiliency to manage them.



Rich is a fantastic instructor. Organized, realistic, and relatable. I love it that he draws on scientific research, including that done by John Gottman (of the Gottman Institute). I tend to avoid attending lectures on mindfulnes and meditation because often it is presented in such a "new age" type of way - it isn't something I can relate to very well or find truly helpful. But Rich does a great job in this class in keeping it real and giving truly helpful and information and advice. Excellent course!

Swimming Ink

Rich shares powerful tools that I can see myself seamlessly applying to empower me through a variety of stressful situations. Thank you Rich!


I appreciated the way that Rich made Mindfulness approachable. I knew what Mindfulness was, but I needed ways of applying it into my life. Thanks for helping me bridge that gap Rich!