posted November 30, 2021
I’ve been into exercise and physical fitness for most of my life, but recently I’ve been focused on a different kind of fitness—mental fitness. We know that our level of physical fitness allows us to do things like climb stairs with greater ease; but it’s our level of mental fitness that allows us to better handle life’s challenges.
When mentally fit, we recover quickly when thrown off balance, particularly in times of conflict or discomfort. It’s like a game of tennis when a player takes a bad shot but quickly regains composure and is right back to center court, confident and poised to take on the next one, completely unaffected by the bad shot.
I’d heard of Positive Psychology, and I was familiar with Emotional Intelligence. But Positive Intelligence? I’d never heard of it, until earlier this year when I was invited to participate in an intriguing program created by Sherzad Chamine, Positive Intelligence. Positive Intelligence is about developing mental fitness, or mastery over our mind, so we can bring our best self forward in the world, in all that we do.
At a high level, we basically have two parts of our brain. One is the Survivor part that drives us by creating fear, anxiety, stress, and negative emotions. This is where our “inner mean voice,” the Judge we all have, resides (with its many accomplice Saboteurs!). The other part, though, can be thought of as where our Sage reigns supreme and it drives us with love, empathy, curiosity, and positivity.
The two sides really can’t be in action at the same time, but with practice, we can recognize that our Judge has taken over, and then command ourselves to shift out of Survivor mode and into Sage mode. That is the muscle, the Self-Command muscle, we build in a mental fitness practice.
As vegans, we strive to embody and showcase the outward strength, vibrancy, and vitality our lifestyle cultivates. How we show up energetically also impacts others around us. When we are in Survivor mode, it activates the same in others within our relationships, and in situations and conversations that spiral into negativity. When we show up in Sage mode, Sage contagion is the result, and greater compassion, joy, harmony, empathy, and love shows up in those around us, as well.
The holidays can be a time of struggle for vegans. We often find ourselves in a state of overwhelm or distress from the increased frequency of conversations about, and visual depictions of, animals consumed as food this time of year by most people, including our loved ones. Our default can easily be to approach people and situations from a place of Survivor and Judge, versus Sage. If we want people to be open to our views, rather than defensive, we must show up in Sage mode. When we shift to Sage, we have access to its powers, including empathy and compassion for all and that then has the potential to be returned in kind.
The next time you recognize that you’re listening to your Judge (of self, of others, or of a situation), and are operating in anger, negativity, and Survivor mode, try this little exercise designed to help build your Self-Command muscle and shift you out of Survivor mode:
Label your awareness (e.g., “that is my Judge, hijacking me”), which will diminish its power.
- Focus all your attention on only a single physical sensation for 10-30 seconds. This could be your breath, a particular sound, the feeling of your feet on the floor, how an item in front of you looks in detail, etc. It doesn’t matter what it is, it’s the laser focus on the sensation that is important.
- Then, take a breath and respond versus react.
It takes work, multiple reps over time—just like building strong biceps! Getting stronger, either physically or mentally, takes effort and time. But the change we want to see in the world—the shift from the collective Survivor mentality to the collective unified Sage—be well worth the effort.
Carol Ray is a Main Street Vegan Academy Master Vegan Lifestyle Coach and Educator who is passionate about helping vegan, veg-curious, and plant-based women in midlife and menopause go from foggy and frazzled to energized and dazzling by helping them gain freedom from unhelpful, long-held beliefs that result in (over) eating and alcohol use.
A National Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach with advanced specialization in Emotional Eating Psychology, Hormone Health, and Gut Health, she is also a certified This Naked Mind Life Coach, and a Positive Intelligence Mental Fitness Coach. Carol also completed the T. Colin Campbell Certificate in Plant Based Nutrition.
A former whale and dolphin trainer, Carol is passionate about marine mammal anti-captivity efforts. She is also a board member of Ridge2River Animal Haven in Central Washington.