Embodying your strengths and thinking about how they help you — and others — is just one way to embrace being an HSP.
Being a highly sensitive person (HSP) can be difficult, from the way we overthink things to the way our emotional reactions are big — we feel so much all the time. Not to mention how we absorb the energy of those around us. But if we’re not careful, that can impact our whole day, and not in a good way.
When I find myself getting too wrapped up in other people’s emotions (instead of focusing on my own), I take time to journal about it, reminding myself about my strengths and purpose in life. I sometimes also listen to an inspirational podcast and wrap myself in the energy of the speaker, such as Brooke Castillo, who brings not only authenticity, but also an amazing model that has changed my life. I then feel better, lighter, and more able to take on the day.
Fellow HSP, I encourage you to pay attention to your struggles, and honor them. But I also urge you to move into lighter energies and pay attention to your strengths and the benefits of being an HSP. How should you do that? Well, here are eight tools that can help you on that path.
8 Ways to Really Embrace Being a Highly Sensitive Person
1. Reflect on the benefits of being a highly sensitive person.
This sensitivity trait of ours is pretty incredible. Have you ever looked at the sky in awe of its colors, or marvelled at the magic of the trees swaying in the wind? HSPs see things with such depth: we can really sense the magic of nature, sometimes seeing things in 3D, and with greater color and sparkle than others do. The sky is more magical, the colors are even brighter, and the beauty of our daughter’s face even more spectacular.
We make the best leaders, and the most loyal friends. And that is just the beginning… for this trait is truly miraculous. So pay attention, reflect on the benefits of being a highly sensitive person, and consider making your own list of 10 reasons why being an HSP has served you well.
2. Practice gratitude by “mental elimination.”
Gratitude by mental elimination is a positive psychology tool. Here, you connect with a trait you have in your life, and explore what would be missing if you did not have that trait. For instance, I could try to imagine what would be missing if I was not an HSP. Should that be the case, I would not be me — not as empathetic or understanding, nor as caring of a friend. I would not see the amazing, complex beauty of the sky or the trees. And I would not be moved to tears by an amazing play. I love those things… and reflecting on what would be missing without my trait helps me appreciate it more.
3. Tune into what is working in your life.
Do you have a roof over your head? A beautiful dog? Aren’t her kisses the best, and don’t you just love her little tail wag? And how about that morning coffee… I mean, that is the best on Saturday morning, when no one else is up. I love the steam, warmth of the cup in my hands, and that first hit of caffeine.
What works well in your life, and why? Go deep (I know you are good at that as an HSP), and let yourself really savor the good things.
4. Listen to an inspirational podcast.
A few of my favorite podcasts are Cathy Heller’s Don’t Keep Your Day Job, Tony Robbins’ podcast, and The Life Coach School with Brooke Castillo. Most days, I scroll through podcasts like these searching for a topic that looks inspirational, and then I give it a listen. While listening, I take the time to open myself up to their energy and ideas. Sometimes, it can be a miss, but often, the words and energy nspire me. I typically walk away from these podcasts feeling more at ease — which is important for our overstimulated HSP selves — as well as energized and alive. And that is worth a lot…
Sidenote: I also adore We Can Do Hard Things by Glennon Doyle (an HSP herself), and podcasts by Kelly Corrigan and Krista Tippett, but I listed inspirational ones here because it is helpful to consciously focus on adding such podcasts to our repertoire.
5. Engage in physical activity (it’ll make you feel better, trust me).
Movement can help “shake off” some of the low vibration energy you may be experiencing and raise it. For me, exercise has been a lifesaver and life giver. I once did it to remain slender. Now, I do it to remain centered and calm(ish).
I move my body to find myself again, and to “let go of” negative energy and embrace a lighter feeling overall. Pedaling hard, dancing, and moving helps me release the negative energy that I feel — the sadness, the anger, the frustration. Movement also lets me express myself more deeply, rather than hold on and suppress myself, as we HSPs sometimes do.
When we move our bodies, we can give it our all and shake off the bad. In the end, we usually feel better for it. Our endorphins have been released, energy has been cleared, and we did something hard, for which we can feel proud. We have taken big, beautiful breaths, and that is a big, beautiful thing!
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6. Embody your strengths and think about how they help you — and others.
List five of your strengths and then take it further: let yourself feel how these strengths positively impact others. For example, I am a strategic thinker, who is also futuristic. This is an amazing strength, and one that is typical of HSPs due to our depth of perception.
These strengths have given me the ability to help my daughter plan for college, as well as anticipate how she will find community when she gets there. She will be better equipped because of that strength of mine — and that may change her whole life. My ability to help her because of my strategic thinking feels good… as long as I take the time to really honor how it impacts others.
My strategic thinking has also enabled me to create and develop graduate programs that meet real needs for students — they get to really thrive and learn about themselves in my class.
Thinking about my strengths, and putting them in context this way, helps me feel stronger and more empowered. So don’t just list your strengths, but truly absorb how those strengths help you — and others.
7. Reflect on a specific positive experience.
Here, think about a specific positive experience in your life when you felt energized and joyful. In this exercise, please take your time and let yourself return to that experience. What was happening? Who was there? What sounds, sights, and colors did you encounter? How did you feel in your body? What did you do well? As a highly sensitive person, chances are that once you start this exercise, you’ll remember all kinds of details you’d forgotten about (since we’re all about noticing the little things).
For instance, you might think about a time when you were in a “flow state,” working on a creative project, like writing a poem, and really loving the process. What pen were you holding and where were you sitting? Who was with you? What did it feel like as you crafted this art? How did your body and heart feel when you reread the poem to yourself? What was your breathing like?
Alternatively, perhaps you recall a family dinner, when everyone was laughing, talking, and simply enjoying each other’s company. Who was there? What noises were made? What tastes did you experience? And what feelings did you feel? Try to return to that table and sense the moment(s).
When we remember positive experiences and “soak it in” like that, we help our brains focus on what is going well, which shifts our energy. And, as an HSP, this is important because we so often ruminate on things and are distracted by our overstimulated environments. So this exercise can help ground us again.
8. Make note of the kindnesses.
It is easy to notice disappointments, but here I challenge you to notice — and even write down — the kindnesses you offer, and those that are offered to you. Did you compliment someone? That is an act of kindness and you made their day better, so acknowledge it as such, and write it down. Did someone else compliment you? They did not need to do that, and it was kind that they did, so write it down. Did your friend ask, with curiosity, about how you are doing? Again, an act of kindness that they did, so write it down. As you keep track of this list, you may notice that kindness and goodness are all around you, should you pay attention. This can help us HSPs because it creates a shift in our own energy and helps us just feel better about our world.
Tony Robbins says “energy goes where attention flows.” When we dwell on the negative, our energy will be negative. Do not bypass your disappointment, struggles, and sadness. But also, try not to bypass the beautiful experiences and kindness that are out there in the world waiting for you, particularly as a sensitive person. Yes, it takes practice and focus, but it works.
If you are looking for more resources, you might consider some of the activities you can find here or even sign up for a mental health app like Happify, a free online service that helps you implement some of these ideas.
Remember that more isn’t necessarily better. Just a few minutes a day — where you focus on the positive aspects of life and your sensitivity trait — can make a world of difference!
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