I’ve borrowed this exercise from EMDR therapy, and it is one that I use regularly. It's not EMDR, but has elements of the EMDR resourcing protocol, and it may help you find safe, nurturing, protective places, experiences and people to create a sense of calm in your nervous system. It will hopefully give you a new skill and guide you towards finding a more positive emotional state, now and in future situations. Give it a try. First, find a comfortable position, either lying down or seated. Allow your body to feel fully supported and melt into this state of relaxation.
Next, think of a person, place or past experience that you associate with feeling happy, safe and well. This could be anything really — a cherished person, a childhood pet, a meal with a friend, a hike through the woods, a favorite vacation spot, playing with a puppy or any fond memory. It should be relatively conflict free. Don’t feel bad if this is hard for you. Some people haven’t had many positive experiences because of neglect or trauma. If this is you, it can be helpful to create an imaginary person or image that evokes a sense of calm in the mind and body. It might be a garden of your own making or you may create a person in your mind that embodies all the qualities you would need to help you feel protected and nurtured. What would he or she look like? Really feel the essence and richness of the person or experience. What does the ground feel like beneath your feet? Notice the texture and quality of the earth. Observe the colors in your surroundings. Listen for sounds. How does your body feel when you imagine yourself in this safe place or in the presence of the person(s) that you’ve chosen.
Now, close your eyes and slow your breath as you soften your belly, taking in the fullness of this experience. Continue to allow your body to feel fully supported and completely relaxed. As you bring this special place, memory or person to your mind’s eye using your imagination, breathe in to the experience. If you can, bring your awareness to your heart and notice if you can have just a bit more spaciousness there. Imagine or visualize your heart space opening with a softened awareness of how you'd like to feel. Scan your body for sensations -- notice any areas of tightness or holding as well as relaxation. Continue to notice areas of safety and comfort in your body, as you soften into this full, expansive experience. Inhale positive feelings and emotions into your heart and any part of your body that may need this. Feel a sense of love and gratitude for all that you are able to feel in this moment. Thank yourself for giving you this experience, as well as your person, place or memory for helping you experience this supportive, nurturing experience.
Practice this technique so that it builds new and stronger neural network systems for enhanced calm and relaxation. With time and practice, you will be able to trigger this feeling in your body in just a few breaths. Whenever you find yourself feeling negative emotions, you will be able to activate this positive feeling state and shift to a calmer and more grounded state of being.
(If you have experienced severe trauma, abuse, neglect or have PTSD, flashbacks and other trauma-related symptoms, it is best to do this with a trained mental health professional)