I had a conversation recently with a friend after she’d gone for a long drive along the lakeshore with her favorite music cranked to 11, and she expressed the rather fervent wish that she could somehow bottle the way she felt, but couldn’t.

The thing is, you very much can do so, you very much can create the mental and emotional states you want to experience. Your body and mind are designed to do exactly that, because at our most primitive levels, we’ve evolved to remember strong memories and feelings as a key to survival.

Look at your own history of strongly anchored memories, from basic things like the taste of an apple to incredibly complex things like the first person you kissed. You have tons of memories, good and bad, that you’ll never be able to get rid of. You have tons more memories waiting to be triggered at the drop of a hat – the right song in a public venue or the right scent of perfume, and you’re instantly somewhere and somewhen else. Ask any couple that’s been together for a while if they have a song that they strongly associate with, and you’ll get an enthusiastic yes far more often than not.

What emotional states do you want to invoke? Confidence? Serenity? Awesome?

The trick to refreshing and triggering the emotional states you want to experience is to know what your triggers are for memories you do have, and set new triggers when you want to anchor down a state for later recall. For memories you already have, few are more powerful than music, which is where the post about using your iPod for mental protection came from. Go read it and try it if you haven’t. Go dig up the powerful, positive states you want to recall out of your past. If high school or college was a positive experience for you, go dig out those yearbooks that are inevitably collecting dust on a bookshelf and take a quick jog down memory lane to extract the memory triggers that still have strength and impact.

If you know in advance that you’ll be encountering an experience that you’ll want to remember, like my friend’s lakeshore drive, then decide in advance how you’ll anchor that experience for later recall. Perhaps you’ve got some special hand gesture that has significance to you – many devout folks who pray with clasped hands find that just the act of physically doing so refreshes their mental and emotional state. Maybe it’s a special outfit you wear or a special routine that you create, a special habit that you can invoke – whatever works best for you.

There’s ample precedent for all of this. If you look at some of the images from Buddhism and from ninjutsu in which various hand postures are shown, you’ll see that they are less about portraying practices to the uninitiated and more about prompting practitioners who’ve gone through training to refresh their memories and experiences. Having a picture or statue in your home of Fudo Myo-o, Jesus Christ, the Dalai Lama, St. Mary, etc. isn’t so much a thing to pray to or worship as it is a daily, constant reminder of a mental and emotional state you’re seeking to invoke in yourself. (though of course many people do use them as foci for worship as well)

You don’t need to use religious materials, either, especially if they don’t connect with you. Plenty of people have powerful state changes when they pop in their favorite movie. Plenty of people have powerful emotions when they fire up Team Fortress 2 or Sim City or World of Warcraft. Plenty of people have associations that are just as strong around Yoda, Tirion Fordring, Superman, Indiana Jones, Batman, the Terminator, and Rocky Balboa. Use the tools and content that speak the most to you of the emotional and mental states you want to generate.

For “bottling” the feelings and states you want to recall, the trick is to be consistent. If you go for lakeshore drives as your way of refreshing yourself, then set a routine, a hand posture, a habit, whatever, so that similar experiences and emotional states are anchored with the same habit. If you love watching Rocky jog up the steps of the art museum, set those physical habit reminders for that feeling. Whatever creates the way you want to be, set your reminders, your anchors. Then, later on, when you need to invoke that same mental and emotional memory, the habits and physical gestures brings back what you’ve stored.

Give it a try and see how “mind-setting” works for you!

Photo credit: Mark Blevis


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