There was a period in my life that I remember as being particularly difficult.  It was a transition time in my life and it was full of adjustments and change.  I was working a lot and my work schedule kept me in that impossible place between completely exhausted and so wired up I couldn’t wind down and rest.
A chronic stress response is a powerful and very negative force in our bodies.  In Mind Over Medicine, Lissa Rankin, MD makes a compelling argument for the ways stress impacts our mental and physical health.  I agree with her and knew things in my life had to slow down. But, how do you do that with a schedule that is overflowing with tasks and requirements?
I had to implement some pretty major self-care. I needed my body and mind to slow down when there was a break.  It needed training.
During this time, I remembered Pavlov and his dogs.  Do you remember this study?  The basic idea is Pavlov would ring a bell when he fed his dogs.  At first the dogs salivated when they saw the food but eventually he could just ring the bell and they would salivate.  They had been conditioned to have a food response with nothing more than the sound of a bell.
Hmmm….  Could something like that work for me?  Could it help me slow down and be present in my own life.  Could it help me to rest?
I decided to give it a shot.  I mean, I needed sleep!
Here’s what I did.
At the end of the day, when I walked through my front door I did not pass go, but rather went straight into the bathroom and began to run a bubble bath.  I would unpack from the day and listen to the calming sound of water running, inhale deeply the pleasing scent of the bubble bath, and then I would allow myself a long, sweet soak as I let the day go. Eventually, with lots of consistent behavior, my toe would hit the water and I would feel my shoulders sink a little deeper, my heart rate slow a little bit, and I would quickly move into a place of rest.
It worked!  Just like Pavlov’s dogs, I had been conditioned.  And there was sweet rest waiting at the end of the day.
Today, my meditation cushion serves this purpose.  I turn on my music, let the essential oils spill into the air and my breathing slows, my mind centers, and my relaxation response takes over.
Introduce meaningful rituals into your life.  Be consistent.  Condition yourself to have the responses you desire.

One comment on “Pavlov’s Dogs and Bubble Baths

  • Ahhhh…. I feel more relaxed just reading this. Top of my shopping list: Lavender bubble bath. Love this: “Condition yourself to have the responses you desire.” Thanks for this reminder … bath time, here I come!

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