Reconnecting with your Values through Sophrology
By Liz Murphy
I was delighted to learn that the World Values Day campaign this year would be focusing on the theme of ‘reconnecting’. What a wonderful topic to explore! As a Sophrologist and Executive Director of the Sophrology Academy, I work a lot with personal values as a way of restoring harmony to the body and mind, and will share some of this knowledge with you. But first, let’s talk a little about personal values, what they are and how they influence us …
What are personal values?
Our values help us to find our ‘True North’ when life gets a little chaotic or when we are simply not sure what to do in certain situations. The values that speak to you may have come from any number of people or situations: perhaps you value patience and kindness because that is what you experienced from your mother; alternatively, you might value honesty and openness as you grew to emulate a friend who would ‘say it like it is’ and survive to be respected for it! Our most deeply held values are at the core of who we are, what we hold most dear, the passion in our hearts.
There are, of course, many values out there, but some common or typical personal values may be:
Do some of these values ring true to you? – or is that bell a little muffled?! If that’s the case, you’re not alone …
Up the Creek ….!
At some point, we adopted these values as passionate beliefs or moral codes into our internal ‘map’ of who we are. So if our values anchor us in choppy waters, what happens for us to often find ourselves ‘all at sea”?
The answer is: life happens! As we meet different challenges, our values can become compromised or undermined in the name of relationships, work situations, or unexpected events. And when we reach each crossroad, we can rationalise our actions – to the detriment of our values and similar future situations. This, then, is why it’s so important to reconnect with and deepen our understanding of our values and how they influence our thoughts and actions.
Knowing when things just don’t ‘sit right’
How do we know that we need to reconnect with our values? It can be that feeling of discomfort – that something isn’t ‘sitting’ with us properly, or an intense feeling of disappointment in ourselves, or even shame. Often we notice it most when we feel anxious or threatened, becoming defensive and reacting in ways that are not truly ‘you’.
Interestingly, Alan Watts suggested in his lectures that being a ‘person of integrity’ means being fully ‘integrated’ with oneself – that there are no parts that do not belong to who you are as a person. We might also describe it as ‘fitting into our own skin’.
Both are excellent analogies, as the way to get there is not just through our brains, but with our whole bodies.
Body or Brain – who’s Boss?
We have been through centuries of belief that the mind is in charge and the body is no more than the vehicle for carrying around our amazing brains. However, now we are starting to understand that it is our bodies that can dictate how we think and feel.
If that seems counter-intuitive, let’s take something simple, like smiling. Smiling is known to reduce blood pressure, stress and pain sensation, as well as strengthening the immune system. The very act of smiling tricks your brain into releasing serotonin and triggering off a whole range of positive neuropsychological events! Laughter therapy is known to be effective for similar reasons, boosting the immune system and releasing endorphins to relieve pain, amongst other positive effects. Steven Kotler and Jamie Wheal quote several studies in their book, ‘Stealing Fire’, which show that Botox injected into the frown lines of seriously depressed patients can achieve ‘significant and sometimes instantaneous relief from depression’. In other words, what we do with our bodies can directly influence our state of mind. Now that’s pretty exciting!
In Lisa Feldman Barret’s work on allostasis, she suggests that the brain’s primary job is actually to maintain the body’s metabolic budget and to keep it functioning at its best. This, at least, puts the body and brain on equal footing – maybe even demoting the brain’s stellar reputation for being ‘the main attraction’ – as well as giving new meaning to the idiom, ‘healthy body, healthy mind’.
And this is when we come to the profound ability of Sophrology to strengthen both body and mind and the connection between the two, helping us to live more authentically for ourselves …and for the benefit of others.
‘Be more Bod!’ – learning to live in the present with Sophrology
Connecting with our bodies and the messages that our bodies send is the first step to being truly aligned with our values. In Sophrology, we use the combined practices of ancient Eastern meditation, mindfulness and Yoga-like techniques with Western psychological methods to reconnect with the body. In this way, we get to know ourselves better from the inside – the body we’re living in – and how it responds to the world it holds space in.
A key element of Sophrology lies in achieving a relaxed physical state, achieved through its physical and mental relaxation techniques. Relaxing the body also has a calming effect on our busy overthinking minds; this is because safety is something we experience below conscious awareness and mostly in the body as our nervous systems continuously scan the environment for cues of danger.
By exploring this territory of sensations and subtle messages, we learn to release habitual tensions and find balance in our bodily systems, allowing us to stay connected to the present moment. Importantly, this is due to a very special property of the body:
It is always in the present!
The body is not focused on a challenging meeting or an interview that will happen later in the day; it is only aware of what is happening right now in terms of what its five senses are delivering. By being more aware of our bodies we can ‘tune into’ what’s happening for us physically at any given time, and sense whether something is right or a little off, and address it.
As one of our Sophrology students suggested, (and I really like this definition!), ‘Sophrology is akin to having ‘Spidey senses’ for all of life’s decisions and challenges’.
Reconnecting with ourselves, each other and the world
Being ‘present’ with your whole authentic self is a beautiful gift to others, too. Think back to when you last received a full-blown wholesome hug from someone you hadn’t seen in a long time and who was burning to share that closeness with you. There is a visceral difference between that kind of hug and a ‘forced’ hug from someone who felt that the situation logically called for it. You can tell the difference straight away. Why? Connecting genuinely with others is a full mind-body experience – it only happens when we are authentically in tune with ourselves and open to others. That’s when you really feel and embody your ‘you-ness’ in the moment – and they feel it too.
Sophrology helps us to develop that awareness, which in turn can guide our day-to-day choices, actions and relationships, enabling us not only to align our inner worlds and personal practices, but also to make those real connections with others.
Connecting our career with our values
Once we have developed and strengthened our mind-body connections, we become more aware of our values and use them to benefit the wider world. And as the pandemic has actually given many the ‘space’ needed to reflect on what really matters to them, they are taking bold decisions to realign their lives and careers with their values. This has resulted in a huge increase in health and wellbeing training applications – and that includes Sophrology.
Known for its effective methods in developing awareness, balance and resourcefulness, Sophrology has grown in its reputation as a path to address this need. Here are some examples of why people choose to study to become Sophrology practitioners, taken from recent programme applications; I think they reflect beautifully the ‘others-awareness’ that drives such positive change!
- I want to make use of my skills to benefit my local community, especially those that have faced life-changing events, to support them in a ‘reset’.
- I want to work in a profession that helps others to open gateways to their own inner knowing.
- Most of the children I teach are experiencing anxiety. Many are too young/shy/traumatised to verbalise their feelings. A mind-body practice like Sophrology can be valuable for them.
- My own experience of Sophrology was so life-changing – I’d be thrilled to create the same impact for the people I work with and make a difference in their lives.
This is why we do what we do at the Sophrology Academy, and we always extend a warm invitation to anyone who would like to know more about Sophrology, how it works and what it can do.
Reconnect with your Values on World Values Day!
Now is the perfect time to deepen our understanding of our values and how they connect us with our sense of self, with others, and with the wider world. So, this World Values Day, and all through October, let’s use our values to reconnect with one another and with what matters most in our lives.
If you missed our Sophrology Practice: Reconnecting Mind, Body, Values event on World Values Day, 21st October, you can find out about other events here or follow us on Facebook @TheSophrologyAcademy for a simple practice every week.
Happy World Values Day!
About the author
Liz Murphy is Executive Director of the Sophrology Academy in the UK. Established in 2010, the Sophrology Academy provides professional qualifications for sophrology practitioners and bespoke programmes for organisations. For Liz, the power of sophrology lies in the way it develops our ability to consciously manage our inner states of mind and body in order to bring the full essence of who we are to the experience of life as it is.
As a member of the board of the ISF, Liz aims to contribute to raising the credibility and recognition of the sophrology profession so that many more people around the world can benefit from this empowering practice.