1. Lie down and use whatever meditation or relaxation technique you know will relax you. Progressively relax each part of your body, working your way up — e.g. left leg, right leg, torso, arms, head etc. You are aiming to “lose” the limb, then repeat on every other body area till you’re “disembodied”. The best way I found to get this working is to think about inputs going into the leg but it not responding. So, like when you get the urge to fidget, just imagine that that input is trying to go into the body part but it’s not responding. This lets me “lose” a body part quite quickly. Spend about 10 minutes, or however long it takes to get the whole body reasonably numb. Don’t get too caught up on this point; the number the better but just do your best.
2. Visualize a situation that ordinarily bothers you somehow, and for which you would like to recondition your emotional responses. At this point the old emotional patterns will be firing, but the body will not be responding very much so you have largely removed it from the feedback loop (this is also how ketamine therapy works). Just ignore completely any of the old emotional responses; you can’t work with them and they should be totally disregarded. Instead, get the warmest, softest, most natural smile you can on your face. Try and feel warmth in your heart (this is the vagus nerve). Imagine that what you are looking at is really quite beautiful. Continue to visualize the situation that ordinarily bothers you, while keeping this warm smile and the warmth in your heart, and breathe slowly and regularly several times (breathing “locks in” the new state). Repetition is key and you should practise this daily, for several minutes per situation, and also practise on a variety of situations as this broadly reconditions the new habit. The more variety, the broader and more far-reaching the new imprint. Doing this exercise alone will begin to change your responses going forward.
3. However, here is where the magick really happens. Next time you are in that situation, purposefully trigger that state. So, begin smiling. Get the warmth in your chest. Allow yourself to breathe slowly and naturally to “write” the new state. You will be surprised how quickly you settle into that new state. This step is where the real lock-in occurs, and after about the second pass through that situation will probably never bother you again. There may be an element of your having to “force” the new smile state at first, and this discomfort may last a few minutes, but you absolutely must push through and enforce the new state, intentionally generating that warmth in your heart, relaxing and smiling, for the reconditioning to complete. The more times through the situation, the less effort is required, and the new state begins to become default.
So simple, yet so effective. Repetition and practice are key. The more you do it, the better you get, and the faster you can recondition your responses going forward. This is also literally practising being happy. The problem with the chronically depressed is that they are literally practising being unhappy. Pills aren’t going to make you practise being happy — you actually have to practise being happy, and this is how to do it.
You can also experiment with changing the type of smile to get a different emotional “mode”. For example, for socializing reconditioning, you may want to practise cultivating a more engaged smile. To do this, I get the warmth but also add some bright-eyedness to it, as though what I’m looking at really interests me.
And this, for most things concerning emotional responses, is really all you need.