3 techniques to move you from surviving to thriving - Sarah Woodhouse

3 techniques to move you from surviving to thriving

No one wants to scrape through life. No one wants to cling on, surviving the day. We all want to thrive. We all want to reach our potential and squeeze every last bit of pleasure out of this life. We hope and pray that abundance is possible, but we doubt and we worry. We fear, deeply, that we’re going to have to settle for less than our hearts desire.

This article is going to give you three proven ways to move from surviving to thriving. If you can implement these changes (they’re not at all hard, but require daily commitment), you’ll see changes. You’ll shift away from your past and into the future you desire.


Vagus nerve activation. These techniques are so simple that a lot of people dismiss them (and then quickly realise they shouldn’t have). Dr Stephen Porges has demonstrated that the vagus nerve plays a central role in rebalancing our nervous system after we’ve been stressed, triggered or overwhelmed. Understanding how to hack the vagus nerve is the secret of handling stress and overwhelm. A lot of high-flying people I know use these techniques to help them deal with their stresses and fears, so they can succeed and flourish.

The vagus nerve runs from your inner ear, down the back of your throat, through the centre of your chest and then branches out to different organs. It responds to deep breathing and vibration, among other things. Repetitive vibrations and breathing patterns, will all get the vagus nerve doing what it does best – switching off your fight-flight-freeze stress hormones and turning on your calm-down hormones. Deep inhales into your belly for a shorter length of time than you exhale works to rebalance your nervous system within a few minutes (in for the count of four and out for the count of ten, for example). Humming, ‘aaauuuummmm’ or voooooooooooo sounds that vibrate your throat and chest also activate the vagus nerve. Next time you’re stressed, overwhelmed or triggered try either technique and you’ll be back in control of your body. You’ll be a grounded stress-controlling-manifesting-Jedi back in charge and primed to thrive.


Thinking for pleasure. I love this one – it’s totally my jam and has radically changed the course of my life over the past five years. Again, it’s simple, but when we commit it can be totally life changing. Thinking for pleasure means that we become consciously aware of how our thoughts affect our body, our feelings, our energy and our ability to thrive. When we commit to thinking for pleasure we commit to noticing the small good things in life “the bright green colour of that tree makes me so happy,” or “I feel so comfortable and snuggly in my beautiful blanket,” or, “my tummy feels lovely and warm and full.” Not only do we notice the small good things, we make them bigger and brighter. We really feel into the good feelings, because what we focus on and expand leads our experience of life.

We also make a commitment to speculate on the good rather than the bad, simply because it’s all guesswork so why not make yourself feel good in the process? So, we shift from negative speculation and guesswork, to positive speculation and guesswork. An example would be realising that when we think (guess) “my sister hates me” we feel ashamed, stressed and tense. But when we think “who really knows how my sister feels about me,” or “my sister is living her life and I’m living mine,” or “I am loved by many people,” we feel calmer, safer and more relaxed. 

I know this one sounds like I’ve just told you to think positively, but it’s a lot deeper than that. I’m not in favour of toxic positivity (the type of positivity that ignores reality and our feelings), but I am in favour of healing our body by allowing it to experience the pleasant, calm sensations that accompany kind, gentle, joyful thoughts.

Many of us have been trained into negative speculation (negatively guessing what other people think, or what the future holds) because of our upbringing and our trauma. I’m lovingly suggesting that you un-train yourself of this habit. Why? Because you’ll feel better, have less to worry about, attract more abundance and joy, be less stressed and get unstuck. What I’m telling you is that you have a choice about what you think, so why not make it work for you and help you shift from surviving to thriving? It’s also a whole lot of fun, and much more pleasant than sitting round thinking everyone hates me, I’m going to go bankrupt and the world is about to end, so why not give it a try?!


Third up, is moving out of our old emotional trigger-patterns. When we’re triggered we’re reminded of our past hurts and traumas, and then experience a flood of old uncomfortable feelings, thoughts and sensations. We don’t stand a chance of moving out of these old triggered reactions until we can spot when it happens. Three rules will help you figure out when and how you’re triggered. You’re trying to spot:

i- Repetitive reactions

ii- When you’re stuck in a feeling

iii- Extreme reactions

You’re looking for repetitive reactions that are set-off in response to the same type of situation, person, thought, feeling or whatever. You’re looking for feelings you’re stuck in, that you can’t shift. You’re looking for extreme reactions (so maybe that don’t happen often, but when they do, you’re totally floored).

All of these reactions will occur in response to a trigger – something that reminds you of a past hurt. The repetitive reactions are usually the easiest to spot. So maybe you realise that you feel very ashamed whenever you’re around your mum, or perhaps you realise you become extremely anxious, your heart races and you can’t think straight whenever you have to drop you kid at day care. 

So, in the examples I gave, something about your mother and something about the process of dropping your child to day care is making you feel unsafe. This type of information is gold. It’s the stuff that allows us to better understand ourselves and our lives. It’s the stuff that allows us to respond appropriately and help ourselves feel safe.

Vagus nerve activation, thinking for pleasure and moving out of your trigger patterns: three proven ways to move from surviving to thriving. Commit to them and use them daily, own them and play around with them. If you do, you’ll experience beautiful shifts in your life.

Enjoy x


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Sarah Woodhouse is a trauma expert, research psychologist and writer who delivers people the knowledge and tools to recognise and overcome self-defeating cycles, to achieve personal freedom and success.

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