The year is marching on, the seasons shifting in one direction or the other depending on which corner of the earth you find yourself. Here, in my own little haven, I’ve been breathing more deeply, making the most of the deliciously dry and sunny early winter days while I am quietly laying the foundation for the upcoming book projects, content and resources that I’m working on.
If you follow my work, then you already know that I am passionate about exploring various methods of cultivating calm, relieving anxiety and ultimately developing a balanced sense of self, even in the face of adversity. So, when new mindfulness or personal development tools are on my radar, I am always intrigued to investigate and experiment with integrating them into my personal self-care (or soul care) practices. That said, a few months ago, all the buzz and positive reviews around renowned author, Mel Robbins’, latest self-help book, The High 5 Habit: Take Control of Your Life with One Simple Habit, caught my attention. Robbins describes the ‘High 5 Habit’ as a “holistic approach to life that changes your attitude, your mindset and your behavior.” Robbins shares that she began cementing this somewhat peculiar habit in her own self-care routine during a particularly challenging period of her life when she was, “exhausted, beaten down and burnt out”. She immediately noticed the positive impact her new habit had on her, how it uplifted her energy and catalyzed a profound shift in her relationship with herself. When she began sharing her ‘high 5 habit’ online during the pandemic, she was blown away by the effect it had on people who also started practicing it.
What Exactly is the ‘High 5 Habit’?
To practice this very simple approach, she guides readers and online challenge participants to start the day by taking a few minutes to connect with themselves in front of the mirror. The general instructions for the process are as follows:
When you brush your teeth in the morning, take a few minutes to look at yourself in the mirror.
Set an intention for the day.
Think about how you are going to show up, who you are going to be and what matters most to you in terms of the areas you want to make progress in for that particular day.
Then you raise your hand and high five your reflection in the mirror to seal the intention.
In all honesty, at first glance, the ‘high 5 habit’ seemed a bit cheesy. I am big on setting intentions and journaling in the morning (see my latest journal Soulful Sunrise: A Mindful Morning Reflection Journal available on Amazon), and although I’m also familiar with the concept of ‘mirror work’, its benefits and have done many such exercises, I wasn’t quite sure how Mel Robbins’ method would be any different to that. Out of curiosity, I decided to go ahead and just be open to the possibility that it may surprise me. I figured that the luteal phase would be a great time for me to experiment with Robbins’ method. It’s the period of the female cycle that often brings up all kinds of strong emotions, anxieties and when we may feel drained or fatigued. It is the period of time when my inner critic surfaces, so I am more likely to list all my perceived failings and go down a negative spiral. We often fall into the trap of nitpicking our appearance and berating ourselves during those moody premenstrual days. And of course, on cycles where you happen to be trying to conceive (TTC) or going through fertility treatment, the emotional turmoil and anxiety can be even more pronounced during the two week wait (TWW). Mindfulness exercises, art therapy, tea meditations and yoga have all been beneficial resources for me to lean on during the TWW. So, uncertain of what to expect, I was curious to explore whether the ‘high 5 habit’ could be another nurturing tool to add to the mix. On cycle day 15, the first day of my luteal phase, I showed up in front of the bathroom mirror, looked into my own eyes in the reflection and followed through with the ‘high 5 habit’ guidelines. I kept a basic log of my experience, and here is a glimpse at what I noticed over the course of the first seven days:
By the end of that first week, I could appreciate what Mel Robbins had been talking about. Robbins puts forward that because of the positive association with the act of high-fiving, it immediately stirred up feel-good energy, making it easier to cultivate affirming thoughts rather than self-deprecating ones. I certainly noticed that. I enjoyed the feeling of unexpected comfort, calm and inner joy that it awakened in me. I was also very aware of how it enabled me to keep my inner critic in check.
Reviewing the book in her Success.com article, writer, Natasha Lavender, summed it up perfectly when she wrote:
“You’ve probably performed this gesture hundreds of times before. Your brain subconsciously knows what a high-five means: celebration, reassurance, teamwork, determination. So when you give your reflection a high- five, your brain automatically gives you that little thrill you get when you do it with someone else. It tells you that you’re cheering on the person you’re high-fiving—in this case, yourself.”
In essence, we have a psychological predisposition to mine uplifting thoughts and feelings when we carry out a simple physical act that has an associative feel-good factor. Put that way, the impact of exercise makes a lot of sense.
Lavender’s article goes further to say that:
“Facing yourself in the mirror can be an intimidating experience. Not because of the things you don’t like about your reflection, but because it makes you take stock of all the life experiences you’re carrying around. That includes sad things that have happened to you, and bad things you’ve done that you haven’t forgiven yourself for. That’s why a high-five is such a perfect gesture for repairing that relationship with yourself. It’s lighthearted, but it also means something serious: We’re on the same team, and I’m going to be here for the struggles and the celebrations.”
The feeling of being fully held, seen and supported is truly underrated and this was one of the exercises that showed me the extent to which we support others, but regularly and often unconsciously abandon or disassociate from ourselves. Are we as happy to see ourselves in the mirror as we are when we see a friend or loved one? Do we offer ourselves nurturing internal dialogue when we’re feeling low (the way we would a friend) or do we berate ourselves further? Robbins found that many of us either ignore or criticize ourselves in the mirror. Practicing the ‘high 5 habit’ reminded me on a daily basis that I owe it to myself to be more present and compassionate to ME. It also reinforced that each day I have a choice as to how I show up, a choice to focus more intently on what matters most to me and that in itself is empowering regardless of the many pear-shaped things I am unable to control.
A Forbes article by speaker and author, Blake Morgan, reminds us that:
“No one is immune to challenges and dark times. The strain of the world and work challenges can feel overwhelming and isolating, especially for entrepreneurs. But the simple habit of taking just a few minutes for yourself and giving yourself a high five can change your day, and over time can change your life. When you’re excited to see yourself and cheer yourself on, you can take control of your life and make amazing things happen.”
Whether you experiment with the ‘high 5 habit’ or not, the sentiment rings true in any situation – When you show up for YOU and meet yourself with compassion, you rebuild your relationship with yourself. You rebuild your sense of self-worth (and boy has my self-worth needed a lot of repairing I’m the midst of subfertility and pregnancy loss). You make empowering decisions that benefit your wellbeing and personal growth. You are reminded that you deserve your own love, kindness and devotion just as much as everyone else in your life does.
Have you read the book, “The High 5 Habit”? Have you tried out this practice? What was your experience like?
If not, which practices help you connect with and nurture yourself?