Simple objects have the possibility to convey meaning, effect our thoughts and influence our emotions. By pairing an object with feelings of relaxation, that object becomes a personal artifact that can be used to stabilize our mood and fight anxiety.
Humans have long been known to associate various beliefs and emotions with certain objects.
Just think of religious objects (a crucifix), material objects (a sports car), or your favorite piece of clothing. These are all objects that we over time have learn to associate certain and emotions, thoughts and feelings with.
The object on it’s own may be of little value, but over time we build a strong mental association between the object and a certain way of thought. This gives the object a value which can not be fully explained by neither it’s physical or functional characteristics.
These types of objects are referred to as artifacts. But just how do these artifacts come to be? How do simple objects gain power and become representations of something much more significant?
The answer may be a psychological phenomenon called classical conditioning.
Classical conditioning is a learning procedure first outlined by a Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov. It is taught in most introductory psychology courses and is used widely throughout the educational system.
The basics of classic conditioning are best summarized by the following illustration:
As you see from this example, the dog naturally feels hunger when it encounters food. A bell is not something that makes a dog naturally hungry nor excited. But with enough repetition an association is created between feeding time and the bell. As a result of this, the bell can become a trigger for hunger and excitement.
By understanding this learning procedure, one can begin to understand how over time how individuals may build associations between certain objects and feelings.
Develop your own artifact that can then be used throughout your life to combat stress and counteract any anxiety you may encounter. More specifically, you will need to select an artifact and then build an association between that artifact and your daily breathing exercises.
Ideas for Integration
An artifact can really anything you like. However, something small enough to fit in your pocket. Here are a few simple ideas:
- An existing religious artifact
- A simple key chain
- A small photo of your loved ones
Now once you have the artifact selected, simply have it with your during your daily breathing exercises. Hold it in your hand our have it in front you.
Over time, your mind should strengthen the association between that artifact and the sense of ease/calmness you get from your breathing exercises.
Once you feel the association is strong enough, you can then use this artifact throughout your life as a way to counteract stress/anxiety and regain your focus.
- Selecting an artifact/object that already triggers positive emotions can give you a head-start in developing your association
- You could technically develop a negative association, if you over use your artifact in stressful situations and do not spend enough conditioning it