New Thoughts For Old Brains!

by Robert McEntee on November 20, 2015

“Everything you want is just outside your comfort zone.” Robert G. Allen

After discussing how we can override any tendency to think negatively, now we can look at how we can actively stimulate the mind to increase our levels of success. One way is by doing something you don’t ordinarily do. Changing your ordinary routine can improve memory and overall brain function. This can include reading or watching a different type of book or movie than you normally do.

Much of our time is not spent using our wonderful brain’s potential. Why? Because we’ve learned automated patterns, like driving, shaving, brushing our teeth, which free our minds up for more interesting pursuits. However these near unconscious acts do not stimulate the brain’s potential.

To counter all the standard programs we have running, a little disorder in your life can help build new and better patterns. In www.beliefmagic.com/winning-with-will-power I suggested switching hands when you brush your teeth, shave or comb your hair, as a way to improve willpower. Doing so is also useful in bringing the mind back to a more conscious state, thus creating new neural connections, even though it may seem strange at first.

Another simple switch is moving your waste basket to a different location. The moment you catch yourself aiming at the old familiar location, notice it and redirect your actions. Your brain becomes aware of the altered situation and mentally begins to program a new set of instructions for the body’s response. Our brains like sameness because it is effortless and easy, but they learn by responding to changes.

Many people only type on a keyboard these days and could benefit from writing free-hand due to the direct connection it has with the mind. This is why many authors and professional advertising copy writers prefer to draft their pieces free-hand. Some studies apparently show that learning to write with your non-dominant hand, while difficult at fist, has mental benefits, just like the aforementioned activities do.

Writing out things like vocabulary words, while also speaking them out loud, seems to enhance learning foreign languages and the like. Getting more senses involved when learning the information helps improve recalling it later, than if you say just typed it. (If you simply must use a device, apps like Plus or Antipaper Notes enable hand-writing on-screen, with apparently the same benefit.)

Learning a foreign language is not only an excellent mind exercise, but it can also make you more objective about a problem by removing emotion. Thinking or speaking about a problem or decision in another language puts it in a different perspective, which can change your feelings about it.

When you encounter “meaning threat”, that unsettling feeling you get when something doesn’t make sense, your brain starts to work harder, says Travis Proulx, a researcher at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Test-takers did almost twice as well analyzing data and learning patterns after Proulx and his colleague made them read bizarre, nonsensical stories.

Exposing yourself to unusual experiences that surprises or confuses you (what’s referred to as “meaning threat”), may improve your mental performance. I am often surprised to  hear people suggesting a totally incorrect but nevertheless creative method for a magic effect that fooled them. In this sense, magic becomes an exploration of the unknown, which the mind tries to unravel. This is similar to how your mind might try to solve an Alfred Hitchcock mystery and the like.

Meaning threat, varies with individuals but you can experiment with immersive avant-garde theater or surrealist short stories to see what you find stimulating. Visiting a country where you don’t know the language or customs has the same effect. Other research has found that people are 20 percent more likely to solve difficult problems after mentally reliving culture-shock type experiences they previously experienced when traveling abroad.

Aerobic exercise, including brisk walking, immediately stimulates blood circulation, which jumpstarts the brain, making it one of the most direct ways to change brain states. In addition to the mental benefits, exercise also assists in the healing process and tends to mute discomfort.

Many people find athletic competition more mentally stimulating than working out in a gym for example. Likewise, riding a bike on scenic open roads may trigger more creative thoughts than the unchanging scenery on an exercise bike will. In addition to the mental benefits, aerobic or cardio exercise also assists in the healing process and tends to mute bodily discomfort.

Other techniques to increase creativity and mental capacity include working in a slightly noisy environment, chewing gum (which increases blood flow to the brain), exposing oneself to stimulating ideas from art, literature, movies, and of course having as many real life varied experiences as possible!

Positive self-talk has been demonstrably proven to enhance performance, according to a review of 32 self-talk intervention studies from the University of Thessaly in Greece. According to these studies, self talk helps you to pay attention, steadies you emotionally and cues you to act accordingly. The studies pertained largely to sports although they have implications for other areas.  (Source: http://pps.sagepub.com/content/6/4/348.abstract)

The studies indicate that instructional type self-talk is most effective when learning something new such as a fine motor skill, and appears more beneficial than general motivation in enhancing performance. I mentioned my own experiences with this in www.beliefmagic.com/change-your-thoughts-change-your-life

We know that we have a conscious and “other than conscious” mind, which I’ll refer to as the subconscious mind. By focusing your conscious mind on what you want, the subconscious mind is programmed to create this success. This has been an underlying theme of much of what I’ve written here. Some great information on this topic can be found in As A Man Thinketh (James Allen) http://www.beliefmagic.com/552

To take this concept a bit further, before going to sleep for the night, tell your subconscious mind what you want in the most positive language you can use. You may find that your subconscious mind (which is on the job 24/7) actually assists with your goals! Remember to envision and describe what you want, not what you’re avoiding. By doing this, you are actually programming your brain without conscious resistance, since the conscious mind will be sleeping.

No matter your age, you can keep your brain flexible and efficient with some consistent effort. So continue enhancing your brain, as you are doing simply by reading the ideas here!

 

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Carve A New Path In Your Mind!

by Robert McEntee on December 21, 2014

“Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?” Lloyd Jones “Spiritual Depression”

Much of what I have written so far centers around the idea that we serve ourselves best when we focus on what we want and minimize any negative mental energy. Self control of the mind is our greatest survival or transformational ability, yet is often much easier said than done. So now I will give you several easy, proven techniques that do just that when used consistenly and properly.

In Nightingale Conant’s Magical Concentration, author Ed Straacher offered some novel techniques for erasing unpleasant or distracting ideas from the mind. These are best employed as soon as you find yourself playing home movies on the movie screen in your head of say a poor performance. He suggests recreating the scene as a cartoon image in the minds eye, distorting the imaginary voices perhaps by greatly increasing or decreasing the pitch or whatever may seem funny to you.

The offending character can be pictured as a clown who gets hit with a pie or other such nonsense. The scene can be played forwards and backwards rapidly and soon any emotional attachment will diminish as you become desensitized to the previously bothersome recollection. As a side note, Mr. Straacher is obviously a smart guy and perhaps worth listening to; among many other things, he trained in chess under Russian pros who taught him to play blindfolded!

Dennis Tirch, Phd ., author of The Compassionate-Mind Guide: Using Compassion Focused Therapy to Calm Worry, Panic and Fear refers to a similar technique as Cognitive Diffusion, which is taught in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Since it’s hard to just stop rehashing an unpleasant event once it’s embedded in your consciousness, this technique can quickly stop the negative memory associations and remove the emotional weight. Simply repeating the offending words associated with the unpleasantness over and over for at least a minute, renders the unpleasant thought to just some sounds without the negative connotations. The words and associated images can then be reframed in a more positive context.

The increasingly popular Emotional Freedom Technique or tapping, also involves repeating fears or worries out loud while tapping on strategic points on the hands, head and chest. You can think of it as acupuncture combined with cognitive therapy. Once the intensity of the fear or worry lessons, the statements gradually transition to more positive ones and end with essentially opposite statements than were used at the commencement of the exercise.

This shares similarities to Exposure and Response Prevention Therapy or flooding, frequently used to treat Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. An example of this would be a therapist gradually exposing a germaphobe to dirt, etc., while not allowing them to immediately wash as they would normally. Both the level of dirtiness and time before washing is increased as the anxiety decreases.

The commonality among all these techniques is that they counter-intuitively overwhelm the senses with the offending concept until the habitual response mitigates. Similar to how if you are told not to think about pink elephants to use a popular example, most will ironically find that they can’t keep that strange image out of their mind. So the opposite also appears true, when the mind is purposefully filled with a repetitive idea, eventually it will naturally seek to focus elsewhere.

Pattern interrupt is another term referring to bringing someone back to present moment awareness where they have more control over their reactions. Perhaps the simplest of these methods is to leave a rubber band around the wrist and snap it whenever the offending thought enters the mind. You can also have a stand by thought, perhaps of a great personal achievement, you always substitue for negative memories.

Other methods include writing a negative thought down and symbolically destroying it, often used when thinking about one’s limitations, or picturing yourself in a “safe room”  whose doorway blocks any negative thoughts from entering.

The trick is to utilize the favored technique at the first instance of the thought and then immediately focus on more harmonious ideas. It’s analogous to the way you would immediately change the radio or TV channel when unwanted programming is tuned in. In other words, don’t visit the bad neighborhoods of your mind!

A number of studies have shown that approximately 3 to 4 weeks of new behavior is required to replace a previously conditioned response or habit. Picture an old wagon wheel road, where creating a new path takes time for the  previous tracks to dissipate and the new impressions to deepen and last.  Since it’s impossible to think about nothing, these methods enable the mind to shift gears taking you to a better destination. I’d love to hear about any results you have with these or similar techniques!

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Put Fear In Its Place!

by Robert McEntee on October 7, 2013

“Even if it was difficult, even if it was dangerous. DANGER WAS REAL BUT FEAR WAS A CHOICE. I would choose faith instead – after all, that was a part of my family legacy too. Everything we did was for the glory of God”  Nik Wallenda, Champion High Wire Artist

Twice recently I have had to “talk down” two fellow performers who were experiencing extreme states of fear regarding upcoming performances. One friend had not performed in a long time due to a lengthy illness and family issues. He also felt his last performance had not gone well and therefore lost all his confidence, the lifeblood of showmanship. The other performer just generally gets severe performance anxiety even though her shows always go well. Both of them felt they could not successfully complete upcoming engagements and wanted to get out of them.

It’s well known in the entertainment field that fear is not your friend. In fact similar to what’s said about dogs, audiences can sense when a performer is nervous and the unsettled state overtakes them as well, thus seriously dampening the fun factor of the event. I had to remind them of much of the following, which I often need to remind myself of prior to more significant engagements. While I’ll largely address stage fright or performance anxiety here, the information is largely relevant to most other types of fear as well.

It has been said the fear of public speaking is greater than the fear of death, although it’s impossible to judge the validity of such a statement. Another saying goes, it’s okay to have butterflies, but get them to fly in formation. This means it’s normal to have some performance anxiety, whether you’re giving a speech for your job, a toast at a wedding, etc. The key is to use the anxiety to your advantage, remembering that in a way it’s a good sign as it shows you care about doing an exemplary job. This leads to the acronym for FEAR you may have heard of, False Evidence Appearing Real! This means that your reality does not have to be based on what your insecurities are telling you…

Through the previous article Mind Tricks for Enhanced Perspective & Performance! you learned valuable concepts such as “acting as if” and “supportive observer comments”. When dealing with “pre show jitters” it’s most important to remember that the one thing you can always control is your mind. It’s more difficult to control it under high stress, that’s why regularly practicing mind calming techniques is so valuable. Then when needed, you can easily transmute negative self talk into success building imagery. Reframe nervous thoughts as anticipation of your success. The adrenaline rush is similar and within reason can aid, rather than hinder a performance.

The best antidote to performance anxiety is proper preparation. After that it’s doing what can be done in the moment. So you take action on practical preparation, which for me involves a relaxation technique such as deep breathing or possibly a brief tai chi routine. Many performers have set rituals they go through before taking the stage which keeps them focused on the task at hand, rather than giving in to the mind’s urge to self sabotage through negative imaginings. It seems that we become less intelligent when nervous, therefore, working from a written checklist if there are a number of details which can be easily overlooked, is a good idea.

Let me give you one easy yet very practical technique which can quickly counteract anxiousness. Breathe in through your nose for a count of 4 seconds. (When inhaling the stomach should expand as the diaphragm raises, and do the opposite with exhalation. Many people actually breathe backwards, and such shallow breathing brings nervous energy.) Hold the breath for at least 4 seconds, and then exhale through the mouth for 4 seconds, as the stomach contracts. The 4 second intervals can be increased with practice or according to your lung capacity. If you repeat this for about 10 minutes you will definitely noticed increased calmness!

Let’s see what the best selling book of all time, the Bible says about fear. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  2Tim1:7 That seems to say that the state of fear is contrary to a sound mind. Then we have the famous FDR quote, “The only thing to fear is fear itself.” So strong opinion exists that fear is a negative thing, however that may be part of the problem; we are conditioned to fear, fear!…

Realize the benefits of defining specifically what you fear at a given moment. With presentations or performances, it’s predominately fear of failure. However failure is not necessarily a bad thing, as from it we learn, grow and improve. In fact, success coaches often believe that we should, “fail forward fast” since the failure motivates and educates  us to do better next time. Facing the worst possible outcome in advance helps to put things in perspective, so even if you completely freeze up, no one dies or is even injured. Our mistakes are soon forgotten as people are much more concerned with themselves, rather than how we imagine they are with us.

I like to remind myself that if I screw up, the result is a little embarrassment or perhaps the audience learns how a trick is done, no big deal. However if a performance artist such as a knife thrower, trapeze artist or tightrope walker makes one mistake, either they or someone else could very well die. Most of us aren’t involved with such extreme activities, but these performers need to completely master the techniques we’ve discussed, as they cannot afford the slightest bit of negative self talk. Speaking of tightrope walkers, if you haven’t seen the incredible video of master Nik Walenda, walk across a portion of the grand canyon, there is a condensed version here www.NikWallenda.com Notice his technique for completely filling his mind with positive thoughts and claiming his success at every step!

If you’re wondering how the two performers I discussed at the beginning of this article handled their situations, the male performer gave into his anxiety and got a replacement performer for the event. I am sure his next engagement will bring even more dread, since each time we face our fears they lessen, while the opposite is also true. On the other hand, the female performer worked through her anxiety and performed successfully! She questioned herself after, what or why she had been so nervous! I suggested that she record her present feelings and review them the next time she feared an upcoming performance. Decide which of these types of outcomes you want in your life and simply make it happen, as only YOU are in control of you!

Here are a few relevant, valuable resources:

Jump & the Net Will Appear (Robin Crow)  http://www.beliefmagic.com/h0d

Inspire Any Audience (Tony Jeary)   http://www.beliefmagic.com/powerful_presentations

Creating A Powerful Presence (Bert Decker) http://www.beliefmagic.com/zpt

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Acting for the Mind Improves the Body!

“Do something today that your future self will thank you for.”                   Author Unknown In my article http://www.beliefmagic.com/mind-tricks-for-enhanced-perspective-performance I discussed valuable concepts such as “acting as if” and “supportive observer comments”.  Following I will summarize important studies by two researchers pertaining to these two techniques, in particular. The first is by Dr. Amy Cuddy who cites evidence [...]

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Enhanced Perception or Psychic Ability?

“Wake up to find out that you are the eyes of the world.”  Robert Hunter Through work as a mentalist, I have realized that our conscious awareness extends to only a fraction of the stimuli registered by our brains, like a light shining on a tiny portion of vast data. Experiments show that we often act [...]

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Winning With Willpower!

“Every man is his own ancestor, and every man is his own heir. He devises his own future and he inherits his own past.”  Frederick Henry Hedge (1805-1890) Clergyman and educator The biggest predictor of one’s success is the extent to which the person makes himself do things that he doesn’t really want to do, and [...]

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Mind Stimulating Hand Exercise!

“He who stops being better stops being good” Oliver Cromwell The technique shown in the video linked below uses alternating finger patterns on both hands simultaneously. Such cross training  increases activity on both the left and right sides of the brain. Ambidextrous training benefits whole brain processing which can improve personal performance in many areas. [...]

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Mind Tricks for Enhanced Perspective & Performance!

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”  Lao Tzu Most people understand more about how their computer works than they do about their own mind. Although we do manage to “reboot” it every day whether through caffeine or your favorite method of waking up! Unfortunately we don’t come [...]

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Goal Getting Made Easy!

“When you discover your mission you will feel its demand. It will fill you with enthusiasm and a burning desire to get to work on it.”                              W. Clement Stone The problem with goal setting is people often aim to achieve something that is incongruent with more pressing desires. For example someone may want to lose [...]

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Mental Rehearsal, A Shortcut to Success!

“Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself?”  Lloyd Jones  Spiritual Depression Our minds function much more efficiently when we frequently shift to what’s desired rather than focusing on what’s not, or just random thoughts. An analogy [...]

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