Posts tagged as:

breaking habits

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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