Anxiety, Books, Brain Hacks, Mindfulness

Quiet Time

Meditation is the practice of quieting your mind. This is no easy task. So I’m reading “The Meditation Transformation” by Jennifer Brooks.

The book begins with a spiel on what meditation is and several pages explaining the benefits of a daily meditation practice. I’m not going to lie, I skipped this part. Having already read a plethora of articles and enduring various conversations with my therapist, doctor and naturopath about the benefits of meditation, I felt I had a thorough grip of the material.

Following this was a list of excuses commonly used by individuals who are beginning a meditation practice, to condone their defection. This part was actually useful in describing the ideal environment for meditation: Quiet, private and comfortable. It should be noted that thus far the book wasn’t particularly exciting…

That was until I arrived at chapter 5: Alternatives to Meditation. This chapter looked at visualization, guided imagery and relaxation, all of which can be classified as forms of meditation that seem to be more accommodating to the over active brain. For example when utilising visualisation, instead of simply focusing on your breathing you will instead dedicate your meditation time to painting an object in acute detail in your mind.

Chapter 6: Not All Meditation is Created Equal also explores alternatives to typical meditation practices. It covers exercises such as movement, body scan, mindfulness, walking, concept, gap, empty mind, mantra, vibrational and transcendental meditation. Each of these exercises is explained in detail and is easy to comprehend through its step by step layout. I should mention at this juncture that currently this e-book is free to download at the amazon/kindle store, so I would highly recommend picking it up.

Overall this was an extremely informative book, full of great techniques and exercises to bring to your meditation practice. Perfect for beginners like myself.

Brain Hacks, Sleep

Nighty Night

I’ve been having some trouble getting to sleep lately, with much of the problem stemming from a few careless nights of staying up well past my bedtime (I was out with friends… the fictional variety).

In order to get my snooze routine back on track, I’ve been researching healthy natural ways to get better sleep. That is how I came across “Good Night Sleep: 20 Tips for Better Sleep” by Asanga Wijeratne. The book is quite short and some of the advice it provided I was already aware of, such as turning off electronics, avoiding caffeine and eating late, keeping a routine etc. However its segment on napping was definitely a new concept for me.

Apparently human beings are polyphasic sleepers (we like to sleep several times during a 24 hour period), and napping throughout the day can not only help improve our alertness and productivity but it can also assist us in getting better sleep at night. Ideally these naps should be 20 – 30 minutes long, so as not to negatively impact our sleep during the night.

There are three different types of napping:

1. Planned Napping: This type of napping is intentional and pre-emptive. It’s particularly useful for mothers with nursing babies, who know they will have to wake up regularly throughout the night to feed their child.

2. Emergency Napping: It’s the opposite of planned napping, in that it is reactive in nature. A perfect example would be the five minute power nap, which is often suggested to drivers that are finding themselves feeling lethargic or drowsy on the roads, as a way to prevent car accidents occurring.

3. Habitual Napping: This type of napping occurs at the same time and for the same duration every day. It is most commonly utilised by toddlers after their lunch.

I plan on using a emergency/habitual hybrid napping routine for the next week to see if this improves my night time sleep, in addition to following the other instructions provided in the book. I feel confident that this will give me the results I’m after, and in all honesty I’m really looking forward to incorporating a ritual after work nap.

Books, Brain Hacks, Mindfulness

Happy Memories = Smiling Mind

While reading the “Smiling Mind: Mindfulness Made Easy” by Jane Martino and James Tutton, I came across many, and I do mean many, really useful mindfulness exercises. I find it extremely helpful when self help books become instructional, it makes it so much easier to put the theory into practice. It’s also makes it less stressful to glean results. Exercise 9 was one of my favourites, so I thought I’d share it with you. However I would definitely suggest picking up this book for more options. Alternatively there is also an app you can download and a website to visit.

So here we go:

Step 1: Sit or lie down, but try to maintain an aligned posture as you do so. You can use pillows or folded blankets to help ensure support, but be sure you feel comfortable in that position.

Step 2. Take some deep breaths, and observe how it goes in and out of your body. You can even place your hands on your belly and feel it expand and contract.

Step 3. Recall an experience or situation which made you extremely happy. Try to remember it in great detail, consider the sounds, smells and sights. See if you can relive it using all of your senses.

Step 4. Notice the physical sensations this memory elicits. Where and how do you feel happiness? Is it a warmth in your stomach? Do you feel butterflies? Take some deep breaths and explore these sensations, but be sure not to identify with the emotions. The goal is to observe rather than to experience.

Step 5. Take a few deep breaths and this time try to recall an unpleasant experience or situation. Something that made you feel angry or sad, and once more see if you can relive it in great detail.

Step 6. Once again explore the physical sensations this memory creates. Where does it manifest physically, and how is this different from the sensation of happiness? Let yourself observe the differences between them, while taking a step back from actually feeling these emotions.

Congratulations! You are all done. How do you feel?
Personally I really enjoy this exercise, it makes me feel in control of my emotions and more aware of how I am physically processing them. The breathing also allows me to stay calm, and see those situations in different ways.

Please let me know if you tried and enjoyed this exercise, or if you have any mindfulness exercises or books to recommend. I’d very much appreciate it.
Until next time 🙂

Books, Brain Hacks, Mindfulness, Minimalism, Motivation

One Thing

Change One Thing” another relatively small self help book by Sue Hadfield, is in some ways pretty straight forward and predictable, and yet it remains entirely helpful for the self help novice. It’s premise is simple: making just one change (however small) can impact the rest of your life. Although throughout its pages it suggests many small changes to assist in projecting this impact.

The past is over and only exists when you choose to recall it. Therefore you cannot let it get you down, instead see your mistakes or regrets as examples of how change will come to you whether you invite it or not. Start being pro-active about this unstoppable foe: Change!

• Motivation
It all begins with motivation. You want to be aware that you are living a life worth living while living it.
• Identification
Know who you are and what it is that you want. Know your values and embrace them.
• Recognition
Having purpose in life is in many ways more powerful than having your perceived “needs” met. Don’t delay following your purpose because you have yet to meet those needs. It’s like saying “I can’t do something until I get a better job” when by following your purpose or passion your inner life would be happier and that in turn would colour your outer life. A great life can be as easy as fulfilling your own potential.
• Procrastination
Procrastination is basically resistance to change. It stems from the belief that you either aren’t capable of change or you have to wait until change comes for you and you have no other choice. You may seek instant gratification and therefore become impatient with those small steps that eventually become a big change, or are a perfectionist afraid of making a mistake and therefore put things off. Instead of focusing on the negative outcomes try focusing on the positives.
• Inspiration
Clarify your goals, success comes from preparation, planning, research and staying power. So prepare! Research the changes you wish to make and ask questions about the process from people who have already been there, done that. Look at how these changes align with your values.
• Preparation
Keep on learning, keep on gathering information and prepare yourself for the inevitable setbacks. Success isn’t about luck it’s about persistence.
• Implementation
It’s all about finding time and working towards your purpose. There’s a danger in being busy doing things that don’t bring value or joy to your life. Don’t let life become a treadmill where you loose track of your values or purpose.
• Determination
Start now and keep going. Resilience is key, and a part of that is understanding and welcoming obstacles as a chance to see how far you come and re-evaluate your plans.

It’s all relatively obvious, but empowering regardless. A great book and one that actually takes the time to identify and describe the entire process from start to finish. Which is actually quite a unique feat for a self help book.

Brain Hacks, Motivation

Intention is Key

I’ve been reading “The stuntman’s guide to learning anything” by Brett Solomano. I was hooked by the title, assuming rather incorrectly that it would be a how to guide for juggling chainsaws or executing a burnout in my driveway…

It’s not.

But despite my initial disappointment, I did find a few pearls of wisdom within this rather ill titled guidebook (seriously not even one word on how to do a wheelie) that made up for any feelings of animosity I had. It can all be whittled down into three main points.

The first being that intention is key! Intention is everything in fact, at least when it comes to learning. It’s therefore important to not only learn and therefore act deliberately, but to have a clear and precise plan for your actions. You must set clear and explicit goals early on, that are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Ambitious
  • In the present tense
  • Re-adjustable and refinable
  • Timed
  • Tangible

Once your game plan is put in place, you then have to hold yourself accountable in actioning it. While you can let others know and have that outside force keep you in check, an even better way to encourage accountability is by acknowledging the milestones you reach towards your goal. Celebrate the progress you make and it will stimulate your brain to keep going.

Finally you have to learn to retain the information you collect, by understanding how the brain undergoes this retention process. Unfortunately it does not learn chronologically, so for example reading a book from start to finish will be unlikely to result in learning. But if you can base your enquiries on information that has relevance to your actions or has similarities/differences to information you already have stored (thus allowing you to build from previous knowledge) then learning becomes much easier.

 

 

 

Brain Hacks, Mindfulness

Anchor

Another rather wonderful mindfulness exercise: dropping anchor.
Basically this is a technique to assist you in releasing yourself from your everyday automatic pilot. It’s about focusing on your physical self in that particular moment, so you are able to fully implement mindfulness breathing and observation strategies.
It is very simple. You begin by planting both feet on the floor. Once you attain stability, begin tuning into the sensations in your body. Notice your legs and the feel of the floor, what they are touching, what are they connected to, everything including the heat within your own body. Slowly work your way up noticing your breath, your chest rising and falling. Feel the air come in and then out.
Take the time to really be in your body and to enjoy the sensation of being alive. Observe your body. Anchor yourself in the present moment and just breathe. Then start observing the things around you. The way your body interacts with these things.
I’m finding it to be a very useful tool in calming myself down. Distracting myself from any momentary stress.
Brain Hacks, Mindfulness, Minimalism

Evening Rhythms

Attempting to orchestrate an evening rhythm is no easy task.

If you happened upon my previous blog post about Brooke Mcalarys mindfulness book “Destination Simple” you will understand the exercise I am referring to. But perhaps not the frustration I felt in being unable to undertake it successfully.
The problem is that I get it into my head that everything needs to be worked out immediately, with immediately conveniently being right before bedtime. But the urgency I feel in needing to deal with these “issues” does not represent or correspond with the actual necessities of the moment. It’s not a part of the flow I so dutifully constructed in accordance to the book.

In my search for a solution I came across a really useful trick called allocating worry time. It does take a bit of practice (a lot of practice), but it’s completely worth it because it does work.
So basically you want to begin by taking some deep breaths. Focusing on your inhale and exhale, on the rise and fall of your chest as you breath in and out. Basically trying to relax your body and to let go of your physical tension.
When your mind starts to think about this or that, when you start planning or obsessing, you need to imagine a red light. And you want to tell yourself to stop. You might want to say this out loud or just in your head. But you need to tell yourself to stop.
Say to yourself, “Now is the time to sleep. You will worry about this for an hour tomorrow, at 2 pm.”
The exact time you choose to schedule in your worry is up to you, but it is very important to be specific. Be sure to specify not only the exact time, but also how long you plan to worry about it. Then go back to your relaxation exercises. The moment any of those thoughts come back, just run through the exercise again. See the red light, tell yourself to stop. Now is not the time, tomorrow at 2 pm is the time and you will have a whole hour to figure it out.
The most important thing though, is to follow through with the scheduling. The next day at 2 pm, or whenever you have designated to do it, sit down and think about whatever it was that you were so focused on the night before. Spend that time planning, organizing and worrying about it.
That is it. That’s the trick. It just takes practice and consistency (my two least favourite words) and you can incorporate it into both your evening and morning routines for ease of use.