It Starts from Within…
- We want to start by reminding you that everything you could possibly need is within you. It really is. We don’t want to sound cliche, but we want you to understand that optimising your life does not take major life changes in all that you do. It simply comes with the understanding that in life, YOU can choose how you react to things around you and you can choose how people and situations make you feel.
- It starts with a nice theory from one of the forefathers of positive psychology, Syd Banks. Now Syd is a pretty interesting guy. He actually started life as a Scottish welder turned spiritual teacher, I know, strange combo right!? Syd’s key theory comes down to the three principles, Mind, Consciousness and Thought.
- Mind – we have two types of mind – our big mind and our little mind. The little mind is the ego, that’s the self-centered “me” and the big Mind is the Divine Mind, the intelligence of literally all things in this world. That’s the Mind you should be looking for. That’s the Mind that has the power to guide you through life, and if you can see that, life becomes simple and you’ll find your happiness.
- Consciousness – Consciousness gives us the ability to realise the existence of life. The secret to happiness is not to go out there and try and find it, because happiness is not out there. Happiness lies within the consciousness of every human being if you can take your mind, clear it, become healthy, and see what you’ve got. The easiest way to measure your current level of consciousness is to tune into your mood. When you are feeling low, chances are that your level of consciousness has dipped and the things you are telling yourself about yourself, your life and the world will be largely inaccurate and unproductive. When your mood is higher and you are feeling happy, content and at peace, chances are your state of consciousness has raised as well, and from this place you’ll tend to think higher quality thoughts that can lead you to some pretty wonderful places.
- Thought – “You’re only one thought away from happiness, you’re only one thought away from sadness.” The secret lies in Thought. It’s the missing link that everybody in this world is looking for. We worry over nothing. You have the freedom to walk through life and see as a free thinker, that is the greatest gift ever, to be a free thinker.You have the freedom to have a thought to put life into it or let it die.
- So in summary, Mind is the intelligence of all things; Consciousness makes you aware; and Thought is like the rudder of a ship. It guides you through life and if you learn to use that rudder properly, you can guide your way through life far better than you ever imagined.
Clearing the Mind
- If we want to fully optimise our abilities, we must start with clearing the mind from all that is distracting and dislocating us.
- Jamie Smart, author of Clarity talks about how we perform at our best when we have nothing on our minds. When you’ve got a clear mind, you’re experiencing a greater clarity of thought and mental clarity brings top performance, good decisions and creative solutions.
Harness your Technology
- Setting boundaries with technology and notifications! Put your technology into quarantine for periods of time in your day. We don’t want to become slaves to our technology, constantly trying to keep up with every email, message and notification. Protect your energy by choosing slots in your day/week to respond to non-priority requests.
- Enjoy tech free time – Focus on a creative task or just enjoy doing absolutely nothing for 30 minutes of your day or simply converse with friends and family without the presence of your phone/laptop constantly taking you away from your given conversations or tasks.
- Stop multitasking! Neuroscientist, Daniel J Levitin believes multitasking can cause the brain to quickly burn up its fuel, leaving us stressed and exhausted. Keep focused on one task at a time
- Be mindful of the information you consume. The average person today consumed three times more information than in the 1960s and this is overwhelming. Be sure to not overwhelm yourself with too much information on a daily basis, leave yourself time to absorb and digest.
- Diversify your news – overusing technology can reduce your ability to think critically, especially when we are being exposed to curated content which can often reinforce already existing opinions and world views.
Neuroplasticity & Our Brain
- Our brains are highly neuroplastic, they have the ability to change and they change throughout our lives. Most importantly, WE have the power to change it.
- What is neuroplasticity you may ask? Well, it is the ability of the brain to adapt to changes in an individual’s environment by forming new neural connections over time. With every repetition of a thought or emotion, we reinforce a neural pathway – and with each new thought, we begin to create a new way of being. Neuroplasticity is the ‘muscle building’ part of the brain; the things we do often we become stronger at, and what we don’t use fades away. Younger people change easily; their brains are very plastic. As we age change doesn’t come as easily; the brain loses some of its plasticity and we become more fixed in how we think, learn, and perceive.
- We can impact how our brains are wired as we grow older – 75% of the way that you age is in your control – which means your environment, lifestyle and behavior have more of an impact on the way that you age vs the 25% attributed to your genes. Your behavior is everything when it comes to rewiring your brain, so taking daily micro-action to break bad habits is critical to successful aging.
- Learning new instruments, exploring new places, being exposed to new stimuli, learning languages, these all increase our neuroplasticity as we are learning new skills.
- If we hone a certain skill, our brain responds accordingly. London cab drivers for example have more grey matter in their memory centers (hippocampus) than the average brain, as they memorise tens of thousands of streets. This changes their brain structure and can even make them bigger. So what does this mean for us?
- It’s good news and demonstrates that we can in fact increase our brain capacity and matter.
- First, we need to purge our minds of what Jim Kwik, author of Limitless calls LIEs, Limited Ideas Entertained. One of the major LIEs being that our IQ is fixed, it is not and nor does it show your intelligence level which can in fact change and grow over time. The concept of a fixed IQ is limiting and negative, everyone has the potential to be a genius.
- “You can learn to unlimit and expand your mindset, your motivation and your methods to create a limitless life”. Jim Kwik.
- 3 key structures in our brain – brain stem, limbic system and the neocortex
- Brain stem & Cerebellum – responsible for breathing and heart rate – this is the reptilian brain – fight or flight
- Limbic system – mammalian brain – emotions, memories, habits, attachments
- Neocortex – human/primate brain – language, abstract thought, imagination, reasoning.
- Amygdala – responsible for emotions
- Hippocampus – responsible for memory
- Neural networks can be build with your thoughts – if you constantly worry or self doubt, you will have that strong sense of self, or certain memories will be stronger the more we think about them. Each time we recall a memory we recreate it as we recall it in the present moment (with new associations/beliefs).
- Mel Robbins’ 5 Second Rule – as soon as you recognize the need to make a conscious value-driven decision, you count backwards 5-4-3-2-1 and physically move to take that action. The theory behind why this works is:
“If you have an impulse to act on a goal, you must physically move within 5 seconds or your brain will kill the idea.”
- Peter Voogd’s Decision Train – you don’t wait until you feel like doing something. Instead, you do some pre-planning and act first, decide second and feel last. Most people are unsuccessful at taking action because they do the opposite and feel first before making their decisions.
Both concepts are based on the idea that if you wait until you feel like doing something, you’re never gonna do it because you’re never gonna feel like it. So a way to hack procrastination is to trick your brain into moving and acting as quickly as possible before your mind gets in the way.
- Free your mind of negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones.
- Firstly you need to notice the dominant thoughts and questions that you are asking yourself. Are these productive and how are they helping you? You need to notice the questions you are asking yourself that are not serving you, such as ‘How can I get people to like me?’ or ‘How can I become invisible?’ Instead you need to ask yourself questions that empower you.
- Ask yourself, ‘How can I make this better’ or ‘How does my mind work so that I can work my mind?’
- You are then shifting your dominant questions to positive ones and this has been scientifically proven to not only help you be more productive but also to improve your overall health. Studies show that positive people are 13 percent less likely to experience heart attacks or depression.
- Next time you hear your inner critic creeping up and telling you ‘I can’t’ or ‘I’m not’ just replace this with “I haven’t always been good at this but that doesn’t mean I can’t be great at it now”.
Finding your Passion and Fulfilling your Purpose
- We rarely stop and think about what it is that really makes us tick. What would make us jump out of bed with a massive spring in our step and makes us feel truly alive.
- Well it’s time that changes. It’s time you find out your purpose and ask yourself why! An interesting task to try is identify something that you love doing and get a friend or family member to ask you why five times until you can peel back the layers to what you love doing and why you love doing it. Our passion is internal and is buried beneath other people’s expectations and assumptions about you. Our purpose on the other hand is aimed at what’s around you and it’s what you can share and contribute to the world.
- Take time to define yourself and your purpose and once you have this you can be intentional about your next steps.
- Being intentional in your life is essential, as if you don’t have a key destination, your path will be led by others trying to get you to their destinations. Don’t let others dictate your agenda.
- Once you decide on your passions and your purpose, you can ensure that your actions are aligned with your purpose and getting there.
- The importance of identifying with a chosen goal can be seen in a Stanford University study where psychologists divided participants into two and asked one group ‘How important is it for you to vote?’ and they asked the other ‘How important is it for you to be a voter?’ Those asked about being a voter were more likely to take part in elections by 13 percent as they identified with a goal of being a voter and having their voice heard.
- So if you have a goal and a vision of what you want to achieve, you will see your motivation naturally shoot up with the prospect of achieving it.
Getting in the Flow…
- Do you recall the last time you were so engrossed in an activity that you completely lost all track of time? Well, you were in a state of what psychologists call, flow. A state in which we feel were being challenged but the sense of challenge is not overwhelming, it is in face comforting and rewarding – and the most exciting part about flow is that it dramatically increases your productivity, sometimes by as much as 500 percent!!
- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, one of the pioneers of the scientific study of happiness, discovered that people find genuine satisfaction during a state of consciousness called Flow. In this state they are completely absorbed in an activity, especially an activity which involves their creative abilities. During this “optimal experience” they feel “strong, alert, in effortless control, unselfconscious, and at the peak of their abilities.”
- The main thesis of Csikszentmihalyi’s most popular book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (1990), is that happiness is not a fixed state but can be developed as we learn to achieve flow in our lives. The key aspect to flow is control: in the flow-like state, we exercise control over the contents of our consciousness rather than allowing ourselves to be passively determined by external forces. “The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something we make happen.”
- While Csikszentmihalyi’s research focuses on the area of work and creative output, he sees that the state of flow is applicable to relationships and situations; even times of adversity can transform into a challenge rather than a setback. He even concludes that there are people who have developed their flow to such an extent that they are able to translate every potential threat into an enjoyable challenge, and thereby maintain an inner tranquility as a continuous state of mind. He calls such a person an “autotelic self,” someone who “is never bored, seldom anxious, involved with what goes on and in flow most of the time.”
Csikszentmihalyi points to five ways through which one is able to cultivate one’s self into an autotelic person:
- Setting goals that have clear and immediate feedback
- Becoming immersed in the particular activity – plan for at least 90 minutes (or 2 hours is ideal) and don’t give in to the temptation to multitask as this makes you significantly less productive.
- Paying attention to what is happening in the moment (reduce distractions, social media and notifications can be the WORST and after an interruption, it can take up to 20 mins to reconnect with a task!)
- Learning to enjoy immediate experience
- Proportioning one’s skills to the challenge at hand
Prioritise your Sleep and Recovery!
- Sleep deprivation is tied to a long list of physical and mental issues including depression, irritability, heart disease and alzheimers. So don’t sacrifice it!
- Getting yourself into a sleep mode is now more important than ever. We are working busy days, constantly surrounded by bright lights on our screens and artificially lit offices/homes and we are met with a cacophony of bleeps, dings, dongs and notifications pounding in our eardrums from dusk til dawn.
- So before you sleep, make this a time of clarity. Switch off your tech at least an hour before you sleep and go back to the good stuff, remember those old nostalgic bundles of paper filled with wisdom and a musky scent of knowledge between your fingertips – aha! Yes books! Next time you’re jumping into bed, grab a book and let your mind unwind and be nourished with knowledge. (Look to our Zensory bookcase for feel good recommendations!)
- Set up your sleep zone for relaxation – it’s time to focus on, you guessed it, your senses! Look at your sleep zone and see what scents, colours, sounds and sensations you have around you. Clinical trials have shown that the smell of lavender can help in insomnia, anxiety, stress, and post-operative pain, according to a report from Maryland University. So put a few drops of lavender oil on your pillow next time you’re looking to unwind.
- Also there are wonderful soundscapes that we have created with the help of our brilliant soundscape designers to help you relax and unwind before sleep. Try these out here (insert link). We have been collecting a variety of nature based sounds in combination with binaural beats and calming music as numerous studies have shown that using ‘nature-based’ sound therapy showed significant reductions in anxiety levels, blood pressure and stress.
Your gut is your second brain, so feed it well!
- We often talk about a “gut feeling” when we meet someone for the first time. We’re told to “trust our gut instinct” when making a difficult decision or that it’s “gut check time” when faced with a situation that tests our nerve and determination.
- This mind-gut connection is not just metaphorical. Our brain and gut are connected by an extensive network of neurons and a highway of chemicals and hormones that constantly provide feedback about how hungry we are, whether or not we’re experiencing stress, or if we’ve ingested a disease-causing microbe.
- There are hundreds of millions of neurons connecting the brain to the enteric nervous system, the part of the nervous system that is tasked with controlling the gastrointestinal system.
- Like any ecosystem inhabited by competing species, the environment within the gut dictates which inhabitants thrive and we need to ensure that we’re letting the good bacteria thrive.
- Looking after our gut is essential for not only our physical health but our mental health too. Recent evidence indicates that not only is our brain “aware” of our gut microbes, but these bacteria can influence our perception of the world and alter our behavior. For example, the gut microbiota influences the body’s level of the potent neurotransmitter serotonin, which regulates feelings of happiness.
- Some ways to improve your gut health include taking probiotics, eating fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kombucha, reducing sugar and saturated fats and according to neuroscientist and nutritionist Dr. Lisa Mosconi, there are 45 distinct brain foods with the top 10 being avocados, blueberries, broccoli, dark chocolate, eggs, leafy greens, salmon, turmeric, walnuts and lots of water. Further top tips include trying to avoid antibiotics and lifestyle changes such as good sleep, meditating and incorporating breathing exercises into your day can also improve your gut balance and keep your gut smiling back at you!
- Regular exercise can have far reaching benefits for all aspects of your life and can even help you sleep better! After one 16 week study on how aerobic exercise affects sleep, participants who hit the gym regularly were sleeping on average a whole one and a quarter hours more! Regular aerobic exercise can also boost the size of your hippocampus – your brain’s memory and learning hub and we all want to improve these skills to help us function and operate better!
- We all have endless excuses why we can’t exercise, the gym is too expensive, we just don’t have time in our days and we just frankly can’t be bothered after a long day/week of working. Well, getting you into the zone for moving doesn’t need to be so hard. It all starts with a shift in mindset. Once you realise how much more energy you’ll have once you start moving on a regular basis, there’ll be no looking back!
- If you’re wanting to feel energised before exercise, there are certain scents that can really invigorate your body, for example, Vetiver (a type of fragrant grass) contains components that increase oxygenation of the cells in the brain and the smell of coffee can also immediately increase alertness and awakeness. Ginger scents also fight fatigue and ease pain and cinnamon improves performance and increases motor response speed. So next time you’re aiming to workout – you know which aromas will get you training like first class athletes!
Optimising Memory and Retention
- When trying to remember key facts, you may want to take advantage of something called primacy and recency. The notion that something you learn at the beginning of a session
- Let’s talk music and moods. As our ears can be incredible in getting us into ‘flow states’ as we discussed earlier. Many studies have shown that Baroque music for example that has 50 to 80 beats per minute, can create focus.
Smells for Getting you in the Mood
Your nose is powerful, more than you could ever comprehend. While other senses have to pass through a series of biological hoops to get to your brain, your nose bypasses the thalamus and heads straight to the olfactory bulb, which is directly connected to the hippocampus (responsible for your memory/learning) and the amygdala (where you process your emotions). Because odors are first routed through these regions before reaching the thalamus, they’re more closely linked to memory. This explains why aromatherapy can have a profound effect on our emotional, physical and mental state.
- Smells for Creativity
- Smells for Happiness
Smells for Relaxation
- Smells for Productivity
Sounds for Getting you in the Mood
- Sounds for Creativity
- Sounds for Happiness
- Sounds for Relaxation
- Sounds for Productivity