A large body of research reveals that small steps such as these are powerfully neuroplastic, meaning the positive change in attitude they generate actually expands higher order brain structure to change our experience of life. In my book, Mystic Cool, I present the body of research that proves it.
I invite you to practice these steps for two weeks and see if they gift you with a better brain for a better life.
1. In the morning, when you come into the kitchen to make coffee or tea, while it is brewing sit in a chair and quietly take in the morning. Be present, here and now. Relax your mind, and open your heart. Before getting up to pour yourself a cup, tell yourself, I have another precious day of human life. I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to be more enlightened for the benefit of everyone.
2. During the day, when you are stressed, ask yourself: What am I afraid of? Biologically, it takes some form of fear to trigger a stress reaction. Thus, the operative question to ask whenever you feel stressed is — what am I afraid of? Look at the fearful thoughts you are thinking at the moment. Don’t edit anything. Most if not all of these thoughts will be exaggerations, multiplying simple problems into catastrophes or turning fiction into facts. Ask yourself, who would I be without these fearful thoughts, and then go be that person.
3. Be aware of your negative thinking. Don’t judge it or even try to change it. Simply be aware of the negativity that the unconscious brain generates when you are fearful. Simple awareness slows the neural firing and these thoughts start losing their power. Soon you will find yourself in touch with the power to choose the experience you want to have, instead of tolerating the experience the unconscious forces on you. Two weeks of practicing in this way and you will start to feel more peace and joy.
4. Take a one to two minute break — often. Simply looking out the window and being present with the day outside can be quite rejuvenating. Let go of work for a moment and notice the quality of light, or the wind blowing through a tree, or what’s happening in the sky. After lunch, take a 5 minute walk around the building. During your walk, let go of future concerns and be fully present. You are seldom stressed when you are fully present.
5. Start work in a relaxed state of mind. There is an experience science calls flow, which research has established as the optimal state for creativity. Flow is “the zone” athletes seek. It is the experience entrepreneurs call “the top of your game.” It is the “effortless effort” mystics cultivate. So take your nose off the grindstone. The joy of excelling begins with a relaxed state of mind.
6. Listen better, judge less and forgive more. The reward is authentic relationships that resonate with the sense of connection. The strength of our connection with others is the #1 factor in determining how long we live. So hold others with positive regard and be kind, empathic, and interested.
7. Practice loving yourself just the way you are. Practice loving life just the way it is this very moment. As you do, you will begin to notice something tight inside you loosen.
8. Now and then, stand in the longest line at the store and practice being at peace. Drive home in the slow lane and listen to classical music instead of the news.