5 Ways To Cultivate Elastic Mind

The world, as we knew it is changing fast, and our competence needs a boost. The social, technological, and cultural developments affected by the pandemic are steaming ahead, and our survivor is much dependent on our emotional radar and our flexibility to adapt. We are trained to solve our problems with rational analysis and logical devices; however, the swirl of change is extraordinary, and the analytical thought process has its limitations. As, Leonard Mlodinow explains in his book – Elastic: Flexible Thinking in a Constantly Changing World:

“Analytical thought is the form of reflection that has been most prized in modern society. Best suited to analyzing life’s more straightforward issues, it is the kind of thinking we focus on in our schools. We quantify our ability in it through IQ tests and college entrance examinations, and we seek it in our employees. But although analytical thinking is powerful, like scripted processing, it proceeds in a linear fashion…and often fails to meet the challenges of novelty and change.”

He further indicates that by embracing elastic thinking, we can effectively respond to new challenges.

The good news is that elastic thinking is an innate capacity that can be honed to reframe the problems and questions which open doors to new ideas.

Mlodinow writes that we solve problems through interactions of different systems in our brains. And as we are trained to dispense from inappropriate urges and unconventional ideas in favor of reason, those structures in our brain that generate new ideas must compete with other structures that censor them. To solve problems, our mental interactions and censors evaluate the most favorable solutions and eliminates the rest. This wiring is well suited to a stable environment as it considered ideas through the lens of what has worked in the past. However, in changing circumstances, we need a new approach to solving a problem.

He writes that as humans, we are attracted to novelty, and the reason is that dopamine is released when we face something new and non-threatening. Hence, we are inclined to explore, learn, and be rewarded with the feel-good dopamine that contributes to feelings of pleasure.

Here are his suggestions to develop elastic thinking:

  • Pick an idea that you don’t believe in and try to convince yourself of it. The idea is genuinely challenging your existing beliefs.
  • Dwell on an incident when you were wrong. Think about it hard for you to realize that you are not always right.
  • Try different food. Research has shown that by ordering the least popular food or a new dish, your creativity and imagination will increase.
  • Talk to strangers, people who are different from you, and think differently from you.
  • Go and see art—all genres of art, not necessarily the most famous paintings but diverse representations of arts.

Remember to cultivate an elastic mind, Mlodinow explains that we should adopt an unstructured approach and not force a logical process to all situations:

“The challenge of insight is the analogous issue of freeing yourself from narrow, conventional thinking.”

Featured Image by Morysetta

Make It Happen! How To Change Your Mindset & Thrive.

The present time is full of possibilities, so why can we not edit our thoughts to actually see the threads that can lead to a desirable experience? Almost always, the answer boils down to our inner struggles to keep things together! Every day, we are bombarded by stressful questions or circumstances, by the urgency of decision-making, or feeling anxious about the unknown future. We might have a master plan; however, we will encounter setbacks or disasters along the way. Often, the course of actions needs to be modified, adjusted, refined, or totally removed to be replaced by the new approach.

Appropriately, we all need supporting tools, strategies, and definitely a mindset that helps us manage stress, anxieties, and improve the quality of life and our wellbeing. Deep interrogation of our attitudes reveals how we see the world and what mindset determines our value system. In Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Stanford Professor Carol Dweck distinguishes between fixed and growth mindsets. Her research clearly shows the difference between the two extremes. The fixed mindset has no safety net for challenges and disappointments, and the growth mindset develops tolerance in the face of adversity and frustrations. 

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If there is a seedling of desire planted in your heart, despite a voice in your head sending signals “No, this cannot be done,….”, make no mistake you are suffering from a fixed mindset! It’s time to pay close attention to your thought patterns. The good news is that you can develop a growth mindset.

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Art by Igor Morski

Invariably, we need to change our inner dialogue, identify our limiting beliefs, and cultivate a set of attitudes that will respond supportively and intelligently to uncertainties and setbacks. The amount of time we put into self-deprecating can be thrust into deliberate practice.

The view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life. It can determine whether you become the person you want to be and whether you accomplish the things you value.”

Carol Dweck

Consider the following steps to shape a growth mindset and strengthen your abilities:

  •  Mindful self-knowledge – consciously start examining your attitudes and your intentions. Detach yourself from your self-made identity. Take a bird’s eye of your inner perception and your destructive & hindering thoughts. Notice the triggers. Replace them with the desired mental pictures, value learning, and efforts more than innate intelligence.
  • Apply strategies into your daily routine– to develop a new communication network in your brain. Include mindfulness techniques, such as meditation, as an integral part of your day-to-day life, strengthening your neural pathways’ connections. Erase negative self-talk, create positive core belief that you can improve your abilities, and learn new skills.
  • “The power of yet” – (Carol Dweck) replacing the “I am not good at this,…” with “I am not good at this, YET,..”
  • Try new things – It helps with self-compassion and understanding of others, especially in difficult or worrisome situations. A beginner’s mind is curious, resilient, and creative.
  • Keep in mind that knowing is not enough! You need to practice!
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Next, I will look into “7 attitudinal foundations of mindfulness practice” for us to monitor our inner dialogue to make good use of our neurons and rewire our brain.

 

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Art by Sonia Rentsch

Featured image by Aykutaydogdu

Tell Your Brain To Shut Up and Listen!

As promised, I embarked on the practice of mindfulness meditation to learn useful techniques on how to change our state of mind deliberately. The practice serves as a navigator through the ups and downs of life, transcending the fear and seeing things or the problem as they are. Meditation takes you to a place deep within yourself, a bridge to your inner wisdom that helps you stabilize distress—the optimal formula to nurture the best version of yourself.

At its core, the concept of mindful meditation is nothing more than being aware of what you are doing while you are doing it. It is not always about sitting in the Burmese position (mind you, it does help) and chanting a mantra but to be present at the moment. As Jon Kabat-Zinn writes in “Catastrophe Living,” unless you change your way of looking at things, no type of meditation will be useful in the long run. He frames a set of 7 fundamental attitudes that will help with the practice of being present. Non-judgingpatiencebeginner’s mindtrustnon-strivingacceptance, and letting go are to be part of your frame of mind to channel your energies and reach an alpha state. I will dive deeper into each of these attitudes in my upcoming “Mind Series.” 

The practice needs commitment! In the beginning, it will be very hard to include the above attitudes in your thought process, but merely keeping them in mind and applying them in small increments in your day-to-day ways, from eating habits to rituals or working systems, will eventually be ingrained in your thinking.

  • A good place to start is to take notice of your daily habits. For instance, pay attention to what you are eating as if it is for the first time that you are seeing or tasting that food. You can try with just one fruit or any other produce that you like. This exercise involves minding one moment to another and can be extended to other tasks and routines. 
  • Intentionally, build up your efforts and set aside a time during the day to quiet your mind and focus on your breathing.
  • Taking notice of the breath is the anchor that shifts our battling mind and anxieties to a relaxing and calming stage. The turbulence is still there, but even if it’s for a few minutes, this exercise enables you to reconnect to your ability to stay calm.

 

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Photo courtesy of rafyA creative art designs
  • Diaphragmatic breathing – the idea is to intentionally contract the diaphragm muscle and relax your belly during the inhalation to rise and deflate on exhalation. Lie down on your back or stretch out on a recliner put one hand on your belly. Bring your attention to your hand and feel it move. Practice for 15 minutes every day. (“The power of Breathing, Jon Kabat-Zinn) 
  • The other way of practicing mindfulness of breathing is to be mindful of your breath during the day.

 

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Photo courtesy of designrfix.com
  • Kindly observe your thoughts and emotions without judgment and turn your focus on your breath each time you start dwelling on them.
  • Note the persistent thoughts, detect the emotional threats of the self-centered sentiments, anger, hate, or different moods.
  • Recognize that what comes to your mind is only a thought. By redirecting your attention to your breath, you will detach any value to the lingering thought, and gradually, you will have the strength to intentionally let go of the negative emotions and calm your brain.
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Photo courtesy of designrfix.com

The whole process is not about pushing the unwanted emotions or thoughts away but cultivating the courage to see as they are. Meditation is about accepting the contents of your mind, regaining calm to reach the peaceful brain wave, and finding clarity.

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Photo courtesy of designrfix.com

Explore your rhythms and pulses, and in concert with your restyled thinking at the same time integrating gratitudecompassionkindnessforgivenessgenerosity, and tolerance, steadilyyou can lead a robust lifestyle.

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Art of Alex Gross

Can Meditation Change The Brain?

Throughout history, meditation has been practiced in one form or another to assert the primal instinct to connect with oneself and the universe. Perhaps it is the most effective channel to reach clarity and harness the power of thought. Interestingly, the practice has its variations from the sweat lodge ceremonies of Native Americans, reading the Bible, the whirling dervishessound rituals of aboriginals, and Islamic practices of prayers. Nevertheless, meditation trains the brain and enables us to shift our brainwaves from the working mind to deep sleep.

I briefly touched on the Alpha State of mind in my last post; now, I like to delve into moving from one state of mind to another through meditation. So I decided to learn about the process and write about my findings in a series of blog posts.

Let’s start with our brain frequencies:

  • Gamma State (30-100Hz) is when your brain is extremely active and retains information. In this state, you are an active learner, and the assimilated information is lasting. However, if it is excessively stimulated, it can lead to anxiety. A good example is when you attend a seminar or a workshop, and the coaches urge you to jump up and down or dance.
  • Beta State(13-30HZ) is associated with the prefrontal cortex, a brain region that orchestrates our thoughts and actions from personality expression, decision-making, or keeping our social behaviors under control.
  • Alpha State (9-13Hz) is when the thinking mind slows down becomes calm and peaceful. In this state, the brain’s communication pathways (neural integration) are open to activate the intelligible and reflective mind. The only way to know that you have reached this state is when you are entirely relaxed mentally and physically.
  • Theta State (4-8Hz) is when our brainwaves in its intuitive thinking. Meditation begins in this state, and we can move the thinking mind over to the visual mind. Your brain is extremely receptive to visualization.
  • Delta State (1-3 Hz) is when we are in deep and dreamless sleep. In this state, through transcendental meditation, we can reach the unconscious realm and connect with the collective unconscious or the universal mind.

When you train your brain to move from the active state to a calm state through mindful meditation, the brain undergoes positive changes. It heightens emotional intelligence and strengthens the resilience of your mind leading to good physical well-being. In a study conducted by a team of researchers at the University of British Columbia, “Is meditation associated with altered brain structure?”, they confirm that the brains of consistent meditators have thicker tissue in those regions responsible for body awareness, enhanced focus, stress management and attention control. (Referring to Anterior cingulate cortex – the area associated with controlling impulses and maintaining attention).

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ANTONIO MORA

Furthermore, the research outlines that mindful meditation’s regular practice activates some regions in the brain while other regions are deactivated. For instance, the brain region associated with many negative emotions such as anxiety or sadness gets smaller with practice.
Overall, integrating mindful meditation techniques into our lives will significantly reduce our unproductive emotions and boosts self-regulation.

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ANTONIO MORA

In the next post, I will introduce a few techniques on applying this alternative well-being approach into our daily lives to manage our emotions.

Featured image by ANTONIO MORA

Change Your Mindset​, Change Your Life!​ – Introduction

“The most important question anyone can ask is: What myth am I living?”

Carl Jung

Self-deception, confirmation bias, seeking perfection, fixated on innate talents sum up a mentality stuck in quicksand. Imagine that although a landscape was colorful, ever-changing, and adapting nature and everything in it is minding its survival, you are stuck in the quicksand. You try to smile and reach for the exposed oak tree’s root only to twig that your grip can support you for the utmost couple of hours. Then, a rustle, and all of a sudden, a smile appears on your face hoping for Robin Hood to your rescue. However, the relief is short-lived as there are numerous quicksands in the forest. Getting out of this undesirable situation, you will need support, but most importantly, you should change your mindset.

Mindsets created by habit, by experience, by the snippet view of the world around us can radically be shifted from static to dynamic way. Our ability to embrace change and transform our lives is profoundly linked to our acknowledgment that change in attitudes is conceivable and achievable.

Instead of fueling our brain with the undesirable, ego-centric, and non-learner frame of mind to avoid challenges or threats, we have the potential to develop a mindset that leads to an excellent and fulfilling way of life.

In the following posts, together, we will delve deeper into the mind’s matters and explore practices and school of thoughts about positive psychology, mindfulness, fixed & growth mindsets to get rid of limiting beliefs and nurture the best version of ourselves.

I would love to hear your comments, insights, experiences, suggestions & your goals for 2020, #goals2k20!

 

 

Featured image by : Olya Khaletskaya