Category Archives for "Mindfulness"

3 Ways to Harness Your Brain’s Power & Change Your Life

Between psychology, medical science, and neuroscience, we have never known so much about the human mind. Recently I’ve been amazed at the number and quality of studies that are showing us the amount of pure power our brains have; powers that are truly amazing. Powers that change the meaning of the old phrase, “put your mind to it.”

3 Amazing Brain Discoveries

  1. Build muscles and increase your metabolism: In a study by Ranganathan, et al., 2004 a group of people who listened to guided imagery of themselves going through a strength training work-out built almost as much muscle mass as people who actually did the work-outs. Scientists think that the mental process of imagining a workout releases the same hormones to build muscle that are released during an actual exercise session.

This worked similarly for calorie burning. In a Harvard study, a group of hotel housekeepers was told that their job provided an excellent work-out. When compared with a similar group who were not told this, the “believing group” lowered their body fat, blood pressure, and BMI far more than housekeepers doing the exact same job but who were not led to believe it was an excellent form of exercise.

The Takeaway: Your brain is far more powerful than scientists ever knew. It is capable of building muscle and raising your metabolism, by the sheer force of your belief and imagination.

  1. Turn a weakness into a strength: A fascinating study by Wesnousky, et al, 2015 found that when people believe there is an upside to their personality flaw, they begin to show it. For example, when subjects were told that they were impulsive, but that impulsiveness has the upside of being more creative, they then performed much more creatively on subsequent tests.

The Takeaway: Be careful what you believe about yourself because your brain will make it so.

  1. Drastically improve performance, just by imagining it: Multiple studies have shown that from athletes to surgeons to musicians, repeatedly imagining oneself performing a complex task, vividly and with realistic detail, leads to greatly improved performance. Many who are called upon to conduct high-pressure performances use the power of their imaginations to excel and perfect their skills.

The Takeaway: Your imagination has the power to significantly improve your ability to perform a complex task.

As a psychologist whose business is helping people change, I am not surprised by these findings. Every day I see people harness their brain powers to make profound changes in their personalities, their relationships, and their lives.

3 Ways to Harness Your Brain’s Power to Change Your Life

  1. Own your power to change: Many people use their own power against themselves. If you believe that you cannot change, your brain will make it so. It is vital to flip that false notion on its head. Claim your power. Own it. And start using it.
  2. Decide how you want to be different, and then vividly imagine yourself that way: For example, if you want to become more confident, repeatedly picture yourself confidently presenting at a work meeting, or self-assuredly walking through a crowd. Combine this mental practice with actual practice in real situations. Your progress will likely be faster.
  3. Believe in yourself: Scores of fine people walk around this world feeling unworthy, invalid, or invisible (a result of Childhood Emotional Neglect). Others may feel unlovable, anxious, angry, or hopeless. If any of these words describe you, you can begin to use the power of your brain. Picture yourself in vivid color, exuding confidence and strength. Imagine yourself being and owning who you truly are. See that you are worthy and that you bring value to those around you.

Of all of the things in this world that you can believe in, none are as important as you.

So make a conscious decision. Wish it, believe it, imagine it. Your brain can make it so.

To learn more about Childhood Emotional Neglect, how it happens and how to recover from it, see my books Running Empty No More: Transform Your Relationships and Running On Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect, and  Take The Emotional Neglect Test for free.

Everyday Struggle of a Notorious People Pleaser

Guest post by Joanna Rogowska:

I like to reward myself at the end of the week with a delicious meal with friends. It’s my weekly treat. I also like to check out new restaurants. So when my two good friends Lucy and Jane suggested meeting in our favorite burger place, I proposed a new Japanese restaurant instead. I had heard good things about the food and what caught my interest was their new interactive ordering system with overhead projection technology.

I’d read that each table in the restaurant was equipped with a built-in tablet. You could select your virtual tablecloth, explore the menu, project a picture of the meal onto your table, and of course, also order your food. I love new technological gadgets!

When we arrived, I fell in love with this place straight away – beautiful and authentic Japanese decor, lotus flowers, cherry blossoms, bamboo benches, and high-tech tables. A fantastic combination of traditional and modern Japan.

Lucy and I started ordering the meal, getting all excited about it. It was a really cool experience to be able to project the picture of each meal onto the plate in front of you. We played around with changing virtual table cloths, debating which one we were going to choose for our table. I realized that I was feeling something.

Playful, connected, excited, and happy.

As we were exploring the technological possibilities at our table, Jane suddenly called the waiter over and asked for a paper menu. “I really don’t know how to make this digital stuff work!” she told us. “It’s really not intuitive and annoying. I prefer a normal menu.”

Suddenly my pleasant feelings disappeared and a big sense of heaviness took their place. I suddenly felt overwhelmingly bad. I looked at Lucy and she seemed to continue enjoying looking through the menu and ordering her meal. But for me, as soon as Jane asked for a paper menu, I stopped enjoying the evening.

In the past, before learning how to master my emotions, I would have sat miserably throughout the rest of the meal feeling confused and simply “bad.” I would have let this ruin my evening. Now I knew better, and it was time to check in with my feelings to investigate what was going on. So I tuned in to my emotions.

Annoyed, Irritable.

Makes sense. I was looking forward to dinner today and suddenly I was not able to enjoy it. My intention was to relax and have a good time and now I was far from that, so I felt angry. But the big question was, why was I not enjoying the evening? I knew I had to dig deeper to find the right feelings.

Insecure, awkward, guilty, and ashamed.

As soon as I identified shame, I felt a sense of relief. It made so much sense for two reasons. First of all, I know I am a compulsive people pleaser. I tend to always put other people’s needs in front of my own. I cannot have a good time if I see that my friends are not enjoying themselves. So seeing Jane not enjoying the technology made me feel guilty for suggesting to go there.

But I knew there was more behind this feeling so I dug deeper. I had known that Jane was not a big fan of technology, yet I had still suggested this restaurant. How could I have been so inconsiderate? All I could think of was the fact that I was stupid because I couldn’t even pick the right restaurant for my friends…

Going through these feelings in my head brought me a sense of relief. I was feeling less and less overwhelmed and uncomfortable and beginning to feel some new feelings.

Clear, confident, and capable.

My feelings reminded me that the well-being of my friends was important to me. So I thanked my feelings for drawing my attention to the situation. I accepted my feelings and released them. I also accepted that my inner critic blew the situation slightly out of proportion, as things were actually going well. It was difficult to accept that, but it felt liberating to do so.

Finally, I reassured myself that Jane, having received her paper menu, was enjoying selecting her meal in a more traditional way and no one was thinking any less of me for choosing this location.

I once again felt what I had felt at the beginning of the evening.

Connected, joyful, and excited.

The dinner turned out to be fantastic. We had a great time and we were pleased with the new discovery we made and the food we ate.

How quickly I could have let my emotions take over and ruin my evening if I hadn’t paid attention to them and made the effort to understand them. That was a reminder to me once again of how important it is for me to observe myself and try to understand my feelings.

The author, Joanna Rogowska, is a researcher for  FeelingMagnets.com. Feeling Magnets are a helpful tool to get you more in touch with your emotions and learn how to use them.

To learn more about how to recognize, use, and express your emotions see the book, Running on Empty.

5 Simple Steps to Learn Mindfulness That Really Work

Quite some years ago a colleague dragged me to a mindfulness training for mental health professionals. At that time, mindfulness was not considered a fully valid concept in psychology.

As a psychologist who valued science, I viewed it as nothing other than new age, mystical hippy nonsense. I anticipated a flaky conference, and I was not disappointed. At one point, they had us all stand up and mill about aimlessly while humming for 20 minutes. Then we had to ask and answer some very personal questions with the strangers next to us.

Ugh. Not my cup of tea.

Fast forward to 2021, where mindfulness and science have met and married. And oh, what a glorious union it is! Mindfulness studies have been pouring from many of the best researchers in the world for over a decade. And the meaning of mindfulness has matured from simply “being in the moment” to a richer, more complex definition.Continue reading