“Meditation” has become a buzzword for relaxation programs, as many quality studies have shown that meditation can quiet the mind and calm the body. Yet most people struggle when trying to develop a meditation practice; they either lack the structure or guidelines necessary to begin, or are trying to learn a challenging process too quickly.
The media has portrayed traditional meditation as being something only for gurus and their followers – and it’s true that some forms of meditation are quite difficult to master and require a teacher. But new approaches to what is called ‘short-form meditation’ take only 3-5 minutes a session, can be learned readily, and can be included in a busy workday as a vital lifeline to refreshing mental energy and focusing attention.
The purpose of meditation is to refocus your attention in rewarding directions. In order for such a practice to be effective, it should include the following:
•A time-frame set aside for the recharge experience (scheduled as a priority)
•A comfortable position (whatever feels relaxing to you)
•A somewhat quiet environment (free from distractions)
•A mental focusing device or technique (sound or word that is repeated)
•A non-judgmental attitude (you cannot be critical of yourself or your process)
Of course, there will be times when you can’t escape to your ‘man-cave’ to meditate. However, this is no reason not to take a recharge break. You can’t let your environment dictate your life. Regardless of your surroundings, you can always just close your eyes (or look at something calming in your office), focus your attention on your breathing and whole-body presence, and concentrate on a statement that will quickly shift your brain into a sensory experience that stimulates your natural sense of balance and well-being.
Laughter provides benefits across multiple dimensions: emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical. Research conducted at the University of Maryland School of Medicine showed that watching a funny movie or sitcom that produces laughter has a positive effect on vascular function (blood flow) — opposite to that observed after watching a movie that causes a stressful response. When study participants watched a stressful movie, their body responded with vasoconstriction, a reduction of blood flow. However, after watching the funny movie, the blood vessel lining expanded. According to lead researcher Dr. Miller, the magnitude of change detected in the endothelium (blood vessel lining) was similar to what we could expect to see with aerobic exercise or medication use.
Sometimes the best thing you can do for both your body and your brain is simply to laugh. There’s a reason that laughter is considered the best medicine, and laughter therapy, groups, and clubs have sprouted up all over the country to help people improve their health and happiness.
There are many ways to add laughter to your routine and a here are a few reason why you should:
Relaxation: Laughter helps our muscles as well as our minds to relax, and this physical and emotional release can assist us to calm down and unwind. This can even result in better sleep at night.
Stress reduction: Laughter can reduce stress in our bodies and therefore in our minds too. Seeing the lighter side of life is fun, and the more you do it the more you will naturally begin to see the funny side of situations. Laughter is cathartic; it releases negative emotions particularly anger, anxiety, fear and boredom in a pleasant and acceptable way.
Social Connection: The contagious nature of laughter can help us to connect to and communicate more freely with others, enjoying their company. Laughter even boosts our social connection by stimulating the hormone oxytocin, which helps us feel more bonded to those around us. A happy person is attractive and can positively influence the mood of others.
Feel more alert: After a good laugh, blood and oxygen is pumped throughout the body, which is good for your heart and can leave us feeling energized and alert.
Having a flexible brain enables us to think outside of the box. It allows us to break away from the rigid thinking of our automatic pilot mode that is too often triggered by unmanaged stress signals throughout the day. In today’s competitive environment, advisors need creativity to show the uniqueness of their abilities and services that not only keep existing clients happy, but also attract new prospects.
You have the ability to train your brain to be in a more creative state by increasing flexibility, optimism, and awareness.
1. Increase mental flexibility, which enables the brain to relax and make connections between mental maps that aren’t necessarily a part of the task-focused perspective that dominates the majority of our thinking. How: relaxation exercises, distraction training to quiet mental chatter (intentional focusing of attention through repetition), and designated time and space for reflection. Music, creative hobbies and time in nature can all help facilitate this process.
2. Increase optimism, which opens the scope of opportunities and provides the motivation to want to do new, creative things. The brain is hard wired to notice the negative around us, which causes our brain to be hypersensitive and rigid. Paying attention to what’s positive, even in the midst of challenging circumstances, creates a more optimistic lens through which to see the world. How: gratitude breaks or lists, acts of kindness, and hand-written thank you notes.
3. Increase awareness through active listening. Practice mindfulness - being fully aware of the present moment, allowing thoughts to pass through your mind without judgment. Like strength training a muscle, the more you practice bringing your attention to the here and now the better you’ll be able to be fully engaged when it matters most. How: invest full attention in listening, ask questions, take notes, and make time for reflection.
The key to creativity is keeping your brain energized (to stay out of survival mode) and then training your brain to relax so that unique insights can happen as new mental maps connect. The more you train your brain to have a “wow” perspective of life - grateful and optimistic - the more creative ways you’ll find to deliver “wow” experiences to your clients.
•Visualize the practice of your dreams - what should it look like in 5 years? By integrating the purpose of your life with the purpose of your practice you create the optimal force of energy for performance.
•Block out some “wow” brainstorming time each day, ideally in the morning, where you allow yourself to relax, be mindful, and reflect on creative ways to build client relationships.
The Janus Labs® Energy For Performance program can help enhance your performance by building new rituals to boost your energy and manage stress. The Energy For Performance Blog is here to help fill in some of the gaps with additional tips, tools and thoughts from Performance Coach Heidi Hanna to support your training. Share your own comments or success stories in order to help other participants.