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Reboot Your Brain With Practical Meditation

Reboot Your Brain With Practical Meditation
Meditation

Meditation isn’t just a spiritual practice. If done properly, meditation can be a practical one. Through taking more traditional meditative practices and altering them to fit my needs, I’ve found it can serve many purposes:

  • Focus. Meditating can cut through distractions and focus your mind. I’ve found certain meditations to be useful to give myself an extra edge in directing my thinking.
  • Imagination. Visualizing different scenes can give your creative muscles a workout.
  • Introspection. Remove the noise from your surroundings and you can actually hear yourself think. I’ve used meditation to solve problems, understand situations and better explore ideas.
  • Brain Reboot. Done properly, I’ve noticed an effect on my brain similar to rebooting a computer. With the right meditations I can often spend twenty minutes meditating can remove that feeling of mental fuzziness that comes with a hard day.

Use the Right Exercises

Meditating isn’t simply sitting in a chair cross legged and saying, “ommmm,” to yourself. There is no right or wrong way to meditate. However, if you want to meditate for a practical aim, say recharging your mind or enhancing your imagination, you have to focus.

When I first started meditating I’d often grow restless after a few minutes because I wasn’t sure what to do. Entering a meditation with a specific purpose will help you if your goal is practical and not spiritual.

How to Enter a Meditative State:

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  1. Be comfortable, but don’t fall asleep. Get yourself into a position where you can be comfortable but aren’t at risk of falling asleep. Too much muscular tension or bodily pains can be distracting when trying to meditate. You don’t want to move much once you start meditating, so make sure it is a position that can last a few minutes.
  2. Breathe. I always start any meditation with a breathing exercise. It usually takes about five minutes to enter the meditative state and patience is key. My goal is to stop moving and focus entirely on my breathing. I generally count to ten on the inhale, and once again on the exhale. Do this for a few minutes until you can keep the breathing pattern without counting.
  3. Flow with Distractions. Here’s a task for you: Don’t think about polar bears. Of course, trying to accomplish that task is almost impossible. Trying not to think about polar bears causes you to think about polar bears. This paradox applies with distracting elements too. Thoughts, emotions, sounds and disruptions can hamper with your meditative efforts. Don’t force these distractions out, but simply recognize them and let them pass.

The Meditation Toolkit

The first five minutes of practical meditation are always the same. After that things get interesting. I don’t profess to having a library of meditations or being a Zen expert. But here are a couple useful exercises I’ve found and developed to meet my needs:

For Focus: Isolating Senses

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Meditation can be used to enhance and practice your focus. To do that I isolate my senses, focusing on just one element at a time.

  1. On each exhale, pick an element to focus on.
  2. With the next inhale, focus on that element exclusively.
  3. With the exhale, release your focus and pick another element, or the same one.

Elements here can include parts of your body, sounds in the background, thoughts, visualizations or emotional states. Think of each breath like a mental rep, flexing the mental muscle until it gets released again.

For Imagination: Eating the White Apple

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A recent meditation I’ve found challenging and interesting I call: eating the white apple.

  1. Visualize a white apple. Hold it so that you can see it, feel the sensations of touch, even smell it.
  2. Take a bite from the apple. Not only should you experience the sensation of eating it, but the image should adjust with where you took a bite.
  3. Repeat this process until the image degrades. This happens when you can’t keep track of where and how you ate the apple. I can usually go about ten bites before the mental image gets fuzzy.

This is just one of many visualizations for flexing your ability to think.

For Refreshing: Brain Reboot

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All meditation is relaxing. Your breathing is slowed and you are eliminating distracting thoughts. A brain reboot goes further than other meditations in that aim. Here your goal is to enter a deep relaxation and leave feeling completely refreshed.

  1. Start with your normal meditations. You may want to spend a few minutes with another exercise before starting this one.
  2. Try to slow your breathing even more and make it smoother. I can usually go up to as much as fifteen counts per inhale and exhale. Don’t slow it so much that you start to feel uncomfortable as that defeats the purpose.
  3. Next your goal is to become aware of everything but detached from it. This mental alertness means that any thoughts, sounds or bodily discomforts enter your consciousness, but you simply observe them. This means holding off any reactions or instincts to inputs.
  4. Continue this for a few minutes before ending your meditation.

I’ve found this brain reboot works because it starts by deeply relaxing your body (slow breathing, no moving) and moves to relaxing your mind. The detachment is the mental equivalent of going completely limp. Observing what is happening but not passing any judgment, strategy or action on it.

Meditative Challenge

Not sure whether meditation is right for you? I suggest you spend fifteen minutes of your day for a week trying out these and researching other meditations. Mediation can be used for spiritual quests, but you can also make it practical.

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Scott H Young

Scott is obsessed with personal development. For the last ten years, he's been experimenting to find out how to learn and think better.

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Last Updated on January 13, 2020

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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