Living in Rhythm

This is the third article of series about Kiteboarding as a spiritual practice.  

Learn how to follow the flow, trust the journey appreciating every single moment of being, and try to catch the insight when it is time to stop or change the direction. 


The oscillating rhythm of the heart knows there is a time for activation and a time for regeneration, a time for quiet and a time for ecstasy, a time for clearing and a time for celebrating, a time for receiving and a time for giving, a time for igniting the fire, and a time for letting go into the fire…
⁃ Shiva Rea

The key to living in flow is to see and feel your life as waves – rhythmic cycles- that connect throughout the day (periods of your life).

Kiting can be a potent reflection of a rhythmic cycle: each time we go out, we have a unique opportunity to connect with the ritual that occurs from the moment we are setting up our gear, till we pack up and leave .

To become a living witness of the miracle that is planing across the surface of the Ocean- our greatest teacher-, to receiving the sun and air around us is an art form.

The initiation can be related to the birth, an inhale, sunrise, new year, a new relationship, water-starting.

Sustaining the peak, related to mid-cycles such as noon, holding your edge, the full moon, challenges.

Letting go: landing, pack up, the exhale, a sunset, nighttime, death and release.                           

This is what I’d call a mini-vinyasa: a cycle that mirrors birth, peak and descent. A wave offers a perfect example.

These days I’m focusing in honoring the cycles of rhythm and flow.

For some of us – like myself  – that are ‘doers’/ go-getters and have a hard time letting go, it is of outmost importance to learn to release, return to shore and exhale when the time is right. Not when our body is too exhausted or the wind has died, but on the sacred juncture that our refined instinct says go back to shore.

One more tack can mean self-rescuing and much more “unnecessary” work than that if we would have respected sacred timing.

Can we learn together to honour every part of the cycle as of equal importance and challenge the collective to do this instead of pushing for more?

I’m about to embark on this ‘non-doing’ and more ‘being’ journey for the next 21 days. They say its what it takes to break a habit.

What would you like to break free from today?

Aloha with love

Denise

https://soulsonfireblog.wordpress.com/2016/05/15/living-in-rhythm/

Kiteboarding as a spiritual practice: Zen, mindfulness, universal rules of being

I first tried kiteboarding in May 2016, so I’m actually something of a novice at this sport. But being a beginner has its advantages: When you try something completely new, you’re fully focused on what you’re doing. You could say that you’re 100% present in the moment, and this heightened, intense state is precisely when all profound spiritual moments occur.

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Every second, every breath, every tiny sensation that your body experiences becomes so much more spiritual. It’s not simply a matter of novelty, or the fact that you are locked in a state of deep concentration. Kiteboarding itself is all about life. The guidance for manipulating the kite brought to mind those universal truths and rules for life described in the Bible, Buddhist texts, the Kabbala, and many other spiritual books that I’ve read.

This topic merits a series of articles. While the topic of kiteboarding is in itself interesting, one of the central missions of this portal is to help you, the reader, to explore new things in life. This is not simply a matter of physical experience, but of spiritual development. ‘Being present’, a concept also explored elsewhere on this site, is a key to opening your mind – and soul – to the unknown, the unexpected and the wondrous.


To kick off this series, this brief article sums up a few of my ‘spiritual takeaways’ from my very first kiteboarding lessons.

When we’re confronted with the unexpected, whether a strong blast of wind or stress in life, we instinctively try to increase our level of control over the situation… It’s a completely normal mental reaction. To a degree, we’re all control freaks, but does fanatically trying to assert our authority over a situation actually help?

  1. Kiteboarding taught me to let go: Allow the situation unfold, and observe before trying to change anything. The Universe will help you to accomplish you task, or at least will save you from broken arms, legs, ribs and heart….
  2. No need to rush. You will achieve what you want to if you keep doing it, but do it slowly; one step and one breath at a time.
  3. No matter what you planned, you will reach the right level when it’s meant to be. Not earlier, not later. My advice? Stay calm and keep doing what you’re doing.
  4. Slow down all your movements, and decisions, but always be ahead of the kite in your mind. Substitute ‘kite’ for ‘project’, and you can see my point!
  5. You can choose a direction, but you can’t predict how exactly the movement will be executed. The wind could change any time, and you have to be agile enough to respond to its capriciousness. In kiteboarding you have to be consciously present 100% of the time, and this is hugely important in other areas of life too. Fretting about uncertainty is both wasteful and dangerous. Save your energy for the moves you need to make, and don’t expend it on worrying. Learn to ‘go with the flow’, but gently steer yourself in the right general direction.
  6. I was instructed not to over-tense my hands when steering the kite. Similarly, try not to over-think, worry too much, or micro-manage. These are all a waste of energy, and time.
  7. The kite and wind will do everything for you, if you just stop fighting it. The lesson here is to work with the powerful forces that you encounter in life, rather than against them: Do this successfully, and you will fly.
  8. Finally, when kiteboarding I had to be highly attentive to the other kiters’ around me. Likewise, when interacting with people in life or in business, try to coordinate, collaborate and communicate. Competition could easily kill both parties.

These are just a few life lessons that I drew from my first kiteboarding experience.

What do you think?

How to fight insomnia


You arrive home exhausted with only one, overwhelming, desire – to quickly leap under the blankets. After hitting the bed, you begin to drift off, slowly being drawn into that wonderful, all-embracing stillness of sleep… and then you suddenly wake up.  The sensation is horrible, as if you’ve just fallen from a tall building and smashed into a thousand pieces. Your eyes are wide open and that’s it, as far as your good night’s sleep is concerned.

Insomnia nervosa or sleep deprivation is another common, contemporary phenomenon. We are not discussing those occasional sleeping problems that happen to all of us from time to time, but rather the topic of chronic insomnia. It is a condition that often lasts for weeks, and in some cases even months, turning life into a nightmare.

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Dr. Jessica Payne, head of the Sleep, Stress, and Memory Lab at Notre Dame University, and advisory board member for the NeuroLeadership Institute believes that

The sleep situation in our society has become a terrifying problem.

Nowadays more attention is often paid to diet and fitness activities; however, sleep may turn out to be more important for one’s overall health. This lack of understanding and recognition is reflected in the fact that sleep deprivation is not considered an illness by employers. Anyone who has suffered from severe insomnia consequently knows the feeling of having to keep ploughing on, no matter what.

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and research published in the Sleep Journal, in 2011

sleep deprivation cost the US economy $63.2 billion

The authors of the report in Sleep Journal were shocked by the enormous impact insomnia has on the average person’s life, stating that the scale of the problem was not sufficiently appreciated by society at large. The issue was not one of absenteeism, but rather of lost productivity in “an information based economy”.

This impact on productivity is directly attributable to the poor focus and lack of concentration stemming from sleep deprivation, and as Dr. Charles Czeisler at Harvard Medical School notes, a few days of sleeping for 4-5 hours causes massive brain function impairment.

Dr. Payne believes,

Simply adding an extra 20 minutes to your sleep cycle increases performance two-fold.


I once personally experienced severe sleep deprivation. It lasted for six months and caused clinically diagnosed depression. My metabolism, digestion and hormones were impaired as a consequence and it took about three months to regain my normal sleeping patterns, and over half a year to normalise other bodily processes.

In this article I am going to share some tips, based on my personal experience and data from various pieces of research, on how to overcome sleep deprivation.


  • Schedule sleep

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It is vitally important to maintain a consistent sleep schedule, even during weekends or holidays. The idea of catching up with lost sleep during your time-off is a tempting prospect, but in reality can be harmful. When you are going through a sleep deprivation period it is crucial to stick to a routine. I recommend setting this schedule according to your work hours. If you have to wake up early in the morning, five days a week, then get out of bed at the same time during the weekend.

Always stick to the mantra that you MUST have a minimum of eight hours of solid sleep per night. Never sacrifice your sleep to have fun or socialize.


running feet mezuno

A couple of words at this point about early morning cardio.

It is undoubtedly one of the most beneficial practices for your health. However, if you feel that you can’t wake up one hour earlier, simply accept this and try to include more activities during your daily routine, or weave 10-15 minutes of highly intense cardio into your schedule before and after your evening workout.


  • If you don’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed. 

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Take light herbal sedatives (or prescribed medication), grab a book and try to relax by reading.

DO NOT watch TV or log onto social media.

Using a Kindle is also not helpful. It has been scientifically proven that bright monitor light keeps us awake; it is perceived by the body as daylight, artificially inducing us to keep going. So, good old-fashioned ‘hardcopy’ books are your best friends in the fight against insomnia.


  • Create relaxing bedtime rituals. 

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These could include a night-time bath with aromatherapy oils, or a cup of your favourite herbal tea, meditation or simply listening to calming music. Try all of them and finally you will find a suitable option. My personal preferences are reading esoteric literature, burning aroma candles and sipping camomile vanilla tea.


  • Use your bed only for sleep and love. 

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Humans are very prone to conditional behaviours, so limiting the use of your bed to sex and sleep will generate subconscious patterns that will help you to fall asleep. Never work, eat or watch TV in your bedroom: Aside from the activities I’ve just mentioned, nothing else should be done in the bed.


  • Make your bedroom relaxing. 

Keep your bedding clean and fresh, aerate the space properly, and don’t forget about curtains. Create a pleasant and relaxing atmosphere in the bedroom, eliminating all unpleasant distractions.


  • Don’t overeat.

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A new study suggests that quality of sleep is directly related to the type of food that you eat. If you are hungry at night, take a light, and healthy snack. Do not torture yourself by going to bed starving. Research has shown that the old maxim ‘do not eat after 6 pm’ has no scientific basis. However, heavy foods full of saturated fat like red meat or cheese should be avoided. Do not over-consume carbohydrates before sleep either. Be careful with fluids, alcohol, watery vegetables and fruits as waking up a few times during the night to visit the bathroom is not recommended. The ideal option is to consume leafy vegetables, reduced fat yogurt or cottage cheese with some nuts (optional), steamed white fish, sea food, and eggs.


  • Exercise regularly. 

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Research shown that people who regularly exercise have fewer problems with sleep and other bodily functions. Regular smart physical activities regulate hormones, stimulate blood and liquid circulation and boost the immune system. In other words, fitness helps the body to purify itself and maintain all of our bodily processes.

Good luck!

Tatiana Dmitrieva 

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Sources used:

http://www.aasmnet.org/

http://sleepeducation.org/news/2016/02/08/study-links-diet-with-sleep-quality

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110901093653.htm

 

The Stress of Uncertainty is the worst

New research suggests that stress from fear of the unknown can be greater than the stress associated with knowledge of an outcome, even when the outcome is painful.


In the study conducted by University College London, the fear of getting a painful electric shock led to significantly more stress than knowing that you will definitely be shocked.

The research, published in Nature Communications, found that situations in which subjects had a 50 percent chance of receiving a shock were the most stressful while zero percent and 100 percent chances were the least stressful.

Our experiment allows us to draw conclusions about the effect of uncertainty on stress. It turns out that it’s much worse not knowing you are going to get a shock than knowing you definitely will or won’t. We saw exactly the same effects in our physiological measures — people sweat more and their pupils get bigger when they are more uncertain

conclude researches.

This is the first time that the effect of uncertainty on stress has been quantified, but the concept is likely to be familiar to many people.

When applying for a job, you’ll probably feel more relaxed if you think it’s a long shot or if you’re confident that it’s in the bag,

said co-author Dr. Robb Rutledge.

The most stressful scenario is when you really don’t know. It’s the uncertainty that makes us anxious. The same is likely to apply in many familiar situations, whether it’s waiting for medical results or information on train delays.

Nevertheless, stress is not always negative and counterproductive. The study also found a potential benefit. People whose stress responses spiked the most at periods of greatest uncertainty were better at judging whether or not individual rocks would have snakes under them.

From an evolutionary perspective, our finding that stress responses are tuned to environmental uncertainty suggests that it may have offered some survival benefits

said senior author Dr. Sven Bestmann.”

Sources:

http://psychcentral.com/news/2016/03/30/stress-from-uncertainty-may-override-actual-event/101113.html

https://rennickeassociates.wordpress.com/2016/04/27/the-stress-of-uncertainty/

 

Cardio improves memory

I’m sure you know your brain works better following exercise?

A team of researchers in Ireland made this discovery through a relatively simple experiment. They asked a group of students to watch a rapid lineup of photos.

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Each photo included a name and face of a stranger. Then, after a brief break, the students tried to recall the names of the faces that had moved across the computer screen. After this initial test, half of the students were asked to ride a stationary bicycle at a strenuous pace until they reached exhaustion. The other half of the students sat quietly for 30 minutes. Then both groups took the test again to see how many names they could recall.

The group of students who exercised performed much better on the memory test than they had on their first attempt. The group who simply sat in another room did not improve. As part of this experiment, the scientists also collected blood samples, through which they discovered a biological explanation for the increase in recall among the students who exercised. Immediately after the strenuous activity, students in the exercise group had much higher levels of a protein known as brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, which promotes the health of nerve cells.

So make some time daily, weekly for that walk, work-out, run, hike etc.

Source:

http://khalilaleker.com/2016/05/18/your-brain-and-exercise/

How to make your brain work better

7 activities your brain has to enjoy every day

Neuroscientists believe that the net effect of spending eight hours a day in the office performing repetitive tasks, a further two hours commuting, and the rest of the day scrolling through social media or watching TV, is an impairment of our normal brain functions. In short, we are being transformed into easily manipulated, apathetic zombies.

 7 types of brain activities

A daily routine, similar to the one above, has been scientifically proven to kill creativity. This occurs as a result of a rapid drop in our level of consciousness in such conditions. Read: Levels of consciousness vs happiness. Lacking the opportunity to really focus on a new task and the possibility of stretching itself to solve problems, the brain slips into so-called ‘down time’ or ‘sleep walker’ mode. The brain’s capacity to be proactive disappears quickly in such conditions, and it simply becomes lazy.

This is comparable to the process which occurs when we stop doing physical exercise, and the body consequently swiftly enters a more sedentary mode. Similarly, the brain loses focus and slumps into a semi-awake state.

An alternative scenario sees the brain engaging in 12 hours of extreme activity, permanently focusing on a variety of new tasks, learning on the go, and engaging in intensive decision making. It is constantly working at its peak. While this situation appears preferable, our brain is not designed for such extremes either. After a while it will simply stop functioning properly, due to information overload – another common feature of modern life. Read How to cope with information overload.

What happens next? The overly-active brain loses its ability to process new information, and again automatically switches to down-time mode. The recharging period could be long. Chronic information overload also causes fatigue, lack of creativity and depression.

According to David Rock, director of the Neuroleadership Institute and the author of bestseller Your Brain at Work, the human brain needs to experience 7 types of activities in order to function properly and we must have all of these every day.

If you want a plant to grow, it needs the right amount of water and nutrients,” says Rock. “It’s obvious when you leave one of those out. With the brain, it’s a less obvious. The right dietary elements are only one part of this.… The basic balanced diet that you probably already know is a foundation, but there are other types of inputs that your brain needs that people tend to ignore. And these are essentially exercising different types of circuits in the brain, allowing other circuits to rest and recover.

The ideal ratio of each of the 7 types varies from person to person, but it is important to have them all and separate them from one another. For example, don’t try to catch-up with friends or work during your down-time or time-in. In order to be more productive, creative and to feel happy and satisfied, we have to differentiate and clearly understand what kind of activity we are engaging in at a particular moment, allowing our brain to benefit from it. Likewise, don’t check your social media during your focus time.

  1. Focus time

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This is our productive time when we get things done. Our brain is highly active and exercised by problem-solving and intellectual challenges.

It’s helpful for creating deep circuits,” says Rock “and it’s a healthful and helpful process.

Without focus-time the brain becomes idle, resulting in mental sluggishness. It is very important to force it to focus, even if there’s no immediate need for it to do so. Let’s say you are on a two week holiday, and plan to spend your time doing nothing. That sounds great, but not for your brain. Give it the chance to focus for at least a few hours a day just to “keep it fit”. Learning a new language, reading a challenging book or doing any problem-solving tasks is very beneficial.

  1. Connecting time

 img_6977We are all social animals to some extent. We need to be connected and belong to a group, and our brain has the same need.

Being isolated socially is twice as dangerous to yourself as smoking. If you’re just working and not maintaining a social life, you’re probably impacting your health and well-being, not just your mental performance…

says Rock.

 I moved to different countries at various times in my life, starting again from scratch. Each time I experienced a terrible lack of connection to people at the beginning. I didn’t have friends in these new locations, and sometimes could not even call the places I lived in ‘home’. What did I do? I visited local gyms or dance classes. Even without deeper interpersonal interactions, our brain can be satisfied through merely talking to other people… So give it a chance to be connected: Go out, help someone, start doing something with other people, and it will bring plenty of positive things into your life.

  1. Down time 

 Chinese rice teerraces 2Down time is unrelated to problem-solving or to achieving your goals. It could be achieved by reading an interesting novel (don’t confuse this with reading professional literature – this is something to be done in your focus time), cleaning your home, cooking, or just sitting on a park bench, enjoying nature. Down time allows the brain to rest and recover.

You’re allowing space for your unconscious connections to come to the surface, to solve complex problems,

believe Rock.

Down time is vital for healthy brain functioning. However, it should be limited. It is always very tempting to dwell in such a mode all the time. As I mentioned earlier, when adopted for prolonged periods, down-time makes our brain lazy and impairs its functioning. Instead, take a 15-30 minute break every 2-4 hours of your active time. It will be refresh you and help you to unwind, but do not regress into this mode for hours or days.

  1. Time in

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Time in allows your brain to, in a sense, reorganize itself through reflection,

says Rock.

It’s different from down time, which is very inactive. With time in, you’re thinking about your thinking, you’re mindful and connecting your brain in deeper ways. It’s the kind of practice that allows you to reflect on your thoughts.

Yoga, meditation, psychoanalysis sessions, various spiritual practices such as tantric breathing, and many other techniques could help you to reach this mode. It is a state of being which enables you to capture your true feelings, analyse your experiences, and stimulate new ideas. Time in is one of the healthiest things you can do. Balancing yourself as a person will also improve you from a professional point of view as well. People lacking time for internal deep reflecting finally reach a state in which they are disconnected from what they want, what they need, and what really makes them happy.

Speaking about real time-in Rock noticed:

The number (of such hours) continues to decrease as I ask people. It’s not 20 or 10 or even 5 hours. For a lot of people, it’s a couple of hours a week, if that.

The culprit, he thinks, is our extremely fast lifestyle, overloaded as it is with tasks and information. The solution:

Find the ideal window in your week when you can carve out focus time — to do what I call level three thinking, deeper problem solving and writing and creative work.

It is a time slot which differs from person to person, but Rock says that the best time is generally early in the day, and early in the week — Monday, Tuesday, maybe Wednesday morning.

  1. Play Time

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This is all about novelty, the unexpected and fun, allowing new novel connections to form,

says Rock.

This could be absolutely anything that makes you laugh or experience relaxed and positive emotions. Comedy shows, shopping with friends, drinks or dinner out, playing games and any number of other options can be included in this category. Doing something “just for fun” at least once a day, enormously increases productivity and creativity.

  1. Physical Time

 running feet mezunoYour brain benefits tremendously from physical activity, particularly aerobic activity. A recent study showed people were 23% more effective on days they exercised,

says Rock.

“When we exercise, we’re oxygenating the brain and helping to flush out toxins, but we’re also activating regions of the brain intensely that don’t otherwise get activated, and this allows other functions to rest and helps with the overall coherence of the brain. There’s increasing evidence that thinking is very closely connected to movement, and it seems you can improve the quality of thinking by improving your effectiveness at physical activities, and it’s not just an aerobic benefit.”

So make a habit of having physical time every day. If you have no chance to get to the gym, just walk home.

  1. Sleep time

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This is the time when our brain activates its special recovery mode to put all the things it has absorbed over the course of the day together.

The sleep situation in our society has become a terrifying problem,

explained Dr. Jessica Payne, head of the Sleep, Stress, and Memory Lab at Notre Dame, and advisory board member for the Neuroleadership Institute.

 If you’re not getting enough sleep before work, research shows you might as well be working drunk,

she adds.

This is not just a metaphor. According to Dr. Charles Czeisler from Harvard Medical School, a week of sleeping four or five hours a night induces impairment equivalent to a blood alcohol level of 0.1%.

The advice? Get enough rest and try to enjoy all 7 types of mental activities every single day!

Tatiana Dmitrieva

How to improve your memory

Draw it to remember it. Good trick to know.

Here’s the Memory Trick That Science Says Works — You draw it

Jeffrey Kluger | April 22, 2016

If the brain could brag that’s pretty much all it would do. It’s easily the most complicated organ in your body, and, more than that, the nimblest computer that has ever existed. But the brain has a bug and everyone knows is: memory. No matter how powerful its operating system becomes, its storage system stinks.


Even in childhood, when the brain is as clear and uncluttered as it will ever be, memory is still imperfect, given to random failures, depending on how rested we are, how attentive we’re being and a range of other things. Now, a new paper published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology suggests an unusual strategy for improving it: drawing.

As long ago as 1973, investigators were studying the memory-boosting advantage of so-called dual-coding—the way that a combination of both thinking about an object or activity and drawing a picture of it can make us remember it better. Research did show that the strategy worked, but the studies were both sparse and flawed, failing to account for the mere fact that it takes longer to draw a picture than, say, write a word, and whether writing the word in a more time-consuming way—using elaborate calligraphy, for example—would thus boost recall too.

In order to tease out those and other variables, a group led by psychologist Jeffrey D. Wammes recruited sample groups of students and ran seven different trials of essentially the same experiment on them. In all of the trials, the scientists started with a list of 80 simple words—all nouns and all easy to draw, such as balloon, fork, kite, pear, peanut and shoe. A random series of 30 of those words were flashed on a screen along with instructions either to draw the object or write down its name. After the 30 words, they would perform a filler task—listening to a series of tones and identifying whether each was low-, high-, or medium-pitched. That task had nothing to do with the study, except to get the subjects’ minds off of what they had just done, so that the memories could either consolidate or, just as often, vanish. Finally, they would write down a list of as many of the objects from the first test as they could.

In most of the trials, the subjects got 40 seconds to draw their picture, but in one they got just four seconds. In another variation, they would draw the object or write the word or, as a third option, list its descriptive characteristics. In another, the third option would be to visualize the object. In yet another, they would write the word as elaborately and decoratively as possible.

But no matter how many variations of the test the researchers ran, one result was consistent: Drawing the object beat every other option, every single time.

We observed a significant recall advantage for words that were drawn as compared to those that were written. Participants often recalled more than twice as many drawn words.

said Wammes in a prepared statement.

Just why this is so is not clear. One past theory had been that drawing requires what the researchers call a deeper LoP—or level of processing. But the trial in which the subjects were required to list the characteristics of an object went pretty deep too, and it didn’t make a difference. Another theory had been that drawing simply takes longer, but the four-second trial appeared to debunk that.

For now, Wammes and his group are speaking only generally, concluding that drawing encourages

a seamless integration of semantic, visual and motor aspects of a memory trace,

as they wrote in their paper. It will take more work to put flesh on those theoretical bones. For now, however, they only know that the technique works—providing a long-awaited software patch for the computer inside your head.

https://pragmasynesi.wordpress.com/2016/04/26/draw-it-to-remember-it/

How Neuroscientists Explain the Mind-Clearing Magic of Running

It is something of a cliché among runners, how the activity never fails to clear your head. Does some creative block have you feeling stuck? Go for a run. Are you deliberating between one of two potentially life-altering decisions? Go for a run. Are you feeling mildly mad, sad, or even just vaguely meh? Go for a run, go for a run, go for a run.


The author Joyce Carol Oates once wrote in a column for the New York Times that

in running the mind flees with the body … in rhythm with our feet and the swinging of our arms.

 Filmmaker Casey Neistat told Runner’s World last fall that running is sometimes the only thing that gives him clarity of mind.

 “Every major decision I’ve made in the last eight years has been prefaced by a run,”

he told the magazine. But I maybe like the way a runner named Monte Davis phrased it best, as quoted in the 1976 book The Joy of Running:

“It’s hard to run and feel sorry for yourself at the same time. Also, there are those hours of clear-headedness that follow a long run.”


A good run can sometimes make you feel like a brand-new person. And, in a way, that feeling may be literally true. About three decades of research in neuroscience have identified a robust link between aerobic exercise and subsequent cognitive clarity, and to many in this field the most exciting recent finding in this area is that of neurogenesis. Not so many years ago, the brightest minds in neuroscience thought that our brains got a set amount of neurons, and that by adulthood, no new neurons would be birthed. But this turned out not to be true. Studies in animal models have shown that new neurons are produced in the brain throughout the lifespan, and, so far, only one activity is known to trigger the birth of those new neurons: vigorous aerobic exercise, said Karen Postal, president of the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology. “That’s it,” she said. “That’s the only trigger that we know about.”

The other fascinating thing here is where these new cells pop up: in the hippocampus, a region of the brain associated with learning and memory. So this could help explain, at least partially, why so many studies have identified a link between aerobic exercise and improvement in memory.

If you are exercising so that you sweat — about 30 to 40 minutes — new brain cells are being born,

added Postal, who herself is a runner. “And it just happens to be in that memory area.”
Other post-run changes have been recorded in the brain’s frontal lobe, with increased activity seen in this region after people adopt a long-term habit of physical activity. This area of the brain — sometimes called the frontal executive network system — is located, obviously enough, at the very front: It’s right behind your forehead. After about 30 to 40 minutes of a vigorous aerobic workout – enough to make you sweat – studies have recorded increased blood flow to this region, which, incidentally, is associated with many of the attributes we associate with “clear thinking”: planning ahead, focus and concentration, goal-setting, time management.

But it’s this area that’s also been linked to emotion regulation, which may help explain the results of one recent study conducted by Harvard psychology professor Emily E. Bernstein. Like Postal, Bernstein is also a runner, and was curious about a pattern she saw in her own mind after a run.

I notice in myself that I just feel better when I’m active.

She started to become really interested in the intervention studies that have popped up in recent years that suggest if you can get people who are having trouble with mood or anxiety to exercise, it helps. “But why?” she wanted to know. “What is exercise actually doing?”

To find out, she did a version of a classic experiment among researchers who study emotion: She and her colleague — Richard J. McNally, also of Harvard — played a reliable tearjerker of a clip: the final scene of the 1979 film The Champ.

Before watching the film clip, some of the 80 participants were made to jog for 30 minutes; others just stretched for the same amount of time. Afterward, all of them filled out surveys to indicate how bummed out the film had made them. Bernstein kept them busy for about 15 minutes after that, and surveyed them again about how they were feeling. Those who’d done the 30-minute run were more likely to have recovered from the emotional gut-punch than those who’d just stretched — and, her results showed, the people who’d initially felt worse seemed to especially benefit from the run. Bernstein is currently doing a few follow-up research projects to determine exactly why this works the way it does.

running feet mezunoBut there’s another big mental benefit to gain from running, one that scientists haven’t quiet yet managed to pin down to poke at and study: the wonderful way your mind drifts here and there as the miles go by. Mindfulness, or being here now, is a wonderful thing, and there is a seemingly ever-growing stack of scientific evidence showing the good it can bring to your life. And yet mindlessness — daydreaming, or getting lost in your own weird thoughts — is important, too. Consider, for example, this argument, taken from a 2013 article by a trio of psychologists in the journal Frontiers in Psychology:

“We mind wander, by choice or by accident, because it produces tangible reward when measured against goals and aspirations that are personally meaningful. Having to reread a line of text three times because our attention has drifted away matters very little if that attention shift has allowed us to access a key insight, a precious memory or make sense of a troubling event. Pausing to reflect in the middle of telling a story is inconsequential if that pause allows us to retrieve a distant memory that makes the story more evocative and compelling. Losing a couple of minutes because we drove past our off ramp is a minor inconvenience if the attention lapse allowed us to finally understand why the boss was so upset by something we said in last week’s meeting. Arriving home from the store without the eggs that necessitated the trip is a mere annoyance when weighed against coming to a decision to ask for a raise, leave a job, or go back to school.

Just because the benefits of losing yourself in your own thoughts are not easily measured doesn’t mean they’re not of value, and there are few ways I know of that induce this state of mind more reliably than a long run. A handful of recent studies have tried to answer what every runner, whether pro or hobbyist, has no doubt been asked by friends and family: What on earth do you think about while you’re out there for so many miles? This, as the writer Haruki Murakami noted in his What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, is almost beside the point. Sometimes he thinks while on the run; sometimes, he doesn’t. It doesn’t really matter.

 I just run. I run in void. Or maybe I should put it the other way: I run in order to acquire a void.

April 21, 2016 12:51 p.m.

By Melissa Dahl

https://madridjournal.wordpress.com/2016/04/25/how-neuroscientists-explain-the-mind-clearing-magic-of-running/

Why you can not Get a Good Sleep in Someone Else’s Bed

Half of your brain may be staying awake to keep watch when you sleep in someone else’s bed…


Whether you’re staying in a hotel or having a sleepover, you never sleep quite as well on a bed that’s not your own.
That’s an observable fact. When scientists have people sleep in a lab for an experiment, they often toss out the first night of data because people sleep so poorly. But before now, they haven’t known why.
In a small new study published in Current Biology, researchers from Brown University found out what goes on in the brain when a person sleeps in an unfamiliar place. They measured brain activity during the deep sleep of 35 young, healthy people.

The researchers found evidence that something unique indeed goes on in the brain during the first night: one hemisphere of the brain, the left, shows wakefulness while the other shows sleep.

This alertness during sleep in half of the brain has been observed in other animals—including whales, dolphins and birds—and is thought to act as a kind of night watch.

“The environment is so new to us, we might need a surveillance system so we can monitor the surroundings and we can detect anything unusual,”

 says Masako Tamaki, one of the authors of the study and research associate at the Laboratory for Cognitive and Perceptual Learning at Brown University.

We’re most vulnerable when we’re asleep, in other words, and by staying partially awake, our brains might be trying to protect us.

Our brain remain active when we sleep. researchers also found that when they outfitted the people in the study with earphones, the left side showed a larger brain response to high-pitched sounds than the right—suggesting more vigilance in that hemisphere.

The study raises a lot of unanswered questions; researchers don’t yet know why they saw this effect in the left hemisphere and not the right. But interestingly, both of these asymmetries only occurred on the first night—something to keep in mind the next time you can’t fall asleep in a strange place.

Source: Time

https://scitechafrica.wordpress.com/2016/04/24/reason-you-cannot-get-a-good-sleep-in-someone-elses-bed/

How to declutter your mind

how to declatter your mind Psycho.PNGLiving in a highly competitive environment, continuously emotionally assailed by depressing news, subjected to negative interactions with other people, overloaded with work and information… these features of modern life often mean that we lose our innate positivity. We rarely smile. We seem to be constantly in a rush, or puzzled, confused, embarrassed or angry. Anxiety and simmering psychological tension are etched on our faces. It is ever more difficult to be truly at peace, and feel happy, in this world. However, there are a few simple techniques to keep your mind clear, sideline negativity, focus on the right things, and ignore distractions.

 


I want to start this article with a story from my personal experience. It happened to me more than ten years ago, when I’d just completed my BA in literature and psychology and started my professional career in journalism, marketing and PR. This episode of my life was probably more valuable than the experience of all four of my degrees from top international universities combined. I’m really glad to be able to share this moment, and hope it will help you too.

Embrace your ‘Whatever!’ moment

whatever massive yacht

I remember the time when I was living in New York.  I was in my 20’s, working far from home as a PR manager for a few companies in Russia and Ukraine. I was incessantly busy, picking up new skills and abilities ‘on the go’, making mistakes, and attempting to juggle my career, studying, sporting activities and private life. I wanted to seize literally every opportunity, and be everywhere at once. I had problematic relationship with my boyfriend, and indeed had many complex, drama-filled relationships at the time. I was separated from my clients by a huge time difference and I was permanently jetlagged as I shuttled back and forth between countries.

I was finally exhausted and emotionally drained after a grueling twelve months of living such a lifestyle. My relationships eventually broke down and suddenly I had nothing left in the US. I felt both depressed and utterly overwhelmed. Finally, it became unbearable and I I took a week off which I decided to spend in Florida, simply to relax a little bit before leaving the States for good.

It was fantastic, sunny morning. One of those brilliant days when your wake up at 6 am with no alarm just because your body is sufficiently rested. I put my trainers on and went out for a run. I was still feeling confused and upset about my relationships and work, and my mind was churning with negative thoughts and self-pity. I could not see anything around me and felt nothing but anger and regret. I ran faster and faster, and suddenly stopped. When I lifted my eyes I saw a beautiful, magisterial yacht in the marina in front of me.  The boat was black and its name – “WHATEVER” – was written on the prow huge, silver letters. It was so unusual that it resembled nothing so much as a spaceship: The contrast with the neighbouring yachts was striking, and at that moment it was the answer to all my questions and worries – ‘Whatever’. It was an insight that I have carried in my soul ever since…

On returning to Moscow my life changed dramatically – for the better. The change was not a result of life suddenly becoming smoother. On the contrary, I still had plenty of ups and downs after that. But it changed because any time when I felt negativity, anger, regrets about past and worries about future bubbling up, the magic yacht popped into my mind and filled it with those shiny, silver words… “WHATEVER”.


Purify your mind

18589696 Meditation by sunset

“WHATEVER” is an amazing technique, but it is very much a personal touchstone, based on an experience unique to me. The majority of cognitive behavioral therapy practitioners recommend a regular purification of the mind. David Allen, the famous productivity coach, recommends clearing it out whenever an intrusive and unpleasant thought arises. I couldn’t agree more. When your mind is in order, your life, relationships, business and lifestyle will be in order too. But all of us are human beings and prone to involuntary compulsive thinking that can turn life into a nightmare. The following is a brief description of a few applicable techniques to help declutter mind.

The Little book of anger

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According to Eckhart Tolle the majority of intrusive thoughts have negative connotations. Why? The answer is simple. The human brain is never trapped by positive thoughts. They flow easily through our mind and vanish, leaving perhaps only a slight, pleasant afterglow. It is amazing how quickly our brain discards positive emotions, and yet how long it’s able to mull over negative feelings. Tolle believes that our egos and ‘pain bodies’ (psychological traumas we carry though life) love negativity, as they are fed by such emotions, growing in size and strength. Why do they need it? Easy. To dominate and control us, deceiving us into believing that we are actually only the sum of our negative thoughts. However, we are not. Egos and pain bodies are separate constructions dwelling inside our minds. Simply, they are a reflection of our self-perception based on negative experiences from the past; when something unpleasant happens which resonates with our past traumas, our brain latches onto it for as long as possible. That’s why negative thoughts and emotions are so overwhelming.

Remember that even when these thoughts appear to merge, and define, us, they are not who we really are.

It is actually surprisingly easy to deal with them. Once a negative emotion is recognised, caught, acknowledged as a negative emotion, and analysed and assessed coolly and objectively, it loses its influential power.

Tell yourself, as I do:

“This is not me, but a little bundle of intrusive negativity”

Make your negative feelings small

you can't have a positive life with negative mind

Let’s look at this concept in more detail. For instance, a person suffered from a lack of parental approval when he or she was young. This probably happened not because this person had a lack of talent, but because his or her parents were not vocal enough in expressing their feelings. In consequence, the individual feels pain when they don’t receive approval or recognition from others around them. An example from the workplace might be a neutral or ambivalent feedback on a project, or after performing a work-related task.

The individual experiences negative feelings, including self-pity, and finally feels that they are not good enough. Such feelings could become dominant and result in a profound lack of motivation, even triggering depression. However, let’s extract the negative thought at the root of the problem from this person’s head, and put it down on paper.

“My colleagues do not appreciate me enough. They do not like what I do”.

Does this brief little statement written on a tiny piece of paper look dangerous, offensive or overwhelming? It looks like two short sentences, but hardly resembles a terrifying monster. Two sentences have no power to turn life into a nightmare. Two sentences have no power to kill motivation, self-respect and inspiration either. It’s ridiculous, isn’t it, to even attempt to prove some deeper truth from a few, inconsequential words. Neither is there any point in trying to engage in a discussion with the words: First of all, a statement does not hear you. Secondly, you definitely do not owe anything to the statement, which was written by your own hand….

Should you try to prove yourself to your colleagues, then? Believe it or not, people are always preoccupied by their own fears and anxieties, and in the majority of cases don’t really care how good or bad your presentation was. So, there is no point in trying to persuade them that your presentation was brilliant. Moreover, it really doesn’t matter as it’s done. Past. History. Finito. All you can really do is try to make the next one better!

This is just an example of how you can learn to deal with overwhelming thoughts. To recap: kick them out of your head as soon as they appear. Put them down on paper, and read them. Ridiculous, aren’t they?

I always carry a little notebook where I can write various thoughts that pop into my head. These could be creative ideas, plans, little tasks I should not forget to do or annoying emotions I want to dispose of.

David Allen also recommends putting thought on paper in order to keep the mind fresh and pure: “Writing thoughts down gets them out of your head, clearing your brain of those things that are interfering with your ability to focus on what’s really important”. Such tactics can help to eliminate negativity at its inception, giving you the mental space, and peace, you need to concentrate on what needs to be done at that particular moment.

Classify and break down thoughts

notes

Once all thoughts are written down – sort them out. Personally, I firstly split them into two main categories: emotions and actions. Once classified in this way, the discord and ‘noise’ in your mind caused by the basic problem of effectively organizing your daily life will die down, and you’ll be able to view the day ahead more calmly and objectively.

Usually emotions account for the larger part of a woman’s ‘head noise’, whereas ‘actions’ are often, but by no means always, associated with men.

Emotions, as I mentioned earlier, are predominantly negative as positive feelings never linger in the mind for long. Maybe some highly trained individuals are able to cultivate positive thinking, but this is relatively rare. I will touch on this issue in the upcoming article How to cultivate positive thinking. Negative emotions can be divided into anger, fears, and doubts. You’ll be surprised at how simple and repetitive our emotions are. Once sorted, they lose their intrusive qualities and stop looking quite so scary.  Now you can target and eliminate them one at a time.

Actions is the second category. It in turn can be split into sub-categories. Allen categorises them as follows: do it, delegate it, defer it, drop it. As I mention in another article, I don’t usually use “defer” as I believe that all postponed action has little bearing on the present moment, and can thus be easily dropped, delegated or done.

Read How to cope with information overload to find out how to manage your “do” list effectively.


Switch modes

don't be affraid

David Rock states that

“The brain classifies everything as threat or reward — we’re always staying away from threat or moving towards reward”.

I agree. Try to stay in a ‘toward state’. Generally, Rock contends, people perform better by “minimizing stress and threat responses”. And he’s right.

Another technique to stay in “toward mode” is to reinterpret threatening events. If you have to deal with a hard task don’t perceive it as a potential threat: Rather, see it as an opportunity to learn new things, meet new and interesting people, or get new experiences. Doing this can change your brain’s response towards the task, and dramatically stimulate creativity. In Rock’s words: “As you change your interpretation, you change your whole mental state,” says Rock.

Give a hand

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Another way to get rid of negativity and declutter your mind is to switch into collaborative mode. I’m personally not very competitive, but collaborative by nature. It’s always been easy for me to say to someone: “hey, let’s do it together”. However, for some people teamwork can be extremely difficult. But keep in mind that through accepting the ability of other people to work as well as you, or perhaps even better, you gain a great opportunity to delegate, split and share.

We often underestimate our peers or feel subconsciously threatened.

Competitiveness always makes success hard to achieve.

We spend more energy competing and worrying about our perceived rivals, than cultivating creativity and positivity to achieve better results. To eliminate such feelings, just start working together from the outset.

By empowering others you empower yourself

and create a positive, transparent, and friendly atmosphere with no threats, no anxieties and as a result, stimulate a clear and creative mind.

Tatiana Dmitrieva