Amazing ‘Mental States’ and How They Can Enhance Performance
You might think of your brain as being fairly consistent. You generally have a consistent level of intelligence, your mood is usually pretty steady and on the whole you don’t tend to change all that much. Or so it seems.
In reality though, your brain is constantly changing. Not only is it growing and adapting, but it will also change in terms of what it’s capable of and how you feel. The chemical balance is likely to change a huge amount.
In other words, our brain goes through a number of states and depending on which brain state you are experiencing at any given time, you can expect very different results.
Let’s take a look at just a few mental states and how they have incredible impacts on the way you feel and perform.
A flow state is a much-coveted state that is often described as being the state of ultimate ‘peek’ human performance.
It’s a little more complex than that. But essentially, this is a state in which you are completely focussed on a given task, normally because you perceive it as highly important. This actually suppresses activity in the frontal region of the brain, allowing you to act on near pure-instinct and thereby giving you intense mental clarity and reactions.
Fight or Flight
Fight or flight is a stress state. In this state, the body is releasing adrenaline, dopamine and other chemicals that ramp up the nervous system and increase strength while also suppressing immune function and digestion. Stress like this isn’t a bad thing in the short term. Acute stress allows us to react to situations quickly when we need to.
The problem comes when this state carries on and becomes chronic.
Rest and Digest
The opposite of fight or flight, this is when the body is able to relax and calm down. This is when we digest our food, when we sleep and when we build tissue. We’re also more creative in this state!
Hysterical strength is a little like ‘beserker mode’. Under extreme duress, we produce so much adrenaline that we’re able to call on incredible reserves of strength. This demonstrates just how much of an impact our mind can have on our body ‘ just what is possible when you’re in the right mindset.
And there are many more. If you want to perform your best, best get into the right mindset!
The Mind Needs Growth
What makes you happy? What is your idea of a perfect evening?
For many of us, the answer would be something akin to relaxing on the couch, watching a great TV show and eating something delicious. Maybe you want to stay in with your other half, or maybe you’d like to program a game.
These things are comfortable and they are refreshing. These things help you to feel calm and to rejuvenate from a tough week.
But you know what? Your brain doesn’t like those things. In fact, these are about the worst things you can possibly do as far as your body is concerned!
The reason for that is simple: when you relax and when you chill, you don’t challenge your brain. The result is that it starts to atrophy.
Grow or Shrink
The brain is able to adapt to whatever you throw at it due to a process called brain plasticity. Brain plasticity describes the ability of the brain to grow and change shape: to create new neurons and to become stronger. Herein lies the principle of SAID: specific adaptations to imposed demands. If you practice languages, you get better at language. If you practice balance, your brain gets better at that.
But if you’re not growing, then all that extra neural matter is just wasted energy. The result? Your brain starts to atrophy and starts to burn through that extra matter. The result is that you deteriorate.
Grow or shrink. Move forward or move backward. Being ‘static’ isn’t an option.
The Brain Loves Growth
When you learn a new language or skill, the brain will see this as positive stimulus. It sees this as a chance to get stronger and to ultimately improve your ability to survive. Thus it produces positive hormones and neurotransmitters like dopamine and brain derived neurotrophic factor. These help you to learn, but they also prevent the atrophy we discussed. They protect the brain against degeneration and they make you smarter.
So while you might feel like the very best thing you can do for your brain is to relax and to sit down, actually the brain much prefers challenge and learning. Sure, have your evening off, but make sure your life isn’t just a case of alternating between stress at work and doing ‘nothing’ at home. Keep learning, keep going to new places and keep taking on new challenges!
Two Transformative Tips to Change Your Mindset to Help You Accomplish Any Goal
People have a range of different dreams and goals. This is one of the best things about people in fact. We’re all different and we all have different aspirations ‘ different goals to share with one another and different things to talk about.
The unhappiest people? They’re the ones with no goals. No direction. No motivation. A goal gives you a vision, it gives you drive and it makes every day seem like a positive step to an end destination that is truly important to you.
But while goals are intrinsically rewarding, problems do arise when we don’t know how to pursue them. Having a goal that seems completely out of grasp and making no progress whatsoever is disheartening.
In this article, we’ll look at some of the things you can do to help yourself reach your goals faster. Whether you want to write an amazing book, set up a business or do anything else; these are two tips that will apply in every situation and that you might not have heard before.
Tip 1: You Have to Believe
This might sound like cheesy bumper-plate-sticker-advice, but it is very true. At the end of the day, you need to have absolute faith that the plan you have to get your book published or to become famous is actually going to work. Why? Because otherwise you risk putting in all the time and effort for nothing!
Think about it: have you ever struggled to stay motivated to get into work? No! The reason for that is because you know that going to work means getting paid. This is 100% guaranteed.
But you may have struggled to stick to a training program and part of the reason for that is that you know it might not yield results. So whatever plan you come up with, make sure you believe it!
Tip 2: You Have to Take it Slowly
The other problem is wanting results right now and ending up burning yourself out too quickly. Want to write the next best-selling novel? The way to do that is not in one or two sittings! You need to take your time, to work steadily and to be considered in the way you approach this goal. The best option is to plan to write one or two chapters every day. Look up the word ‘Kaizen’ for more on why this works so well!
The Importance of Changing Your Mind
I started intermittent fasting last week and so far it has been fantastic. In a short number of days, I’ve seen my abs pop like never before and strangely, the lack of food seems to afford me a ton of mental clarity that has been making me more productive in my work.
But this was a hard choice. You see a few years ago, my sister talked about starting the 2/5 diet ‘ a form of intermittent fasting ‘ and I absolutely swore against it. I was worried she was messing with her hormones and I told her it was dangerous.
Obviously, I’ve done a completely 180. I had to eat my words. Even as I’m not allowing myself to eat lunch’
But while this might not feel great, it was actually very important that I did this. It was actually after a fair amount of consideration and deliberation but making that decision meant I was able to try something that I wouldn’t have otherwise, and benefit as a result.
Say Goodbye to the Old You
This is something that many of us struggle to do however. All too often, we want to present ourselves as being reliable. We want people to ‘know where they stand’ with us. We want there to be consistency in what we do and say.
And we want to be somehow ‘loyal’ to the version of us from the past.
But the reality is that life demands change. We need to adapt, to evolve and to grow in order to become the best versions of ourselves.
Let’s say you always wanted to be an actor. Let’s say that that was your dream from a young age.
But what if you’re now in your 30s and you don’t feel that way anymore?
Some people would pursue that same old goal just to remain faithful to their old selves and to demonstrate that they are people who stick to their goals and beliefs.
What if you have been strongly right wing your whole life and now you’re feeling a little left wing?
Ultimately, growth requires change. If you’re going to develop your philosophies and yourself, then you need to be willing to change.
And if you limit what you ‘allow’ yourself to want and what you ‘allow’ yourself to believe, then you will end up limiting yourself and putting restrictions on what you can accomplish. Free yourself to change and grow and incredible things can happen!
Physiology and Your Mood
If you want to get the most out of yourself and your life, then it is crucial that you learn to control your mood. Your mood will affect your ability to focus, your enjoyment of any and all activities and so much more.
But of course, controlling your emotions is easier said than done. This is something we would all like to do no doubt, but if it were that easy then we would all be happy all the time!
There is a secret to doing this though that many people miss. And while it may be impossible to guarantee that you’ll ever have complete control over the way you feel, it can sure make a big difference and help to give you a lot more control.
How Your Body Affects Your Mood
The missing key that so many people overlook is physiology. In other words, your body and your physical state.
What are our emotions for? They’re to drive us toward desirable things and to keep us away from things that could potentially harm us. When we feel scared, this motivates us to seek a safer shelter. When we feel disgusted, this prevents us from wanting to eat gone off food.
At a deeper level though, being hungry also impacts on your emotions and motivates behavior. When you are hungry, you will usually have low blood sugar. This in turn releases cortisol the stress hormone, along with ghrelin. This is why we get hangry! Conversely, when you eat, you produce serotonin which puts you in a good mood. This then converts to melatonin and makes us sleepy.
Being ill causes inflammation through pro-inflammatory cytokines and these suppress activity in the brain, creating brain fog and depression.
Feelings and emotions are different. You feel hungry, you feel tired and you feel ill. But these create emotions such as stress, anger and sadness.
So, what are we getting at here? What is the practical takeaway from all this advice?
The moral is that it isn’t all about your thoughts and your lifestyle. If you’re angry or if you’re sad then it may not be due to you having a bad day ‘ you may just be hungry or ill!
Then there’s the fact that our hormones tend to change on a cycle. Keep all this in mind when you are trying to manage your mood and make sure that you set yourself up with the best possible chance of a happy, positive day!