How To Wake Up Your Brain In 60 Seconds
Illustration by Mr Giordano Poloni
Three expert exercises to help you focus better.
For all the great things that the information age has brought us – minute-by-minute news, a thousands of digital friends, the ease of e-commerce – it’s also wreaked havoc upon our ability to concentrate and expediently achieve our day-to-day goals. Yes, we all seem to be working harder, for longer, but, let’s be honest, are we really getting more done? How many times a day do you idly scroll through Instagram, or, for that matter MR PORTER? (We obviously consider this an excellent use of time, but we’re biased.) What we’re missing, essentially, is focus. And Mr Mark Waldman and Dr Chris Manning, authors of the new book NeuroWisdom: The New Brain Science Of Money, Happiness And Success, are on a mission to help us find it.
Combining familiar mindfulness exercises with a wealth of research on how the brain responds to different physical stimuli, the book advocates a strategy the authors call “Brain-based experiential learning and living” (or “Bell” for short), to maximise motivation, decision-making, creativity and awareness. As Mr Waldman’s day job is coaching Executive MBA students at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, much of his advice is tailored to the busy lifestyle of a business environment, which means the focus is on exercises that achieve the maximum results in the minimum time. A case in point is the authors’ advice on starting the day right, involving three simple things you can do to set your brain in the correct mode in under a minute. Scroll down for his top tips for a groggy Monday morning.
According to Mr Waldman and Dr Manning, yawning is an activity that has several benefits on the body and mind. “It clears away the fogginess of sleep and increases cerebral blood flow, which enhances mental efficiency and quickly brings you into a heightened state of cognitive awareness,” they write. They also refer to a 2014 study regarding yawning in packs of wolves, which suggests that yawning increases social awareness and empathy. Their advice, therefore, is to mindfully yawn both as a way of resetting your brain, and also before socially sensitive events such as boardroom meetings. (Don’t yawn during those, though – we all know what that means.)
“Mindful stretching increases your body awareness, and this has been shown to give you greater emotional control along with higher levels of personal satisfaction and wellbeing,” write Mr Waldman and Dr Manning. What they mean by “mindful” is slow, with a keen awareness of how your body is actually moving. “If you slowly move one part of your body, playing close attention to all the subtle associated sensations, muscle tension will diminish rapidly and movement coordination will improve.
FIND YOUR ANCHOR
“An anchor is anything you use to remind yourself to stay calm, relaxed and pleasurably engaged in an activity,” write Mr Waldman and Dr Manning. One way of anchoring oneself, they say, is setting an hourly reminder to take a break and, for example, stretch or yawn. But another method of anchoring is to focus on a word that’s meaningful to you. Mr Waldman and Dr Manning advise searching for an anchor word by yawning and stretching then asking yourself the question: “what is my deepest innermost value?” Surveying his EMBA students over the course of several years, Mr Waldman found that 90 per cent reported an increase in focus and productivity after reflecting on one such value each morning.
**NeuroWisdom: The New Brain Science Of Money, Happiness And Success (Diversion Books) is out now **
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