Did you know you could use the power of your brain to change your mind for good? Decades of research in neuroscience have proven that by focusing mental attention in unique directions for sustained periods of time, we can dramatically shift our hardwired cognitive patterns to automatically think in new ways. This is how we create sustainable change that enables us to bring our full and best energy to the moments that matter most. What's more, this type of mindset makeover doesn't require complicated techniques or long periods of training time. Studies have shown this brain shift can begin to occur after only 3-5 minutes of training, and that the neural landscape can be altered within just a few weeks.
What I call the Brain Recharge process helps to strengthen communication pathways between the brain and body that balance brain chemistry, build brain health and boost brainpower. Simultaneously, your body shifts into a state that is nourishing and healing rather than being stuck in the chronic stress mode that is typically triggered by our energy-deprived environments. The core Brain Recharge technique is based on principles of integrative neuroscience and applied heart science, completing the circuit of communication from thoughts, to feelings to intentions. We will use a simple three-step process -- breathe, feel, focus -- to shift from mental thinking to heart-based feeling to a coherent, balanced state of optimal intuition where both the brain and heart are in alignment. Within the human system there are two primary "leaders" that help us manage our energy on a regular basis. The heart acts like the CEO, responsible for our most important values and beliefs, leading us passionately toward our most critical missions in life. The CFO brain has the primary responsibility to constantly monitor current available resources and make decisions based on capacity and demand. As many of us have experienced in business, the CEO and CFO often have two very different goals driving their behavior. Although the more emotionally driven CEO may override the seemingly analytic CFO from time to time, this usually happens at a cost, which shows up in our body as an energy deficit, an increase in stress hormones and inflammation, and the weakening of our immune system. For optimal functioning and sustainable health and performance, it's important to bring both the CEO heart and the CFO brain into a synergistic partnership and healthy rhythm, otherwise known as coherence.
The Brain Recharge process
There are several ways for you to engage in the Brain Recharge process on a regular basis. First, you may want to read through the steps to get an idea of where you're going. You will likely find it most valuable to listen to a guided recording of the steps initially as you train yourself to be able to walk through the process on your own. In time, you will quickly be able to tap into your BFF Brain Recharge on the go to intentionally shift your energy in the direction of your goals anytime and anyplace, regardless of circumstances.
Just remember, this is not a technique you want to use only when you're already feeling stress, but rather an important training tool that needs to be practiced consistently in order to build resilience. This way, when you experience stress, you'll notice the imbalance more quickly and be better prepared to shift in your intended direction.
Step 1: Breathe
Focus your attention on your breath. Do not try to force deep breathing, but just notice how your breath feels physically in your body as your chest expands and contracts. Take a few moments to shift your mental energy from thinking to feeling the physical sensations in your body as you breathe. Try to direct your energy and attention to your chest as you inhale and exhale, or specifically to the area around your heart. Imagine breathing in nourishing, healing oxygen in through your core and letting go of any tension as you release what you no longer need to hold onto in this moment.
Step 2: Feel
As you continue to stay aware of your breath, begin to shift your body and mind into a state of positive energy. To create this new state of being you can think about something you feel grateful for, or something you're looking forward to. You can visualize a place that's relaxing or restorative for you. Or feel compassion for yourself or someone else. See if you can notice physically in your body how this positive energy state feels. The more you practice generating this optimal state of being, the quicker you'll be able to get there; but remember it takes practice. We are typically in a rushed, tense or stressed state, so it's a new experience for us to train our brain and body to stay in this present-moment positive place.
If your mind starts to wander, that's OK. Our minds are constantly scanning for things we could or should be thinking about, and we're training ourselves to be disciplined in how we control our energy and attention. Just bring it back. Like you would lift a weight in the gym to strengthen your physical muscles, here you're resisting distracting thoughts to train your mental muscles. Gently bring your attention back to the moment by focusing again on your breath and then on a positive, restorative feeling, and hold that state for a few more moments.
Step 3: Focus
From this positive energy state, ask yourself what you feel your focus should be for the next part of your day. Try not to get stuck in thinking about what you think it should be, but rather feeling the coherence between your brain and body. Your intuition will lead you in the direction of where you want to set your intention for your time and energy. This doesn't have to be your final answer for the entire day, but rather an intention for the next few minutes or the next few hours. Perhaps it's preparing for a meeting or shifting into spending time with family. For whatever purpose you chose to do a Brain Recharge right now, consider the person you want to be when you show up next. Before you think about what you want to do, decide who you want to be for those moments that matter most to you.
If possible, come up with a word, phrase, symbol or shape that best represents this intention for you, and visualize it in your mind while feeling what that state would feel like if you were already there right now. Gently shift your brain and heart into even clearer coherence as you bring both your body and mind into alignment – one shared focus, one clear purpose. Hold this intention as you continue to stay aware of your breath for just a few more moments.
When you feel ready, gently open your eyes, taking with you renewed energy for your day!
You can access free audio recordings of the Brain Recharge process here. They have been created in various lengths in order for you to build up to longer periods of time as you train. If you wanted to run a marathon, you wouldn't expect yourself to go out on day one and complete 26.2 miles. Similarly, recognize that your brain has likely been operating in chronic stress mode for a very long time, and shifting to a more quiet, intentional, coherent state may feel uncomfortable at first.
Like detoxing from sugar or a drug, many people can feel irritable and restless when decreasing their hyperactivity or stress, because it's not what feels normal. But in time you will start to desire and even crave more time in this optimal state of being. As you notice your productivity and performance increasing, as creativity and resilience are enhanced, and as you are happier and healthier, you will find it hard to imagine not making a consistent Brain Recharge program part of your everyday routine.
Heidi Hanna, Ph.D., is the CEO and founder of of Synergy, an integrative neuroscience partnership that provides brain-based training for individuals and organization. She is a speaker with the Goodman Speakers Bureau, which sponsored Heidi's keynote presentation, "Recharge Your Brainpower," for Northstar Meetings Group's Destination California, held May 11-14 in Newport Beach, Calif.