Does your mind drive your body? Or your body drive your mind?
This is the 3rd post in my "Mental Strength week" series. Click here to start from the beginning.
How much of your day do you spend in your head? 50%? 80%? All of it?
How much of your day do you spend in your body? 20%? 10%? Not at all?
We have a tendency to think about different aspects of our life in silos. In reality, everything is connected. Everything affects everything. Similarly, the mind doesn’t just reside in your brain. The mind is not just in your head. It is very much reflected in your body, in your physiology.
"The mind and body are not separate. What affects one affects the other."- Dr. Joe Dispenza
I invite you to try a short experiment whilst reading this post… Think about your last holiday. Think about the most relaxing moment on this trip.
Where are you? What’s around you? Are you with anyone?
Does your body feel relaxed? Which parts? Your shoulders? Your stomach? Your eyes?
Imagine being on your next holiday and having a moment twice as relaxing. 5 times as relaxing. 10 times as relaxing.
How does this feel in your body? Count how long your breath is - how many seconds does it last?
Now stop. Think about work instead. Think about the most stressful situation that you’ve had at work in the last year. Think about the moment that it really got to you.
What is it that’s stressing you out? Who is involved? What is the worst case scenario?
Can you feel tension and tightness in your body? Where is it most tense? Is it heavy? Is it pulling you inwards?
Now imagine that something has happened. There’s a new situation at work but it’s twice as important. It’s five times riskier. If you screw up, it’s going to going to make you look 10 times worse.
Has the tension amped up? Notice your breath. Watch it - how long does it last now?
If you played along, this is what just happened: You tapped into a memory in your mind. You used your imagination to alter it - we made it more significant. (Interestingly, every time you recall something you alter the memory.) The effects were not just in your brain, your thinking affected your entire physiology.
And this works similarly in reverse. If you change your physiology, you will alter your mental state. It will alter your thoughts. Amy Cuddy’s infamous TED talk describes how body language affects your hormonal balance - she advocates using specific 'power poses' to influence your hormones and your thinking.
We can, however, start simply with your breath, since breathing has been shown to modulate brain activity and mental function. Below are two well-researched techniques which you can experiment with...
IMPORTANT: Try these at your own risk. Whilst I am not aware of any side-effects of these exercises, I recommend consulting a medical professional before trying these out, particularly if you have any pre-existing conditions.
Method #1: My favourite breathing technique comes from the Wim Hof method and is really powerful. Stated benefits of the method include stress reduction, better sleep, faster recovery from physical exertion, better focus and mental clarity. It has also been linked linked to reducing symptoms of several chronic diseases. Having offered himself as a research subject for a very long time, Wim has accumulated a lot of evidence to support these claims. Here is a video of Wim walking through the method:
It takes 10-15 minutes to complete 3 rounds of Wim Hof breathing. You can continue doing additional rounds for further benefit. It is VERY important that you are either sitting or lying down because you can get light-headed.
Method #2: A simple alternative is 4-4-4-4 breathing, also known as “box breathing” which is used by US Navy SEALs. It promotes calmness and concentration. It is straightforward and versatile:
Breathe in for 4 seconds allowing your belly to expand
Hold for 4 seconds
Breathe out for 4 seconds allowing your belly to contract
Hold for 4 seconds
Go to step 1
Aim to do this for 5-20 minutes if you’re using it as a daily practice. You can otherwise use this whenever you’ve got a spare moment or if you want to re-centre yourself at work.
So now what?
If you give either of these methods a try, don’t be surprised if you will feel more connected to your body and a lot a lot of the tension that has been trapped in your body starts to ease. You should feel calmer and better able to focus. More oxygen in your body means everything just starts to work a lot better, including your brain.
I invite you to…
Commit to 7 days as a trial and then decide if you want to keep going. If you do this experiment, I would love to hear about your experience. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Read the next post in this series
You have nothing to lose and lots to gain.
About the author: Sukh Kalsi helps people to replace chronic stress, anxiety and depression with peak states of being. You can find his online courses at https://www.WeFlowAcademy.com and find out how to work with him at https://SukhKalsi.com
This article was originally published on LinkedIn