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Thoughts & Habits: How to strengthen your Brain for Success

You have an estimated 70,000 thoughts per day. That’s 70,000 chances to build yourself up or tear yourself down. Exercising your brain is just as important as exercising your body. We all know what happens when we don’t get enough physical activity— we find ourselves slipping down the spiral of less motivation and less energy. The less we do, the more challenging it becomes to get back in shape, be healthy, and feel great again. 

If you call yourself names, doubt your abilities, and second-guess your decisions, you’ll harm your performance – and most likely you’ll also be risking your physical and psychological health. But the good news is, you can change the way you think. 

Our effectiveness depends on whether we manage to motivate our brain or not. – says sports psychologist Steven Reiss from State University of Ohio.  Mark Divine, officer who trains recruits in the Navy SEAL, says that it is always our psyche that gives up, and never the body. And that concerns all aspects of our lives, whether it is overcoming challenges  in our career, or in our personal lives, even if it is just about getting up from the couch and going for a walk.   

How does our brain work? - The power of habit

30-50% of what we do is a habit – drinking alcohol at special occasions, eating sweets in the afternoon, our morning routines etc. Our brain tries to automate as much as possible, as this means saving energy. So our body strives for comfort – any type of activity that is not a habit, anything that we need motivation for, breaks this pattern and is a challenge for the brain.   

We invest time and resources in our homes, to make them more beautiful and livable. We invest time and resources in our body so we can look and feel good. We invest money in our cars, phones, clothes to feel better and for the world around us to see that we are doing perfectly ok and we are accomplished.  The brain is rarely amongst the “things” that we care about most. The brain is an organ that coordinates everything that happens in your body, but we don’t care about it as much as we need.

We need to treat it like a muscle to train but we don’t! It needs exercise to become stronger and more useful. The more you train it, the better it becomes and the more positive it thinks. Also, the more opportunities it can identify and the more motivated it is.  The rule of thumb is to train this muscle rather sooner than later!

What kills our motivation?

Money seems to be the driving factor in all our lives, not necessarily because we want it, but because we need it – or we think we need it- in order to be happy and motivated. However, research shows that money isn’t as effective motivator as we thought.  

It is only effective for very repetitive, routine and boring activities. Whereas for employees who work in positive work environments that allow for growth, motivation actually comes from feeling useful, productive, valued and empowered. 

Money, as an external incentive factor, does not boost motivation and, moreover, it weakens motivation – as per the research carried by the scientists from London School of Economics. People are focused then purely on the goal  – complete task, get money! They don’t focus on the journey to reach it, and they are not curious anymore. They, they do not wish to discover anything new – they simply want to complete the task! 

Some would say that fear can motivate as well – but apparently research shows that it only motivates when it is subconscious and in moderate levels. If it is too much, fear will be demotivating, especially when it turns into avoidance.  

For example, if we have an exam to take in few weeks time, we subconsciously are afraid of it but since the exam is to take place only in few weeks time the level of stress is moderate and we feel motivated to learn in order to pass it. If the exam was to take place tomorrow and we still needed to learn, the level of stress could be too high to bear and it could immobilise us. 

So how can we train our brain and get motivated?

Intellectual wellbeing is one of the seven dimensions of wellbeing 

It opens us up to new ideas and experiences. This mental stretching can empower us to make wiser decisions, improve our skills, and to feel motivated to take on new challenges. Now that’s a recipe for success! Ready to boost your mental power and get more out of life? Here are six easy brain exercises you can do on your own.

1. Break your routine and do new things

Our mammal body is conditioned to progress. When we progress, serotonin is issued in our body – the so called “happy hormone”. Also, when we see opportunity, our body releases dopamine, our brain sees the reward coming, and thanks to that, we are able to think and plan in order to progress

Break the routine. Break the pattern. Expose yourself to a new experience, see what comes out of it.  When your brain sees opportunity, it will know what to do with that. It will feel motivated as it will start gaining new perspectives. Trust the process.  When you break the routine and learn new things, your brain will start to reflect and discover nu opportunities and new solutions. That drives motivation. In order to support the process, you can consider getting coaching (click here to learn more)

2. Perform Mathematical Gymnastics 

Train your brain muscle by doing simple math exercises or  jigsaw puzzles in your head. Don’t worry. You don’t need to start out with long division to boost your brain power. Even basic multiplying 3×7 or 7×5 will do the job. You’ll notice over time the math gets easier, and even enjoyable 😛 Meanwhile, you’re keeping those brain cells active and probably waking up a few that have laid dormant since your high school maths class. 

If you’re feeling creative, there are plenty of free math puzzles available online. Playing chess can also help boost your cognitive resonance. 

3. Meditate 

In 2011, Sara Lazar and her team at Harvard found that mindfulness meditation can actually change the structure of the brain. The study showed that eight weeks of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) was found to increase cortical thickness in the hippocampus, which governs learning and memory. It may also play roles in emotion regulation. 

Meditation is, after all an active form of brain training. A lot of people think that meditation means sitting down and doing nothing. But that’s not true. Meditation is an active training of the mind to increase awareness, and different meditation programs approach this in different ways.  

4. Differentiate between destructive dwelling in thoughts and constructive thinking to find solutions

Thinking about strategies that would help you overcome an obstacle is helpful Whenever you find yourself thinking about something for an extended period of time and you go in circles, take a minute to think whether you’re dwelling in thoughts or if you are problem-solving. If you’re actively solving or preventing problems, keep processing. But, if you’re simply rehashing things that already happened or making catastrophic predictions about things you can’t control, change the channel. Get up and do something to get your mind off the issue and keep your brain focused on more productive activities. 

5. The Head-Heart-Hand Model  – Recipe to drive motivation

Pick an activity that you consider to perform. ASK YOURSELF: 

  1. Head: What is my goal? Is it important?  
  2. Heart: Will I do it with pleasure? Does it bring me joy? 
  3. Hand: Am I capable of doing it correctly?  

If you can answer all three questions with a YES, you are on the way to the so called FLOW, and, as a result, you will end up performing a task that truly motivates you and that gets you goings 

Reach your greatest potential!

These are only few strategies that you can employ in order to train your brain.  If you want to reach your greatest potential, it is important to build up your mental muscle! Exercise your brain every day and over time, you’ll train your brain for happiness and success. And, if you would like to develop the right mindset for success and improve your motivation, our programs will help you reach your goals and get you going! Click here to learn more! 

All the best,

Angelika & Melanie

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