When was the last time you celebrated one of your achievements? When was the last time you threw your hands in the air and let out a big fat wohoo!!!!!

I bet you have to think long and hard to remember the last time. Celebrating your achievements is not only something you should do because it is fun, but you should also do it because it helps beat imposter syndrome.

Imposter syndrome is a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud’. This pattern is very common and your level of accomplishments doesn’t seem to affect it. Even Einstein had this irrational fear. One thing that has been documented as helping overcome Imposter syndrome is consciously focussing on, or celebrating your accomplishments but this seemingly simple solution proofs difficult in real life.

For some reason, we tend to celebrate some victories more easily than others. We all know the images of athletes celebrating their victories with hugs, cheers, joyful dances and champagne and winning a board game might wake up the dancing queen in you. But when it comes to more serious topics, we often fail to celebrate what we have achieved. I have been more openly excited about winning a game of chess than I was graduating, recovering from a broken heart or finishing my first book. It seems we have been conditioned to celebrate only certain successes and be sober about others.

Interestingly enough there is hardly any scientific research on celebrating successes; even science seems to have overlooked the importance of celebrating victories. Gratitude, on the other hand, has received a lot of attention in the realm of research and I think gratitude and celebrating successes are close cousins, so the research on gratitude should give us some insight into the benefits of celebrating success.

Gratitude research

According to Dr. Emmon’s research keeping a gratitude journal results in improved alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism and energy. Research subjects who kept a daily gratitude journal experienced less depression and stress, were more likely to help others, exercised more consistently and made greater progress toward achieving personal goals. Dr. Emmons’ research also shows that those who practice an attitude of gratitude tend to be more creative, bounce back more quickly from adversity, have a stronger immune system and have stronger relationships than those who don’t practice gratitude. Looking at all the benefits of gratitude it isn’t hard to see how an attitude of gratitude helps with stress free productivity.

But gratitude and celebrating successes are not one and the same thing, there is a subtle difference. In think the difference is this; gratitude makes me realize my smallness. It makes me reflect on how blessed I am to have what I have and be able to do what I do. Celebrating successes makes me realize my greatness. It makes reflect on how capable I am in certain areas and how my hard work and dedication has paid off in creating improvement and success.

Gratitude is a testimony to what I have been given, celebrating victories is a testimony to what I have done with what I have been given.

Practising gratitude makes you more grateful; celebrating your successes makes you more confident

Just close your eyes and for a moment imagine yourself celebrating a win or a success. You can think back to a moment where you have visibly and full of excitement celebrated a victory or you can just imagine yourself winning at something, accomplishing something and then throwing your hands in the air and celebrating. Go ahead, give it a try. The feeling will be even stronger if you do this whilst standing up and actually putting your hands in the air.

How did that make you feel? Most people would say something along the lines of;

  • Energised
  • Happy
  • Optimistic
  • Motivated

Reaching your goal naturally brings happiness and satisfaction but consciously celebrating your success brings it to another level. It is acknowledging to yourself that you have changed, you have grown, you are now able to do something you couldn’t do before. Even if it was a small step or a small win, you did it and you are changed because of it. Consciously celebrating this boosts your confidence and combats imposter syndrome. Confidence shifts your perspective, it makes you see yourself as more able and challenges as less challenging.

There, in the mix of boosted happiness, confidence and positivity, will be a gently calling to take on the next challenge. A desire to do it again, to aim for the next level, to do something even bigger and better. Celebrating your success is just as much the end point of a cycle of learning and achieving, as it is the beginning of a new cycle of learning and achieving.

Confidence and a sledge

When we were visiting family and friends in The Netherlands last winter it snowed. We got the old sledge from the attic and took it to the park. In the park is a hill and we pulled the sledge up the hill wanting to ride it down the hill. My then 3-year-old son was scared and didn’t want to go down. After watching us do it a few times and seeing how much fun we had he reluctantly wanted to give it a try. I sat in the front, he sat at the back as we were going down the hill at high speed he was yelling “slower mama, slower mama!” But there was no way to slow down and when we got at the bottom of the hill I yelled out ‘yes, you did it!’ He smiled and said ‘let’s do it again mama!’. The second time, instead of yelling ‘slower, slower!’ he was yelling “go faster, go faster!”

As soon as we achieve something our confidence instantly grows, we did it once and we know we can do it again. As our confidence grows so do our goals. I believe this is a very powerful mechanism. It is the green brain alternative to the orange brain cycle of always working toward the next thing on the to-do list without really enjoying what we have. The orange brain achievement cycle tricks us into believing that the next thing on the to-do list or on the wish list will finally transport us into happiness. The green brain achievement cycle starts with the happiness, turns it into celebration; the acknowledgement of new skills which leads to confidence and then naturally bigger, greater goals flow from that.

Why we fail to celebrate and get stuck in Imposter syndrome

I have been able to identify three reasons why I fail to celebrate and you may recognize these in yourself.

  • Discounting many things as to small to celebrate
  • Tall poppy syndrome
  • Rushing into focusing on the next goal

What small things can you think of that you can celebrate? Write them down and allow yourself to get excited about them, no matter how small they are. Give yourself permission to be proud of them, no matter how insignificant they may seem. Pat yourself on the back and remind yourself that you did it!

Beat imposter syndrome

When was the last time you celebrated one of your achievements? When was the last time you threw your hands in the air and let out a big fat wohoo!!!!! I bet you have to think long and hard to remember the last time. Celebrating your achievements is not only something you should do because [...]

Mindfulness reduces stress and boosts happiness, and it doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming; you don’t have to go away on a retreat or sit still for 20 minutes per day. Mindfulness can be simple and practical. Here are our top 10 Mindfulness on-the-run tips.

#1 Breath

Take 3 deep breaths, the belly kind and drop your shoulders as you breathe out. Go on, give it a try, you know it will make you feel better.

#2 Smile

A smile (even a fake one) reduces stress. If you smile looking at a mirror the effect will be even stronger.

#3 Stand Tall

The more space your body takes up the more confident you will feel. So unwrap your legs and your arms, look up, broaden your chest and shoulders and give yourself a confidence boost.

#4 Have a Mantra

Write down a short and sweet mantra and put it in a place where you see it a few times per day. Every time you see it, it will put you back on a positive track.

#5 Give Your Brain a Break

When you are working on something remind yourself that if you ‘take 5’ you ‘win 50’. Giving your brain a break makes you so much more effective and efficient, it will be worth it.

#6 On the Road

Put your commute time to good use by spending a few minutes focusing on your senses on your way to work. It reduces stress even when you’re in a traffic jam believe it or not!

#7 Get Touchy Feely

Create micro-moments of mindful connection with your loved ones by making a conscious effort to make real eye contact and touch them. It will help you be present and make you and them feel more connected.

#8 Move That Body

Even a short walk lifts your mood. Park a block away from your destination, take the stairs instead of the elevator and have walking-meetings, these are simple ways to improve both your health and your mood.

#9 Practice Gratitude

Think of one thing you are grateful for, to increase the happiness effect write it down. To increase it even more, share it with someone.

#10 Like Yourself More

For a quick boost in self-compassion, place one hand on your chest and one hand on your stomach. Your brain will respond by activating the social engagement system in your brain which increases self-compassion and kindness.

10 Tips for Mindfulness on the run

Mindfulness reduces stress and boosts happiness, and it doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming; you don’t have to go away on a retreat or sit still for 20 minutes per day. Mindfulness can be simple and practical. Here are our top 10 Mindfulness on-the-run tips. #1 Breath Take 3 deep breaths, the belly kind [...]

bearsHow does brain chemistry affect our relationships and moments of connection? And how can you affect it to become a better partner, parent or friend? We aim to be loving, caring, loyal and stay out of judgement. These high standards are met more easily when we are happy and relaxed. However, when we are stressed and trying to juggle many roles and responsibilities, it becomes a lot harder. This is not just because we are short of time or resources. Our hormones have a lot to do with it.

The love hormone

When humans connect in a meaningful way, the hormone oxytocin is released. Oxytocin is the fuel of relationships. It instantly makes you want to connect and be kind to the people around you. Research shows that even an artificial increase in oxytocin levels makes you more generous, improves your listening skills and makes you better at picking up social cues. In other words, increasing your oxytocin levels could make you a better friend.

Research also tells us that stress is one of the most potent inhibitors of oxytocin. When under stress, your brain goes into tunnel vision mode and you lose sight of details. You become quick to judge and jump to conclusions, with a focus on ‘fixing it’. Not ideal if you want to be a good friend.

How to boost oxytocin levels naturally

Oxytocin is not for sale in pharmacies, but there are natural ways in which you can increase your oxytocin levels. Research shows that regular mindfulness practice reduces stress and increases oxytocin levels, affecting positively on self reported quality of relationships. Practicing Mindfulness retrains your brain. It makes you a better listener and a more supportive friend. On top of that it makes you more generous, trustworthy and better at picking up social cues. So yes, regular mindfulness practice can enhance the quality of your friendships. Next time you are about to meet a friend who is having a hard time, do a brief mindfulness exercise to boost your oxytocin levels. This way, you can be the best possible friend to them.

 More ways to naturally boost your oxytocin levels

  • Hug someone – give your friends a hug when you see them, this instantly increases oxytocin levels.
  • Make eye contact – eye contact helps to connect and brings about a release of oxytocin.
  • Have sex – Sex has been long known to drastically increase oxytocin, make sure you prioritize some bedroom action each week.
  • Breastfeeding – if you are breastfeeding, you get your daily dose of oxytocin just by feeding your baby.
  • Go for a walk – exercise including walking has been linked to oxytocin release, so go for a stroll!
  • Pet a dog – a few minutes of petting a dog (or another pet) gives you that warm, oxytocin feeling.

It’s all about connection

How does brain chemistry affect our relationships and moments of connection? And how can you affect it to become a better partner, parent or friend? We aim to be loving, caring, loyal and stay out of judgement. These high standards are met more easily when we are happy and relaxed. However, when we are stressed and trying […]

walk-feetWould you be interested in a simple and free way to reduce depressive symptoms? One that has no negative side effects and will make you healthier, happier and more energetic? This might sound like another add telling you something that is too good to be true but don’t worry, these findings are based on more than 25 scientific studies done in the past 26 years.

The cure is called moving your body. Your body and brain are build to be active most of the day. It is not surprise that when we replace this with sitting behind a desk most of the day, things in our system go wrong. While a lack of exercise will not be the sole factor behind rising depression rates, research indicates it could very well be a contributing factor and a key element in treating depression.

Research findings

When it comes to reducing depressive symptoms, various studies indicate that exercise works better than antidepressant medication. A study by Dr. Blumenthal showed that ten months of regular, moderate exercise outperformed a leading antidepressant (Zoloft) in easing depressive symptoms in young adults. Another study found that walking for 20 – 30 minutes per day reduced depressive symptoms faster than antidepressant medication. In another study one group of participants was given both antidepressant medication and an exercise program. The results showed that physical exercise was the more effective depression fighter.

Some of these studies have also looked at relapse rates and found very interesting results. One study found that the people who continued to exercise after the study were much less likely to relapse in depression. Only 8% of the people who were in the exercise only group had their depressive symptoms return, while 31% of the exercise-plus-drug group relapsed and 38% of the drug only group had their depressive symptoms return within 6 months. One would think that exercise combined with drugs would increase the rate of recovery and reduce the risk of the depressive symptoms returning but this study indicates that this is not the case. A review study has also found that regular, moderate exercise prevents depressive symptoms.

How does it work?

How does exercise relieve depressive symptoms? One thing we know is that exercise enhances endorphins. Endorphins are brain chemicals that improve immunity and reduce the perception of pain. Endorphin means ‘a morphine-like substance origination from within the body’. You could say that it is a natural narcotic that improves your health and mood. Since endorphins are stimulated during exercise, they directly improve your mood. Studies have also found that exercise increases the growth of new neurons in the brain. In other words: exercise helps the brain to repair itself and function well.

For people suffering from depression just the thought of exercising can be overwhelming and other interventions like therapy and/or medication might be needed. But the option of exercise is an important one that ideally is incorporated in the journey to recovery. The great thing about this ‘medicine’ is that is has lots of other benefits as well. Exercise lowers blood pressure, protects you against heart disease and increases self esteem.

Next time you are feeling a bit down ask yourself the question: ‘did I excercise my body this week?’ If the answer is no or not enough, try to schedule in a walk or a gym session. Something that will make you move your body and release some endorphins in your brain!

Walk Yourself Happy

Would you be interested in a simple and free way to reduce depressive symptoms? One that has no negative side effects and will make you healthier, happier and more energetic? This might sound like another add telling you something that is too good to be true but don’t worry, these findings are based on more […]

From Stress to Relax - Renewyourmind.co.nz

Your brain is your most complex body part and science still does not fully understand how it works. Your perceptions, thoughts and emotions are equally complex. They are constantly changing and interacting and consist of many different layers. Some are part of your conscious mind while others are part of your subconscious mind.

To put it very simply there are 3 states your brain can be in the red brain, orange brain or the green brain. You can see this as a spectrum with red at one end of the spectrum and green at the other end. Where you are on the spectrum depends on the situation and current thoughts.

The red brain: a state of stress

The red brain, or the emergency brain, is designed to help you react effectively in case of a physical threat. This response is also known as the ‘fight or flight response’. When this happens your brain and body are in the best possible state to deal with a threat – hence ensuring the best chance of survival. In this state the hormones cortisol and adrenaline are released, creating the following effects:

Physical effects

  • Tunnel vision
  • Stopped or slowed digestion
  • Increased blood pressure and blood sugar
  • Increased heart rate
  • Suppressed immune system
  • Tensed muscles

Psychological effects

  • Judgmental thinking (black and white)
  • Suppressing emotions
  • Narrow/ fixed point view
  • Unkind manner
  • Stressed
  • Disconnection from others

The red brain can be triggered when there is no actual emergency. Your brain reacts to how safe or unsafe you perceive a situation to be. Your thoughts are the most important factor in determining how your brain assesses a situation. For example: if you fear public speaking and would say to yourself ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘this will be a disaster’ your brain perceives the situation as unsafe and the stress response is activated.

Having the red brain available is essential for you to be able to cope with extreme situations. However, spending too much time in this state of stress does damage to both your brain and your body.  You risk negative physical consequences such as high blood pressure and heart failure and of psychological problems like burn out, anxiety, depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. If you want to live a healthy and balanced live the stress state does not have to be eliminated but should be reserved for emergencies only.

The green brain: a state of calm

At the other end of the stress spectrum we find the green brain. When the green brain is activated the stress hormones cortisol and adrenalin are reduced and the ‘love hormone’ oxytocin is released stimulating the following responses:

Physical effects:

  • Wide vision and flexible attention
  • Optimal digestion
  • Reduced blood pressure and blood sugar
  • Reduced heart rate
  • Active immune system
  • Relaxed muscles

Psychological effects:

  • Non judgmental thinking
  • Processing emotions
  • Seeing the bigger picture
  • Kind
  • Calm
  • Connecting with others

The green brain is the state in which relaxation and focussed and effective action happens. It makes you feel present, connected and helps you enjoy things. In the green zone your brain feels safe, the guards come down and all the resources in your brain become available to you. Creativity and flexibility are unlocked and you can see the bigger picture. It is in this brain state that you can make good decisions and be truly effective and productive. On top of that, the release of oxytocin immediately increases compassion, empathy and the desire to connect with others. This hormone is the fuel for our relationships and essential for wellbeing.

The orange brain

The orange brain is the neutral, middle ground. I call it the ‘Achieving brain’, or the ‘To do list brain’. It is the state you are in when you are working on getting things done and focussing on the jobs ahead. It doesn’t have the downsides of the red brain but also not the benefits of the green brain. And beware, it doesn’t take much to move form the orange part of the spectrum to the red zone!

shutterstock_148116878The power of worries

Worries and judgments are perceived threats because they communicate to your brain that something is not right. Underneath all the rational thinking the brain understands this as ‘something is not safe’ and the red brain is activated.

For example; if you worry about your finances you may have the thought ‘I don’t have enough money’. Your brain sees this thought as a signal for a potential threat and the red brain state is activated. Your thoughts keep coming back to the perceived lack of money (fixed point view) and you loose sight of the bigger picture of your financial situation. You cannot come up with creative solutions or prioritize. On a physical level you might loose your appetite (slowed down digestion), your breathing becomes shallow and your heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar go up. Your brain and body are getting ready for fight or flight even though there is no physical threat to run from. Your worries about money have then activated the stress state, making you much less able to effectively deal with any issues you might have!

The power of Mindfulness

Mindfulness practice activates the green brain through kind and non judgmental thoughts which signal to the brain that the situation is safe. By focusing on the here and now you are taking the focus away from worries about the past or the future that could trigger the red brain. By having a mindful attitude towards what is in the here and now, you are further reducing the stress state and activating your optimal brainstate.

With mindful attention and attitude in place you are activating the green brain more and more. This will not only make you healthier but also happier and more successful.

In red brain you work hard, in green brain you work smart.  ~  Chantal Hofstee

From stressed to relaxed

Your brain is your most complex body part and science still does not fully understand how it works. Your perceptions, thoughts and emotions are equally complex. They are constantly changing and interacting and consist of many different layers. Some are part of your conscious mind while others are part of your subconscious mind. To put [...]
Raising Confident Kids

We want to teach our children how to behave, but it is often our own behaviour that stands in the way.

Imagine that you are feeling upset about something and are explaining this to your partner or a close friend. They respond by saying “you are not upset, you are fine.” Or imagine you are crying out to make an injustice known to your partner or friend and they respond with “stop it now!” Or, imagine you are in a restaurant with 2 close friends, you are crying and they pretend you are not even there. You become more and more desperate to connect with them and you cry louder and louder. They eat their lunch and chat, completely ignoring you. When you finally give up, exhausted, numbed and disillusioned they turn to you and offer you some food and try to make you laugh… How would you feel?

Your answer is probably something along the lines of angry, sad, humiliated, scared or lonely. Do any of these scenarios sound familiar to you? Is this not what we tend to do to our children all the time?

The child brain

We want to teach our children how to behave, but in the process we forget that their feelings need to be processed in order for their brain to be able to listen and learn. A child’s brain (and an adult brain as well) firstly categorises any given situation in one of two categories: safe or unsafe. When we ignore, punish, shutdown or reject the child this signals to their brain that the situation is unsafe and it reacts by activating the fight or flight response. In this state their brain is only able to make unhealthy, fear based connections and listening and learning becomes impossible.

A child’s feelings need to be processed in order for their brain to be able to listen and learn.

A child’s brain is less able to self regulate emotions and it needs another person to help do this. When this is not available, there are two possible outcomes and which one they choose depends heavily on the temperament of the child. The first option is that your child will learn to suppress negative feelings in order not to lose your acceptance and care. In other words, the child learns that in order to be “okay” he or she needs to suppress the negative emotion and suppression becomes their way of coping. However, the emotion does not disappear when it is suppressed. It is stored in the subconscious mind and filters through in unbalanced ways. For example, suppressed negative emotions can lead to anxiety, low self esteem, low mood, concentration issues, problems with eating, sleeping or learning and even illness.

The second option is that the child becomes stuck in the negative emotion. This leads to emotional outbursts and in the case of anger it could lead to taking the anger out on other children or things. Which leads to more disapproval and punishment often leaving the child feeling bad and guilty.

But children need boundaries don’t they? Yes absolutely, after the emotion is properly processed the child’s brain is ready to learn and this is the perfect time to teach boundaries and explain what is expected of the child. After the emotion is processed the child will actually be able to listen and integrate the information in a positive way.

How can you help your child process emotions?

Luckily there is a simple and quick way to help your child process his or her emotions. This technique is called Mirror – Link – Pause and it is based on knowledge of how our brains a wired. This technique works on both adults and children of all ages. You adjust the language you use to that of the person in front of you. The closer you match the expressions of the person in front of you the stronger the effect of the technique.

We automatically use this technique when we respond to positive emotions and we can follow the same steps when processing negative emotions.

1. Mirror

Make eye contact and mirror the emotion.

You match the energy level of the child and his or her facial expressions and you acknowledge the emotion. By doing this you are connecting with the child and acknowledging and validating the emotion. This sends the message to the brain that it is safe and support is available.

2. Link

Link the emotion to the event that caused it.

You link the emotion to the trigger by pointing out the connection. This leads to the child feeling even more acknowledged, understood and validated and that takes away the need to make you understand. This confirms to the brain that it is safe and support is available.

3. Pause

Hold back for a moment and see how the child’s brain calms down. There will be a shift in posture, facial expression and tone of voice. This indicates that the emotion is processed and the child’s brain is ready to listen.

For Example

Let’s say a child is angry about having to eat dinner.

  1. Make eye contact, mirror the child’s facial expression and say “I can see you are very angry.”
  2. “You are angry because you have to eat dinner and you don’t want to.”

Sometimes the steps need to be repeated a few times, ideally you do this until you see the shift in posture and facial expression which indicates the emotion is processed. The child will feel heard, understood and acknowledged. This communicates to the child’s brain that the situation is safe and it can calm down. When you see this change you know he or she is ready to hear your message, what this message is depends completely on you and it can be many things for example explaining, setting boundaries or putting consequences in place.

In order to raise confident kids who can process emotions in a healthy way, they need to be able to feel safe in the midst of their emotions. They will feel safe if they can stay connected with you when they are upset. When you mirror and link the emotion without shutting the emotion down or punishing the child for the emotion, their brain learns to process emotions in a healthy way and this builds both skills and confidence that will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

This clip by dr. Harvey Knarp illustrates how this technique can be used with toddlers.

Raising Confident Kids

We want to teach our children how to behave, but it is often our own behaviour that stands in the way. Imagine that you are feeling upset about something and are explaining this to your partner or a close friend. They respond by saying "you are not upset, you are fine." Or imagine you are [...]

Renew Your Mind - Be more confident

About 75% of our communication is non verbal – our posture, facial expression and the tone of our voice. Our brains are wired to initially focus on peoples ‘non verbals’ and that is what we base most of our judgements on. This is an automatic process that saves the brain time and energy and makes it work efficiently, rather than thoroughly.

How your body affects your brain

How other people feel about us depends heavily on our non verbal communication but how we feel about ourselves is also affected by our non verbal communication. Our posture, facial expression and tone of voice directly influence how we think, feel and behave. This is called bottom up processing or body to brain processing. The brain and the body are connected and are constantly communicating. What you think and how you feel influences your non verbals but the opposite is also true. Your non verbals influence what you think and feel.

For example, when you think back to happy moments your body becomes more relaxed, your eyes light up and you tend to smile. This is your brain influencing your body. When you make a conscious effort to smile and relax your body, your brain will be more likely to think positive thoughts and have positive feelings. However when you frown and tense your shoulders negative memories, thoughts and feelings will come up. This is how your body influences your brain.

Research

Research by Psychologist Amy Cuddy shows that confident people have high levels of testosterone which is associated with dominance. They have low levels of cortisol which is associated with stress.  This combination of high testorerone levels and low cortisol levels is often found in successful people and leaders.

Research shows that just two minutes in either a power pose or a submissive pose changes they way you think, feel and behave. You can affect the testosterone and cortisol levels in you brain by changing your posture and facial expressions and it takes only 2 minutes to achieve a significant change.

shutterstock_109380011

The power pose that I recommend is putting your arms up in the air, lifting your chin and smiling. The stronger you make the pose the stronger the effect on your testosterone and cortisol levels. You can imagine yourself running over a finish line and saying “Yes I did it!”. After two minutes of doing this your testosterone will have gone up and your cortisol  will have dropped making you feel more confident.

Doing a power pose configures your brain to cope with the situation ad hand in the best possible way. It prevents your brain from shutting down because of stress, nervousness or insecurities and it allows you to be more in control.

This TED talk by psychologist Amy Cuddy offers more information about the mentioned research and techniques.

TED talk by Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are

Be more confident in 2 minutes

About 75% of our communication is non verbal – our posture, facial expression and the tone of our voice. Our brains are wired to initially focus on peoples ‘non verbals’ and that is what we base most of our judgements on. This is an automatic process that saves the brain time and energy and makes it work […]

shutterstock_84461722Do you know the feeling of getting lost in doing something you love? This feeling is associated with being fully immersed in something, with energised focus and full involvement. It leads to joy, fulfilment and spectacular progress in the task you are performing.

In the 1950′s psychologist Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi became fascinated by artists who would get lost in their work. Often artists, especially painters, got so immersed in their work that they would disregard their need for food, water and even sleep. This led Mihaly and his fellow researchers to researching this state of mind, which became know as the state of Flow. For creative people it is crucial to know how to tap into the state of Flow because it is in this state that your creativity reaches its full potential.

What is Flow?

Flow is a mental state that leads to being fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of an activity. There are a few things that are needed to reach this mental state. One of them is a good balance between the activity itself and your skills. As Csíkszentmihályi put it: “Flow happens when a person’s skills are fully involved in overcoming a challenge that is just about manageable. If challenges are too low, one gets back to flow by increasing them. If challenges are too great, one can return to the flow state by learning new skills.” In other words the task cannot be too easy and it should not be too difficult either. The ideal balance for achieving flow is when the task is just about manageable. Now why is this?

Focus

Another main element of the state of Flow is focus. When a task is too easy you quickly loose focus and the same thing happens when a task is too difficult. But there is more to this. Having a strong focus requires you to be fully presentwith what you are doing without being distracted by external or internal factors. The stronger the concentration you bring to a task, the more likely you are to drop into a state of flow. Your ability to focus and to stay focused is an inner strength that you can develop. An excellent way to do this is by practicing Mindfulness. Practicing Mindfulness retrains your brain to pay attention and focus on whatever it is you are doing in the present moment. Just like you can train and strengthen your muscles, you can train and strengthen your brain’s ability to focus.

Tapping into creative Flow

We know from research that it is not the external distractions that pose the biggest threat to achieving a state of Flow; it is your thoughts. Every stressful thought creates a barrier in achieving the state of Flow. Therefore if you want to train your brain to tap into the state of Flow it is important to recognize your stressful thoughts and to start changing them. By doing this you are bringing your brain from a stressed state into a relaxed, but focused state and from there creativity can begin to flow. To train you brain to enter into the state of Flow I recommend regular Mindfulness practice to increase your ability to focus and mind exercises that change your stressful thoughts into helpful thoughts to get ride of internal blockages. This combination will drastically increase your ability to enter into a state of creative flow. Let the creativity begin!

Creative Flow

Do you know the feeling of getting lost in doing something you love? This feeling is associated with being fully immersed in something, with energised focus and full involvement. It leads to joy, fulfilment and spectacular progress in the task you are performing. In the 1950′s psychologist Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi became fascinated by artists who would […]

Mindfulness at Work

Why would businesses like Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, Google and Apple be interested in Mindfulness? The answer is simple.

Happiness is the new productivity

The simple truth is that happy people do better jobs. Research has shown that the introduction of Mindfulness practices to the work place increases employee happiness and it improves the business culture, the dynamics and internal and external relationships leading to higher job satisfaction. But there is more, Mindfulness at work does not only make employees happier, it also makes them more creative, innovative, flexible, efficient and productive. All of these are essential factors when it comes to optimising work performance and achieving great outcomes.

Through increasing employee satisfaction and performance, practicing Mindfulness increases income but there is more. Practicing Mindfulness has been proven to reduce stress, burn out and turnover of employees, which are huge costs for businesses and organisations.

Mindfulness at work has two main benefits:

  1. It increases employee satisfaction and performance thus increasing income
  2. It reduces stress, sick days, burn out and turnover thus reducing costs

Mindfulness at Work

Why would businesses like Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank, Google and Apple be interested in Mindfulness? The answer is simple. Happiness is the new productivity The simple truth is that happy people do better jobs. Research has shown that the introduction of Mindfulness practices to the work place increases employee happiness and it improves the business [...]

Mind-gut connection

Since healthy eating costs us time, energy and money, we often compromise on it. No big deal right? Well, it’s a bit more complicated. New research on the mind–gut connection tells us that bacteria in the gut can change brain functioning and behaviour, influencing issues of the mind, including depression, anxiety and autism symptoms.

The mind – gut connection

You may not be aware that you actually have two nervous systems: The central nervous system, composed of your brain and spinal cord and the enteric nervous system, which is the intrinsic nervous system of your gastrointestinal tract. These systems are connected by the Vagus nerve, a cranial nerve that runs from your brainstem to your stomach. Your enteric nervous system can work both independently of and in conjunction with the brain.

New research by UCLA confirms that the mind-gut connection is a two-way street. Your brain sends signals to your stomach, which is why stress and emotions can contribute to stomach problems and discomfort. Your stomach and intestines send signals to your brain and influence your thinking, feeling and behaviour. The Vagus nerve is the main route through which nerve signals are transmitted from the gut to your brain. ”A lot of the information that the gut sends to the brain affects well-being, however, most of it and doesn’t even come to consciousness,” says Michael Gershon at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, New York.

Research shows that bacteria in the gut can change brain functioning and behaviour and changing gut flora positively influences depression, anxiety and autism symptoms (amongst other things). This discovery has big implications for the field of healthcare and wellbeing. It means that creating a healthy gut flora should be considered as part of treating disorders of the mind.

What you can do

Unfortunately, the professionals are slow in catching up and scientists still are not sure exactly which microbial species are connected to mental functioning or what the right balance is. What we do know is that there are no negative side effects associated with this type of treatment and the risk of becoming hooked on this ‘medication’ is for once a good thing.

For more information on how you can add healthy bacteria to your diet view this link:

11 Probiotic foods we recommend

You Are What You Eat – The Mind–Gut Connection

Since healthy eating costs us time, energy and money, we often compromise on it. No big deal right? Well, it’s a bit more complicated. New research on the mind–gut connection tells us that bacteria in the gut can change brain functioning and behaviour, influencing issues of the mind, including depression, anxiety and autism symptoms. The […]

After you have typed in some text, hit ENTER to start searching...