Have you ever driven your car to work in the morning? Suddenly, you are parked at your office, and don’t remember the drive?
The entire time you were thinking about what to make for dinner or planning that big meeting.
Of course this has happened to you. It happens to everyone.
This is because our brain naturally wants to create a pattern or habit. The human brain is the best pattern recognizing tool, thanks to years of evolution. Did you know that you can brain hack your way to success?
Start to Brain Hack While You Sleep
If you don’t understand REM sleep and why it’s important, let me break it down for you. According to a BBC study:
“One of the main things the brain is doing is moving memories from short-term storage into long-term storage, allowing us more short-term memory space for the next day. If you don’t get adequate deep sleep then these memories will be lost.
During REM sleep an extraordinary thing happens. One of the stress-related chemicals in the brain, (Noradrenalin), is switched off. It’s the only time, day or night, this happens. It allows us to remain calm while our brains reprocess all the experiences of the day, helping us come to terms with particularly emotional events.”
OK, this is a no-brainer. The question is how do we get better sleep?
Vishen Lakhiani CEO of Mindvalley studied Buddhist monks’ brain waves while meditating. He mapped their brain wave signals. Using the data and with the help of sound engineers, he created songs that naturally bring you into the alpha level of brain activity.
Alpha brain waves are important to relaxation, creativity, and creating peak performance.
Mindvalley created a product called Omharmonics. It has multiple tracks titled: awakening, spark, balance, and deep rest. These sounds trigger different areas of your brain to create the corresponding emotional state. In essence, listening to these sounds makes you a “master of meditation.”
I thought this was a cool idea, but I wasn’t sure if this was something that would really work. I tested to see if it worked using the Sleep Cycle App to monitor my REM sleep over the course of six weeks. For the first three weeks, I went to bed normally. I could see my normal sleep cycle.
Naturally, I am a deep sleeper but I noticed I consistently didn’t hit REM. During the second three weeks I listened to the “deep rest” soundtrack on repeat throughout the night.
The result: I had an increase in REM sleep by more than an hour per night.
According to WebMD, the first REM cycle lasts only 10 minutes. Each subsequent cycle increases in duration up to an hour long. A quick, 15-minute REM cycle can drastically increase your sleep quality. When I slept without the music, I would naturally come out of a sleep cycle and wake up, roll over, and fall back asleep. With the music I wouldn’t wake up. I would hear the music and fall straight back into a deep REM sleep.
Sleep Cycle App tracks your sleep patterns at night. You place your phone under your pillow (on airplane mode is best) with the app running. The app monitors your sleep pattern and quality throughout the night based on how much you move when you sleep.
Simply put, when you’re not moving at all, you are in REM sleep. It displays the night’s sleep in an easy to understand graph in the morning.
Put Yourself in a State of Success
Tony Robbins is a life-coach, self-help author, and public speaker. He says that conventional wisdom would suggest our physiological state is reflected by our mood. For example, if someone is sad and depressed they will have hunched shoulders, breathe shallow, and hang their head looking down. Their physiology is directly reflecting their physcology state.
But this is incomplete, our body language creates an internal feedback loop, or a system of cause and effect.
Try this exercise. Start by putting yourself in a negative state. Sit down, hunch your shoulders, breath shallow, think negative. You will feel yourself become in a negative, sad, depressed state.
Now, stand up and stretch your arms as high as you can into the air. Take several really deep breaths – fill your lungs, hold the air in for 10 seconds, and exhale. Repeat this a few times. Bounce around and pretend you’re a prize fighter. Be light on your feet, ready for anything.
Imagine music in the background (maybe the theme from “Rocky”). Throw your shoulders back and stare straight ahead like you’re ready to take on the world.
While you’re doing this physical activity, try to think about the same bad things you thought about in the earlier exercise. Don’t change your state. Keep breathing deeply, keep bouncing around, hold your shoulders back like you’re ready for anything and hear the music. If you’re talking to yourself (internally), change the volume and tempo of your words so that they’re louder and faster.
You physically can not enter a negative state (of mind or body) when you put yourself in these power positions. Every day wake up and put yourself in a state of success. Throw your shoulder back, take deep breaths, stare straight ahead, and bounce on your toes like a boxer.
To show you how powerful this is I wanted to share with you an experience I just had. This has forever concreted the power of physiology for me.
As I write this article sitting here in Starbucks, a man came up to the table. Let’s call him Tom. From the initial look, I could see that something was not completely right in Tom’s head.
Tom asked for help. He needed to make a call, but more importantly I could tell he needed someone to talk to. This man was in a negative state. His head was hung low, and he was repeating phrases like: “I am so sad,” and “Things are not good,” etc. I asked him if he needed a hug, and Tom said that he hadn’t been hugged in a long time.
I gave him a big bear hug and Tom melted. He sat down and opened up. Tom started telling me the story of his life. He repeated phrases over and over again like “I think I am a good guy,” while looking totally defeated. I said to him, “No, you’re not a good guy,” in an aggressive tone to shock him so he would pay attention.
Then I said very loudly “You are awesome!” I shook his hand, and had him repeat over and over again that he is awesome. I continued shaking his hand keeping physical contact. Tom repeated positive affirmations, breathed deep to speak louder, and was physically shaking his body through the handshake. I watched as his physiological state changed. Tom pushed his shoulders back, sat taller, smiled bigger, and took deeper breaths.
He was feeling awesome. Tom’s internal feedback loop was moving him into a state of success.
Together, we changed the physical state to receive the mental results. The same is true for the opposite. I was looking for a way to change his mental state to engage physical results. Tom felt awesome, but he stated that he didn’t feel worthy of the attention he received. He was clearly in his head and wasn’t being present.
I had to do something extreme to pull him into the present moment. I explained to him that every cell in his body came from an exploding star in outer space. That if he has a heart that beats, lungs that breathe air, and puts his pants on one leg at a time, he is worthy of being awesome. As all human being are.
His mental body became engaged with his physical body. Tom left saying this was the best day of his life. I write this story not for any kudos or congratulations, but as a way to show contextually how quickly the shift can be made. And maybe as a wake up call that we all need a little help at times.
Every day, place yourself and those around you in a state of success.
Create Focus While You Work
We have hundreds of distractions when we’re working. Focusing is a challenge with people calling, emailing, social media and meetings. The solution? Get focused. Research shows that for a brain to get back on original track after a distraction takes an average of 25 minutes.
Here is a hack to create massive results. It is called a “Focus Day.” First what you do is turn off every distraction. Turn your phone off, wifi off, shut your office door and put a do not disturb sign on. Whatever it takes. Designate a span of 50 minutes to do whatever task needs to be completed. For me, this is writing blog articles, but it can be anything you need to do.
After the 50 minutes is up – stop. Your brain is a muscle and can only effectively work out for short bursts. Go for a walk in the park, read a book, do something for about 10-30 minutes to relax your brain. Then do another 50 minute burst. After your two 50 minute bursts, you are done for the day.
You might think this is insane, but if you do 2 focus days a week, you will complete more work in 4 hours than most people do in 40 hours. For the past 2 weeks I have used this technique (and one more that I will talk about shortly) to write 1000-1500 word articles consistently. I can write them on demand without suffering from creative block or fatigue.
I have also used this technique to drive 30-70 new visitors a day via one-on-one conversations.
Be Creative on Demand
Previously we talked about creating a state of success. But what if you need to create a different state, say one of being creative? Here is a trick by Scott Belsky creator of Behance, a social media for creatives.
Our brains are constantly trying to make patterns and habits. If every time you want to be creative you create the same environment, your brain will fall into that pattern naturally.
Let me give you an example. Every time I need to work and be focused I do the following three things. I listen to the same music, in the same order. (Girl Talk: Feed the Animals soundtrack) I get a venti dark roast with soy milk and two pumps of vanilla. I sit down at my computer and do a focus day.
I am setting up triggers for my brain to produce a certain state. It can be a beverage, food, smell, or sounds. It doesn’t matter. When you do this enough times your brain will anticipate a creative state and push you into it. Much like smelling dinner will make you hungry.
The point is to create a pattern for your brain to know it is time to be creative. By the second song, I am in full work mode and by the end of the album about 50 minutes I am done. My body comes out of the work state and I can’t write anymore.
This might sound like I drive myself crazy listening to the same music, but it becomes background noise and blocks out all the distractions of other people’s conversations. This is called Neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity is the changes in neural pathways and synapses due to changes in behavior, environment, neural processes, thinking, emotions, and changes resulting from bodily injury.
That is all we are doing to hack our way to success by changing our environment, behavior, thinking, and emotions.
What hacks do you use?