Artwork: Ida Waugh (d. 1919)
Haven’t you ever wished you could go back in time and tell your younger self what you know now? The following exercise lets you do the next best thing.
Neuroscience studies show that each time we review the past, we rework the memory so it is reconsolidated differently, and the brain stores it as a slightly changed memory. When you decharge a negative memory, you dissolve the trauma and are able to see the experience from a larger perspective. You can be aware that you survived even though there was loss and there is a reason to go forward. Free from the grasp that the trauma holds, often you can become aware of external and internal resources of which you might have been unaware.
When you review positive memories, you can use those resourceful states accompanying them in the present for problem resolution. Each memory also serves as a blueprint for future actions. So occasionally reviewing the past helps us construct the future we want to walk into. When the memory is pleasant and focused on past successes, the experiences create a good internal resource upon which to build your best future.
Try It Now
Relax your body and mind. Think about your most successful self five years in the future. Consider where you are living and how you are dressed. Mind Wander to this place in the future and have a conversation with your future wiser self. Listen to what advice your future self might give you.
Now let’s look at how contagious other people’s worries are.
Can You Pick Up Other People’s Worry?
Whenever you feel empathy, you in fact are imagining another person’s emotional state. You are, metaphorically, in another person’s mind, and it is possible to feel their worry. In fact, your brain is picking up their brainwaves. Do you ever cry at movies? It’s an example of visiting that character’s mind.
Emotions can be contagious. When you are around someone who worries a lot, it is easy to get caught up in their worry, limited thinking, and begin to believe that there are no solutions to their problems or even your own. You can protect yourself from getting caught up in their emotional turmoil by noticing your own thinking and assumptions. But you can engage in intentional Group Mind Wandering when everyone is on the same page.
Group Zone Out
Positive zoning out is a great thing to do. Do it in a group, and it can be even greater. This activity is different from brainstorming in that the entire group goes into a trance state for 10 to 20 minutes before offering any new ideas. Most people find that Mind Wandering together stimulates more creative ideas more frequently than if you are alone. As long as your motivation is to work together, this group mind emerges with a work team, a family, a couple, or even a singing organization.
A group of paper clips that are close to a magnet will jump a gap and connect to the magnet through the magnetic field produced between them. In a similar fashion, a group of human minds interacts to create new associations that might not otherwise occur.
Through asking positive questions about what is possible for the future and how best to get there, no person in the group falls into worry. The shared positive mental state allows group members to blend as if they were a flock of birds flying in formation, silently communicating and moving together to get to their intended destination.
Moments After Mind Wandering
We often feel clear, calm, and connected after a round of positive Mind Wandering because it clears us for a while of our habitual attention style, mental models, and old patterns, and allows us to see things from a more expanded view that perceives our infinite potential and our connection to the rest of the world. When you move out of conditioned thinking and into the realm of possibility, it’s harder to return to a state of worry.
In this almost sacred and brief time right after Mind Wandering, ask yourself, “What do I want? What matters to me? What lights up my life?”
Rather than focusing as usual on what others want or expect from you, focus on your deep yearnings. Is there something you really want to do? Try to hold yourself in a place of openness for a while and don’t allow your mind to start telling you why you can’t do things.
If you have difficulty doing this, sit in front of a tree for 20 minutes and allow your mind to wander around the details of the tree. Notice the amazing symmetry of the leaves and the patterns of the veins in the leaves. Observe the wind blowing through the tree and the pleasant sound the tree makes in response. You’ll find yourself in a relaxed state. Then ask the previous questions and see what answers you find.
Decision by Mind Wandering
Even though it seems contradictory, decisions made by Mind Wandering are often just as effective as those made through deliberate consideration. Colleen Giblin of the Tepper School of Business, Carey Morewedge and Michael Norton of Carnegie Mellon University conducted experiments in which participants judged the value of a randomly chosen art poster through conscious deliberation, Mind Wandering, or random assignment.
The researchers predicted that participants would like the art poster they deliberately chose the most and the one their minds settled on from Mind Wandering the least. The researchers discovered, however, that the opposite was true. The results mean that our unconscious mind is so smart, it can make a decision better if you allow the mind to move into Alpha relaxation rather than struggling consciously.
Yawning Regulates Your Attention
One more wonderful activity that can enhance Mind Wandering is yawning. Most of the time we try to stifle our yawns (go ahead and try it now). Yet yawning dissolves worry, turns down cortisol, and activates a neural pathway to empathy. When you yawn, your frontal lobe quiets, which lets your mind wander and calm down, decreasing your feelings of worry. So go ahead—yawn, relax, and yawn again.
Power Thought: When you put worry on hold and let your mind wander, you can solve any problem, break persistent habits, develop your intuition, and devise better plans for the future.
You are becoming aware of how important it is to Mind Wander strategically to restore your energy and reset your mind. Turn to daydreams to help you rest, receive creative ideas, and enhance your intuition.
©2017 by Carol Kershaw, EdD and J. William Wade, PhD.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, The Career Press.
1-800-CAREER-1 or (201) 848-0310. www.careerpress.com.
The Worry-Free Mind: Train Your Brain, Calm the Stress Spin Cycle, and Discover a Happier, More Productive You
by Carol Kershaw, EdD and Bill Wade, PhD.
About the Authors
Carol Kershaw, EdD, is a clinical psychologist and international trainer in clinical hypnosis and brain-based psychological transformation. She is board certified in neurofeedback and holds the status of fellow. Dr. Kershaw is the author of The Couple’s Hypnotic Dance and coauthor of Brain Change Therapy: Clinical Interventions for Self-Transformation, as well as many professional articles.
Bill Wade, PhD, is licensed in Texas as both a professional counselor and marriage and family therapist, and has maintained a therapy practice for more than 30 years. He has presented workshops throughout the United States and abroad in clinical hypnosis, brain-based transformation, and meditation. Dr. Wade is coauthor of Brain Change Therapy, and the husband of Dr. Carol Kershaw. Visit their website at http://drscarolandbill.com/