Posts Tagged "habits"

3 Strategies to Reclaim Your Senses

Posted on Sep 6, 2015 | 0 comments

3 Strategies to Reclaim Your Senses

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper” W.B. Yeats In my last post I discussed the effects on our nervous system and resulting impacts on daily functioning from living in world that surrounds us with stimuli that is more intense and comes at us faster than ever before. We need to give ourselves breaks from the bombardment to reduce stress and take off the glove of dulled senses. We can also mitigate some effects of this hyperstimulation. Through refinement of our senses we are capable of picking up on things we never dreamed of. When we relax and choose where to place our attention, expansion of awareness occurs. Our senses can reach out to meet our environment, our loved ones, the universe, etc. If you take the time to notice the breadth and depth of your awareness when stressed and overwhelmed, you will probably notice a contraction into a very narrow sphere of awareness. The good news is that the solution is quite simple. The bad news is that we are complex creatures living complicated lives. Implementation of the solution can be quite difficult. There does need to be attention paid to our habits, how we chose to spend our time and construct our lives. I propose a 3-pronged approach. 1. Daily practice What you do daily really builds the foundation of who you are. Build in regular, dedicated time for meditation, yoga or creative pursuits. I say this, but as a lady with a mission and a tendency towards action I do fully appreciate the reality of trying to find time in the daily schedule. I’m not there yet. It is not that I don’t meditate, but I do think that doing it consistently would be transformational. During my month-long solo retreat last year I sensed that if I could improve my focus and placement I could have gone so much deeper (and it’s not that wonderful things did not happen as it was). This is my main challenge over the coming year. It is also one I’m planning to tackle and reflect upon in my PhD; part of my cunning plan to ensure that I have no wriggle room not to make this change. But! I do still have a daily practice of micro-moments of connection and mindfulness as I go about my day to day activities. For instance, as I ride my bike to work I make sure that I pay attention to the nature that I pass and hold that attention long enough to feel the connection, get a visceral response, not just think about it. I am mindful of negative thoughts, refusing to be a victim of my own mind. I watch the transition between work and home and make sure I do something calming or not head-based immediately upon getting home such as watering the garden or having a conversation with my chickens (play is a great practice). 2. “Choice architecture” To support the above, we can change our environment and routines to make it easier for us to select those choices towards slowing down, relaxation and refinement of the senses. We only have a limited pool of mental effort, which includes willpower, to draw upon. Review your environment to identify sources of stimuli which fracture your attention and consider what beneficial actions you could routinise to avoid to dilemmas of choice. A simple environmental modification is to turn off your email alerts with those annoying pop up boxes, to minimise unnecessary interruptions when trying to focus. Your work colleagues may need to adjust to...

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Foundations of Focus

Posted on Feb 25, 2015 | 0 comments

Foundations of Focus

The ability to focus is absolutely crucial to being able to live Slow. For the last month, myself and a small group lightly held the intent to inquire into the nature and mechanisms of focus. Here is what I discovered to be foundational to my ability to focus: 1. Health Crystal clear thinking benefits greatly from the energy flowing through a healthy body, along with escaping the distractions of physical complaints. As we know, physical and mental health go hand in hand and it works both ways. I chose this month as a focus month because of the many challenges life is passing my way at the moment. In the ‘less centred’ moments that come along at such times, my old neck injury flares up, leaving me stiff, in pain and fuzzy-headed. Ah yes, there’s the reminder to dedicate some of your focus to self care and compassion! I did a 1-day juice fast to give me body space to reset and it did wonders. 2. Routine Routines work wonders for focus because you are not wasting any of your attentional effort on the little things. It works for me to consider appropriate rest cycles; work in rounds of 50 minutes on, 10 minutes rest and have one day a week which is more rest than work. It also helps at the end of each day to think about the 3 most important things to do the next day to help set boundaries by eliminating choice. Take a brief moment to plan how to go about your day ahead before launching into the work. BUT be prepared to give all the above up and just do. I noticed myself spending so much attention on wondering if I had my schedule right, caught in expectations I had set for myself, that it was better just to release that expectations and just start. 3. Ritual Begin the day with a small ritual to centre on your intent. Meditation plus visualisation is great, although I found a shortcut of simply verbalising my intent was better than nothing! In the evening reflecting on what you are grateful for is an alchemical powerhouse, helping to melt the internal contractions that would only serve as distractions. A little prayer before bed is a nice implant into the subconscious also. 4. Fun Connect with what excites you about your work. Amazing how distractions disappear when you play! 5. Fear  Reflect on what you are avoiding by choosing not to focus. That fuzzy abyss between where you think you want to be and where you are is probably due to things you are avoiding. 6. Environment Consider how you can set up your surroundings to aid focus. Decluttering, having a dedicated work space (in my case as opposed to the kitchen table next to the refrigerator), visual prompts to remind you of your 3 most important ‘to-do’ tasks and turning off email and social media notifications is a good start. Also consider not checking email except at certain times of the day. My rule was no email or Facebook until after midday, leaving more space for my most important work at the most productive time of day. 7. Training There is simply no avoiding the fact that if you want your mind to focus better, you MUST train it. Modern life is so full of distracting stimuli that clamber against each other for your precious and limited attention. If we allow the mind to switch-task or engage in continual-partial-attention constantly, it wires itself for distraction. Conversely if we train it through meditation, our attention becomes a tool...

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The Slow way to make your routine work for you not against you

Posted on Feb 1, 2014 | 0 comments

The Slow way to make your routine work for you not against you

This is something I never thought a non-conformist fond of change and exercising creativity like me would admit – routine is important. More so if no one else (such as an employer) is providing the structure for you. I had overlooked just what effect waking up every morning and being able to what I wanted, when I wanted, would have. I guess I had assumed that I would get to work 9-5 just like before but in a different location. Boy was I wrong. What are the implications of a lack of routine? The main issue is that using your limited pool of conscious effort to make decisions about things other than your important tasks means that you are significantly less effective than if you devoted the majority of your Slow Thinking daily quota to your daily priorities. As discussed here, your Slow Thinking system appears to draw from the same limited pool of available effort as willpower. Looking at routine as a subject for the project was not what I thought I would be focussing on in the early days. But following the realisation about effectiveness and its relationship with routine I had to quickly redress the balance of structure in my day before I flittered away too much time (and yes this does sound like someone for whom Slow does not come naturally. The purposeful part of Slow does for me, but not the patience part). Having a consciously chosen routine means your mind is freed up to focus on what is important. Being on autopilot is not Slow, but deliberately choosing what to allow routines to take care of in order to stay purposeful, is. Much like my journey with living with intention, this is all a work in progress but thought I would share some lessons as I go: Things like eating well and exercising are important, especially for someone like me who values health extremely highly. But I also go overboard with focusing on this and spend too much effort making decision about what and when I eat and exercise. Don’t let one of your values have too much sway over your routine – it will crowd out other values you hold, in this case my value of ‘contributing with purpose.’ Think about what time of day works best for you to complete certain activities, create and stick to a schedule so you no longer need to think about what you do when. For example what works for me is doing some form of centring and contemplative practice when I get out of bed,  exercise, then going into the most important task I have to complete that day that involves mental effort. Similarly, use natural rhythms and cycles to find the right routine, not just any routine. Getting myself to bed earlier is the main habit I’m working on because our melatonin/seratonin cycle guides our sleep and waking patterns. Seratonin is highest just before sunrise and melatonin at sunset; being in sync with the earth’s circadian rhythms has many benefits (sleeping better, reducing sugar cravings, increasing optimism and pro-activeness to name a few). Having a routine in terms of how you structure your day helps you keep in mind what your intent is for each part of the day. Use this, don’t multitask, limit distractions. Goals versus systems – using systems (routines) to achieve progress to desired outcomes is much more empowering and enables you to focus on the small steps which lead to success. For more on this topic here is a great blog post by James Clear Do you have any tips for...

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Having intention vs living with intention

Posted on Jan 20, 2014 | 0 comments

Having intention vs living with intention

Leading up to the New Year, I had planned to write a substantial blog post on intention setting. As the time drew nearer however I became increasingly anxious about that. Not because I couldn’t write about the theory and practice of intention setting, but because I still feel there is a decent gap between I intend to be and where I am. I felt like I would be being disingenuous writing about intention setting from this state. But then I remembered that the point of this phase of the project is to use my story of transformation to help others, not from the point of view of ‘expert’! I also realised what a difference there is between having intention and living with intention.  I already had a strong intention when I had the idea for the Slow Project. As I mentioned in this post, I was actively searching for a way I could contribute using my strengths, experience and interest. I had already done a lot of reflecting and sketching out of rough ideas. With the intent so clear it seemed completely natural when the inspiration and idea for the Slow Project occurred. What came next was me learning about how I had to transform myself in order to deliver on this intent. After a while, when I thought I had done quite a lot of learning about the importance of routine and removing the need to decide on things that don’t matter, I was waiting for my behaviour to all fall into place. And I waited some more. And then I got frustrated at myself. This frustration was the gap between my intent and how I was living day to day. So finally (yes I was impatient, but as I mentioned I need this Slow transition myself!), I began to implement small steps to help bridge that gap, instead of expecting it to happen all at once. Let me share with you the top 3 things that have helped me keep my intention closer (still integrating and adjusting with these practices) to me as I move throughout my day: 1. Begin each morning consciously  This means spending a few moments centring yourself and refreshing your intent. Quite a few practices can help here, I have mostly experimented with yoga, breathing exercises and visualisation to reconnect with my long term sense of purpose and intent for the coming day. 2. Decide what are the three or four most important things to achieve each week I have untold numbers of lists of ‘important’ things to do. By focussing on what the most important few things this week are it has helped me recognise everything else as a distraction. I use this weekly list in my morning visualisation. Next I will write it down a piece of paper and carry it around with me since I tend to do work in various locations. 3. Practice just in time information, not just in case information This was, and continues to be, a big one for me. I love getting creative and generating option after option. So I’m drawn to doing a lot of reading and exploring about the topic. If this searching is not focussed however, your brain ends up swimming. Much more effective is to recognise when you are ready to stop intaking and start creating and limit your information intake to only that which is immediately relevant. Aside from being more effective when utilising these practices, there have been surprising benefits: synchronicity – those ‘wow that couldn’t be just chance’ moments have increased increased ability to turn down distractions and...

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3 phases of Slow habit-hacking

Posted on Dec 19, 2013 | 0 comments

3 phases of Slow habit-hacking

Habits are repeated patterns of behaviour that we have become sufficiently familiar with that we pass the job of initiating that behaviour over to the subconscious. Before a habit is undertaken there is a trigger that tells your subconscious to run the habitual behaviour and the habit in turn has a consequence of providing you with a reward, for example avoidance of boredom or stress. We’ll cover a few topics here: Slow Thinking and Fast Thinking systems (just the basics) & how habits fit Why the Slow Project is interested in habits What Slow would recommend for habit hacking Slow Thinking, Fast Thinking & Habits In his book, Thinking Fast and Slow, eminent psychologist Daniel Kahneman describes two systems of thinking: System 1: Fast Thinking – intuitive, subconscious, operates quickly and automatically with little or no effort or sense of voluntary control System 2: Slow Thinking – conscious, rational, requires effort and attention Although Kahneman does not tackle habits directly in this book, the two system framework of understanding our decision making hardware is relevant to habits especially when looking at them through a Slow lens. A few keys points to note are that: We like to think that most of our thinking happens in System 2. This is false. System 1 does the heavy lifting (we are not ‘homo rationalis’). Even when we do use Slow Thinking, the impressions and feelings that are the main sources of explicit beliefs and choices of System 2 originate in System 1. System 2 takes a huge amount of effort to utilise. Think how hard it is to maintain a continuous train of thought. If we can get away with it, we pass on as much work to System 1 as possible. “Thinking is the hardest work there is, that is why so few people engage in it.” Habits are part of our Fast Thinking system. Studies show that self control and deliberate thought draw from the some pool of available effort. Ever noticed that your ability to forego your vices is significantly less after a busy day? “The operations of System 1 are governed by habit so they’re difficult to either modify or control.” You can read a lengthier article by Kahneman on the two systems here. Habits serve an important function because we only have a certain reserve of cognitive energy to use on conscious, deliberate thought. We are wired for habits for the sake of economy of thought, otherwise we would waste time and energy worrying about things that do not matter very much. This makes sense; I’ve got better things to use my limited System 2 thought budget on than re-thinking how and when to brush my teeth. Our brain is interested in paying attention to novelty. Once we have become familiar with something, including our own behaviour, and comforted that it does not pose a risk to us, we relegate it to our Fast Thinking system. Habits can, however, take over areas of our lives that we do not want them to. Why the Slow Project is interested in habits I am passionate about living fully as your authentic self as I discussed here. Habits can prevent us from realising that potential. Instead of experiencing discomfort that comes from change, we follow urges to go with the familiar and a comfort zone is created. However that comfort zone can prevent us from doing our best work and from truly seeing, experiencing and learning (check out this clip on experiencing awe and how comfort zones act a as a barrier). Remember that System 1 is governed by habits...

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