Our bodies are amazing. Our brains are amazing. We are wired for resiliency.
When we learn something new our brain paves new neural pathways. I like to picture that the brain has some highly developed areas (old patterns), and wild & raw, untapped areas teeming with possibilities.
When we’re stuck in an old pattern, it’s easy to think that there’s no way out. Lately I’ve been going back and forth between old, unhealthy patterns, and creating new, supportive ones. Under stress it’s easy to revert to old tendencies. After all, those areas are some of the most highly trafficked parts of the brain, with tried and true, familiar roads.
Lately I’ve been learning the Hanuman Chalisa, basically a long song/prayer in Sanskrit. Practicing it turns my brain into mush. As I fumble through new words and rhythms, all my attention is in the present. There is no space for worry, anxiety, depression, or even frustration if I want to make progress. It lets me focus on the present in a liberating way.
The same happened last week as I clumsily followed a dance teacher’s choreography in an online class. Just like muscles get sore after a hard workout, the brain softens and restructures itself when we learn something new.
Have you ever felt your brain turn to mush when learning something new?
I feel a similar liberating presence when drawing, writing, or gardening. I’m able to learn from the present without thinking about anything else.
What activities help you to focus on the present?
Paving new pathways takes a combo of slow and steady repetition, and short interval sprints. I have a daily 5-10 minute exercise practice, AND join a longer class online at least once a week. I focus on making myself at least one simple made-from-scratch meal per day, AND have a day where I go all out, making a few dishes and a healthy baked good too. Everything is connected. When you make progress in one area (exercise, work, meal prep, house cleaning, deep social connection), you support the other parts of you to also thrive.
Guess what...you can start where it's easiest, and work your way to the harder stuff.
With most folks at home, and so many online offerings right now, it’s easier than ever to find support. And it's also easy to get overwhelmed and veg out. So let’s get you feeling your best!
3 Steps to shift into more Joy, Fulfillment, and Productivity
Here are the 3 steps in more detail:
1.Make a menu of small things you can do to support yourself in positive ways. Here are some examples:
Go for a short 5-10 minute walk or jog.
I often phone a friend...it helps motivate me
Get outside - even if you just take out the trash or go get the mail.
Play an uplifting song while you clean up around the house.
Sing along... Singing has so many therapeutic benefits!
5-10 sun salutations.
Call a friend when you’re feeling down.
Join a live online class -yoga, kickboxing, dance, etc.
Great when your motivation is low!
Set yourself up for success
Put your clothes out the night before
Set out exercise equipment for a morning movement session.
Cut veggies the day before so you’re ready to cook the next day.
Do some mental gymnastics
Whether it’s learning the lyrics to a favorite song, Sudoku, or a trying a new recipe...your brain will thank you!
2. Make a list of signs & symptoms that show you’re stuck in an old pattern (these are some of my signs)
Eating excess sweets or snacky foods
Too much screen time / scrolling through social media
Daily nap time
Piles of clutter
Going to bed later than is good for me
3.Check in & order off your menu when you notice some of your signs/symptoms creep up.