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Three Ways to Break Bad Habits (and use more of your brain!)

GroundhogRemember the movie Groundhog Day? When Bill Murray was doomed to re-experience the same day over and over until he finally broke the pattern and was able to resume “normal” life again? That film is a funny illustration of life in a rut, and how hopeless it can feel to just keep having to repeat the same patterns again and again.

And why do we do this? So much of our habitual life resides in unconscious thinking, or literally in the subconscious mind. Often we aren’t aware of why a certain pattern just keeps getting repeated.

Bill Murray’s character broke through his time loop by devoting himself to others, enhancing his own awareness, and allowing love into his heart.
With a little mindfulness and intention, as well as practicing the following simple skills, we can unlock our limiting beliefs, behaviors, and patterns and free ourself from frustrating circumstances. We can change our brains and have the present, and future, we want.

Three Approaches to getting more—from yourself!

Access and impact your subconscious mind

Our subconscious contains everything we’ve ever learned, heard, or seen . . . and beliefs we hold about ourselves that we don’t even know we have—but that impact our lives for better or worse.

The subconscious mind is programmed early in childhood, and beliefs within it drive our lives. Changing a belief in our conscious mind, by using affirmations, for example, doesn’t affect beliefs in the subconscious. To change the subconscious, we must bypass the conscious mind. Hypnosis allows us to do this.

Simple self-hypnosis techniques are effective in shifting stuck patterns, creating new beliefs, and moving past negative self talk or doubts that may be getting in the way of your success.

Hypnosis is simply an altered state of consciousness, one in which we move in and out of naturally through the day. Watching TV, driving, meditating, making art—all are activities that can induce alpha brainwaves, or the trance state. Self-hypnosis is a conscious shift into this state.

Try it! Sit comfortably and observe your breath for a moment. Let each breath release stress or tension. Be curious. Without moving your head or neck, look up as if you were watching a bug on the ceiling. Keep looking up. Soon you will start to blink more rapidly, and your eyes will want to close. Let them. Feel yourself sinking into a more relaxed state. Breathe and sink deeper, deeper, and deeper into your self. This is self-hypnosis!

Once you have mastered the fundamental induction into the hypnotic state (see links below for more techniques of how to do this), you can easily create a “circle of excellence” to step into when you need to shift resistance or fear.

For example, if making sales calls or emails at work gets you into a cold sweat, using the circle that you design allows you to access confidence, empowerment, courage—whatever positive feelings your have placed within the circle.

Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) uses the circle of excellence as a core exercise for transformation. Find a full description of the technique on this site:

No longer the stuff of superstition or stage tricks, hypnosis is recognized and used by athletes, creatives, and high level business men and women to move past fears, physical pain, addictions and blocks. Einstein, Edison, Mozart, and Winston Churchill all used hypnosis on their innovative paths to success.

Learn more about creative self-hypnosis here:

Go old school

Our smart phones and technology make life wonderful, but they have also made us lazy.

When was the last time you read an actual map? Did long division? Committed a phone number to memory?

Science has shown that our brains are plastic—that is, they can change! By “exercising” our brains we increase cognitive capacity and even create new brain cells. We naturally lose brain function as we age (20s and beyond!), but the manufacture of new cells literally refurbishes parts of the brain that are in natural decay. This keeps our minds firing fast with creative ideas and connections, and enhances memory.

Every day, find small ways to work your mental muscle:

  • do some math by hand, without a calculator
  • ditch the GPS and read a paper map to find a location
  • commit one phone number a day to memory
  • memorize a poem, or a favorite piece of writing, or a song
  • memorize your passport number, or credit card
  • try new things: doing something novel creates new neural pathways

Breathe, Eat, Exercise, Relax, Sleep. Repeat.

We’ve been hearing for decades that we should eat right and get plenty of rest. That we should exercise 30 minutes a day. Did you realize that these habits not only impact heart health and longevity, but brainpower as well?

Take a breath. Brain research shows that just closing your eyes and paying attention to the breath—whether you call it meditation or not—has a measurable affect on mental clarity. Breathing deeply through the nose increases oxygen in the blood, which leads to enhanced ability to function.

When brain fog sets in, get up from your computer and move to a new, comfortable seat. Take a few conscious breaths, letting frustration and tiredness flow out with your exhalation. Imagine your brain being bathed with oxygen. Feel clarity returning and then get back to your work.

Food makes a difference. Though there are many supplements that help memory and clarity, such as Ginkgo Biloba, simply eating clean can significantly reduce brain fog and give us the energy to be curious and try new things—increasing our neural pathways.

Sugar, chips, and carbs like pasta and white bread cause insulin rush and the resultant fuzziness and inability to focus.

When work or home challenges threaten to overwhelm, opt for a green smoothie instead of coffee and a bagel for breakfast, and remember to drink water! Dehydration creates fatigue and inability to concentrate.

Exercise creates brain cells! Even 10 minutes of aerobic activity improves cognitive function. Endurance exercise, like running, cycling, or swimming triggers the secretion of proteins that in turn stimulate growth of synapses and new nerve cells, and ultimately preserve our existing cells.

Relax. Reading, listening to or making music, and meditation decrease stress (which creates brain fog and memory issues) and provides opportunity for us to use our imaginations, feel our emotions, and allow our brains to “stretch.”

Creative activities access the right brain, used less often in our day-to-day tasks. The right brain is where we find inspiration and access our intuition—tapping into ideas for our best life.

Get some zzzz’s. While our culture overvalues productivity and a macho approach to sleep (as in getting/needing as little as possible), new research shows that deep sleep is like a car wash for our brains, flushing out toxins and gunk that otherwise affects our normal brain function.

If you need help getting sleepy, reach for natural substances and relaxation techniques (such as self-hypnosis!) before downing sleeping pills or Tylenol PM.

Eating before 7pm, avoiding alcohol and caffeine at night, and banning electronics from the bedroom help the body sleep better.

Keep Opening The Mind

You may already have a yoga or meditation practice to help you access your highest self. But maybe you still find yourself with insomnia, anxiety, or overwhelm. Life in the fast lane of the developed world can overload any of us, any time.

Trying some of the simple yet effective techniques above can bring greater clarity and awareness of limiting thoughts and the “why” of our patterns. Awareness allows us to change, if we desire. Getting good sleep, feeling energized, and having access to our higher mind will automatically make us more loving, compassionate beings.

Open heart, open mind. So whether the groundhog sees his shadow today or not, know that you can create more consciously, and feel more excited about life, rain or shine.


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