Five Ways to Prime Your Brain for Optimal Performance Each Day
Simple Shifts to Become a Brain Boss.
In our hyper-connected world we often find ourselves in a fight for our own attention. When we wake up first thing and the morning and plug in without intention or purposeful aim, the messages we receive can literally hijack our brains, shifting us into a state of chronic stress that clouds our ability to focus on what’s most important.
Peak performers know that what they do first thing in the morning sets the tone for the day ahead. Those who accomplish the most realize that by spending time getting their mind right they actually get more done in less time, and bring their best energy to the time they have.
If you are like most of us, you wake up sensing that you don’t have enough time to get it all done. And the reality is, you don’t! There is always more you could be doing, maybe should be doing, but focusing on overwhelm locks your brain into survival mode and compromises your ability to get the job done.
Instead of thinking about what you don’t have or letting the world tell you why it’s not safe to get out of bed in the morning through media or email, shift your brain into a more abundant and flexible state with some simple investments of positive energy and nourishment. Take some tips from top performers and nudge your neurons into states of gratitude, appreciation, inspiration, curiosity or humor so that your brain will be able to problem solve effectively, and tackle the tasks that matter most head on.
Prime Time Comes Before Game Time
Here are strategies elite athletes and other top performers use to prime their brain to be in an optimal state before they get on the field of life, which I call my daily “high five”. Ideally, pick one or two to get your day started in prime time and then plan a few to schedule into your routine as recharge breaks throughout the day.
1) Movement — it doesn’t have to be intense or even require spandex, just get up and move your body. By optimizing your circulation you decrease stress hormones and increase the flow of glucose and oxygen to the brain to fire-up energy production. If you really want to boost your brain, aim for 20–45 minutes of high intensity exercise, which will stimulate a cascade of positive endorphins, crank up your metabolism, and build your resilience. Done regularly, you will quickly notice that a quick, powerful workout in the morning will energize your brain and body all day long and help you get better sleep at night!
2) Motivation — before you think about what you need to do during the day, think about who you want to be and how you want to show up. What matters most to you with regards to the impact you want to have on the world? To help you shift into a supportive, collaborative state of mind, read or listen to something that inspires you. Create a habit of taking in good fuel for the brain through words of affirmation and encouragement. Good sources may be a daily devotional, inspirational short stories, a podcast, chapters in an audio book, or a playlist with songs that remind you to be at your best. (You can check out my Recharge Playlist as part of my free Recharge Tool Kit).
3) Meditation — when we rush into the busyness of the day it’s easy to let our brains spin out of control. Meditation is simply a practice of becoming the boss of our own brain by paying attention to our internal dialogue and shifting it into the direction we choose. Being intentional about our attention. Although it can be frustrating for newbies as they start to recognize the noise of their internal narrator, even just a few minutes of guided meditation can help build more purposeful focus. This not only helps balance brain chemistry, but it also dramatically decreases the toxic stress hormones in the body. Simply put, meditation is focusing attention on an object of your choice and holding it there over a period of time. When your mind starts to wander (as it always does) just notice it, let the random thoughts go, and bring your attention back to your word, phrase or object of focus. The more your train your mind to stay on your intention, the stronger your mental muscle will become. (More tips and training videos available for free in my online Recharge Tool Kit).
4) Music — if you pay attention to the sounds and lyrics, music quickly becomes a simple form of meditation. What’s more, you can choose music that shifts your attention into a state of your choice, whether it be relaxing and calm or exciting and up-lifting. The important first step is to create a playlist for the state of mind you want to move towards and then prioritize the time to just sit and listen. To really boost your brainpower, don’t just be a passive listener — really engage in feeling the emotions that the music evokes and make it a full-body experience. If you feel inspired, see if you can feel in your body what inspiration feels like and magnify it. Visualize it. Soak in it. If you feel peaceful or relaxed, see if you can feel in your body what those sensations feel like and let them wash over you fully. Engage as many of your senses as you can to allow the chemical cascade of positivity flush your system as you charge your own battery before you start the day. Strategic music sessions throughout the day are a perfect way to reset and recharge, so make sure to schedule them and keep them as important as any other appointment you have.
5) Mirth — when we find something funny we experience it as wit in the brain and mirth in the body. The emotional experience of mirth has been shown to reduce stress hormones, improve immune function and boost brainpower. By spending time intentionally finding the funny in life, we can build our mirth muscle, which serves us well when times get tough. Humor doesn’t mean we ignore what’s challenging or difficult in our day. By being able to see the lighter side we simply bring a more balanced perspective to the lens through which we see the world. The great news — you don’t have to BE funny to SEE funny, and seeing funny is a skill you can train with practice. Find a humor buddy and commit to share a funny image, video or other neural nudge every morning. When you notice something funny during the day, take a moment and write it down or tell someone about it so that you’ll give it more attention and hardwire it in your brain. Create a “beyond funny” folder to save items that make you laugh or smile so that you can quickly access them throughout the day to recharge your energy and shift your state of mind. (You can find some of my favorite short humor clips in the free Recharge Tool Kit online or train your mirth muscle in my 21-day Beyond Funny Challenge.)
Remember, the world is constantly fighting for your attention and if you don’t take time to get your mind focused on what matters most to you, you will easily be hijacked by the noise of your day. Be a Brain Boss — set aside time every morning to prime your brain to be in its optimal state and then recharge regularly. Be part of the Recharge Revolution so that we can shift the stress of the world, live together more peacefully, and collaborate more effectively with brains that have the energy they need to do their best work.
For more Prime Time techniques, check out the FREE Global Stress Summit April 24 — May 1 where you’ll hear 35 leading stress experts talk about their tools for building resilience! Bless your stress :-)