This is a list of tips I’ve learnt from different people and experience… I’ve been lucky enough to receive some great training over the years and talk to inspiring people. So I thought I would share these tips on having a happier mind as they are useful and I hope they’ll be of use to you. Your brain is the most important tool you’ll own. We must look after it. Mindfulness is a great way to do this.
Its fair to say I have had an off week. Ever since Tuesday, I have felt too busy in my mind. The effects of that is my concentration and patience has diminished – incredibly. So, I thought writing about the things I have learnt will help me to remember them and use them to refocus.
Lower your expectations
This is a great tip. One we can all do, some easier than others, that doesn’t require anything but ourselves. Simply lower your expectations! The one thing that causes frustration is when things do not go as you expect them – for example; you were expecting a huge birthday cake and you got a cupcake. Still delicious. Still made with love – but not what you were expecting. It could make you feel lots of different emotions. Simply lower your expectations by saying “any cake would be nice, but I am not expecting one” – this way a cupcake is still a winner! Voila – a happier mind.
Expecting great things all of the time will lead to an over worked mine and a stressed body. You cannot control everything and you cannot always get great things. So stop worrying yourself with it all!
What’s on your stage?
The frontal cortex is the part of your brain that looks after what is going on right now. So if you have active thoughts about what you need to do in 10 minutes, 2 days, remember the dog food, write that report for work, text that friend as you haven’t for 3 weeks already… the list goes on. All of these thoughts / actions / reminders whirl around your frontal cortex. Sometimes, this can cause you to feel frustrated if there are too many.
It was once described to me as a stage. You only ever want a few main characters at once with a handful of other characters. Any more than 10 things on your stage and that can lead to stress and anxiety – if constantly maintained at that level. There are lots of ways to keep these actors to a minimum, including talking about something with someone else, a post-it note on the fridge door to remind you about something or simply adding a calendar appointment in your diary so you know you have booked time out to do something. The essence of booking time, writing a note lets your frontal cortex let go of that particular thought – as you have captured it somewhere.
Below is a technique to keep your actors on the stage to a minimum:
Tip: writing a list
Writing a to-do list is a great way of getting things off your mind. Its a place where you can organise your wants and desires – without having them consciously whirring around your brain. I have recently done my Agile training and something I learnt was about your backlog – this is the big long list of all the things you want to do that you haven’t scheduled in time to do them yet. It might be work related or home but you will have a happier mind for it.
The list sits there and grows, until you have time to pick from that list and achieve it. I use Trello to maintain my list and it works perfectly – I also use to do list pads as sometimes I find it better to write my thoughts out first and then add them to Trello afterwards.
Tip: schedule time for your list
We now have our list, we have our “backlog” but we haven’t really given ourselves any time to complete any of the tasks in the list. So, make time. Simply add a block of time to your calendar to achieve the activity. If one of your tasks is to get the dog food – add half an hour to your calendar to go to the shop. That might even check off a few different tasks, as you may have buy a vegetarian sausage as another.
It’s the concept of dedicating time to your list that means you will not get frustrated because you are getting through the items. Stress can happen when you feel like you are never getting anywhere – so make sure you book out some time. We all have calendars these days, they are on your iPhones or MACBooks!
15 mins to flow!
When you need to concentrate on a task, say for example writing a report, it can take a while to get into the zone. That focussed zone where you are in the report, your brain is concentrating on writing this report and the words are just popping down onto paper. This state is called flow. What many people do not realise though is that it takes 15 minutes for our brains to get into this flow state. 15 whole minutes. Thats a long time, especially when you have disruptions around you.
Not only does it take you 15 minutes to get into the zone, if someone does break your concentration then it takes 15 minutes to get back there again. You can’t just flit back into the flow state. So, my advice is when you need to concentrate – book a quiet room or do it when you know you won’t be interrupted. Turn off your emails and hide your phone out of sight. Works a treat! A much happier mind.
Create a visual for “I’m busy”
Another neat trick for if you want to block out the world around you and create a visual for others to see you are concentrating; wear earphones. They do not even have to be plugged in to your device. Just have them in your ears. What that tells people is that you are busy and you do not want to be disturbed.
When I am sat at my desk, in the office, I will be interrupted about 5 times every half an hour. I cannot escape it and I don’t want staff to feel like they cannot approach me. So, when I need to concentrate I have to do something like this – or move to another seat!
I hope these tips are useful, let me know if you want me to expand on them or if you want to know any others. Also, if you have any tips on how to have a happier mind I would love to hear them in the comments below.