No-one really knows how many thoughts a person has in a day, but those who have tried to study it, come up with eye watering numbers, thousands to tens of thousands! According to the National Science Foundation, 80% of our thoughts are negative and 95% of our thoughts are repetitive. That seems like a waste of our brainpower. How do we change those negative, repetitive thoughts into something more useful and positive?
Humans are natural problem solvers. Our minds will look to find an answer to what is happening around them, to try and better understand it, or resolve the issue. This gets very interesting when we are faced with lots of issues, then we can be prone to ruminate.
Our thoughts can get stuck in a loop in our heads and keep going round and round, ending up being destructive if we don’t break out of that loop.
In my book, Transform Your Business - 99 Steps to Achieve Success, I talk about the importance of being distracted to enable the Aha moment, especially when we are focusing on business change.
Step 11 - Be distracted
Looking at the art of the possible can be quite an intense process. It requires some free thinking and a lot of navel gazing, while that is all fresh in your mind you need to be distracted, to enable the Aha moment, the moment of brilliance that always comes. There is science behind this logic. There are neuroscientists that study the Aha moment and agree on the following points will help you get less Oh no and more Aha moments:
•Be quiet – insights tend to involve connections between a small numbers of neurons in the brain; the problem is we only notice them above our baseline noise. We tend to notice insights when our overall activity level in the brain is low. This happens when we're not putting in a lot of mental effort, when we're focusing on something repetitive, or just generally more relaxed like as we wake up. Insights require a quiet mind because they themselves are quiet.
•Inward-looking - our attention at any moment can be externally focused, like on these words, or internally focused, like on an image you might see in your mind’s eye activated by a word. We tend to flick between these two states all the time. When people have insights, they are 'mind wandering', which is like a form of daydreaming. They are not focused externally on the problem. So, insights are more likely when you can look inside yourself and not focus on the outside world. When you feel safe enough to 'reflect' on deeper thoughts and not worry about what's going on around you for a moment.
•Slightly happy - there is a lot of research to show that being slightly happy, versus slightly anxious, has people solve more problems and be more creative generally. When people are happy, they are more likely to notice a wider range of information, than when they are anxious and will be more 'tunnel visioned'
•Not effortful - if you want insights you need to stop trying to solve a problem. The reason for this is that usually insights happen because we become stuck at an impasse. The impasse tends to involve a small set of solutions that we have become fixed on. The more we work on this same wrong solution, the more we prime the brain for that solution and the harder it is to think of new ideas. It's like changing traffic on the freeway - we have to stop the traffic going one way before it can go another. In the brain, wrong solutions push out the right ones.
For the best results, take yourself outside into nature, trust me, it works every time.
A nature walk allows your brain to get what it needs to move from Oh no to Aha:
1. Oxygen - the brain uses about three times as much oxygen for healthy neuron function, as muscles do. The brain is extremely sensitive to decreases in oxygen levels
2. Increases attention in a quiet way - Many studies have demonstrated this effect and how it can even help people that struggle with ADHD. Positive impacts shown in just 15 mins
3. Easy way to meditate - When you are outside in nature, you cannot help but look around and start using all your senses. Sounds, smells, colours start infiltrating your thoughts and before you know it, you are in the present
Nina changes the tough stuff necessary to keep leaders’ visions and strategies alive and prosperous, planet and people engaged, healthy, smiling and having fun. Coach, Consultant & Trainer. Contact her when you are ready to make your contribution to changing the world at ninadar.com the first session is free.