A breakthrough state can provide a launching platform for greater states of awareness, creativity and flow
Your day-to-day behaviours — what you physically do — determine, to a certain extent, what you achieve. However, your behaviours are driven by your emotional and psychological state.
Your state — a combination of feelings and emotions — is, in turn, driven by your thinking.
Unfortunately, your body can’t tell the difference between something that you’re experiencing in reality, and something that you vividly imagine. So, if you think about everything that could go awry in any given situation, your body will respond as if those bad thoughts were were real, creating a state of stress or anxiety in your body.
However — just to confound things — your state also drives your thinking
If you feel energised and confident, your thoughts will be more positive than if you’re feeling anxious or stressed.
Because your state and your thinking feed each other in a loop, you can understand how thoughts and feelings can spiral down, attracting more negative thoughts and feelings and leaving you in a dreadful state.
This is the Law of Attraction at its most negative.
If you change your thoughts, you'll start to feel better. Or change your state, and you’ll begin to think more positively.
Yes, but that’s easier said than done!
If you’ve been experiencing a difficult time, your thoughts are more than likely tending towards the sad and upset end of the emotional scale — rather than the joyful and uplifting end.
So it can be really challenging to extract yourself from a negative thinking pattern, let alone pursue it long enough long enough that it can change your state.
I’ve found that there are some states that act like a launching pad to access better states of mind and body.
While they’re pretty good states in their own right, they can also lead you into states of flow, increased sensory acuity, deep relaxation, profound love and connection and powerful creativity.
Sound useful? Then read on…
Underlying your state is your physiology: the way your body functions
Physiology includes all of the body’s electrical, chemical and physical processes.
Many of these processes are outside of your conscious awareness.
However, you may notice your stomach gurgling through the digestion process after eating something that didn't agree with you.
Perhaps you've experienced a shortness of breath after running, an increased heart rate if something startles you, or blushing when you feel embarrassed.
You can quickly become aware of some of your physiology if you pay attention
Right now, as you’re reading this, you could become aware of your spine. Does it feel straight?
Are you leaning forwards or backwards? If you’re sitting, how do your hips feel against the seat? What about your shoulders, neck and jaw? Do they feel relaxed, or is there some tension or pain in those areas? What sensations do you have in your joints at the moment?
Are you breathing deeply or taking shallow ‘sips’?
All of this information — and more — is available to you on an ongoing basis.
Your physiology is affecting your state
Whether you’re aware of your physiology or not, it’s still impacting your state and thus your thinking. Your thinking ultimately affects your achievement, because achievement is driven by what you do — your behaviour.
Simple events can affect your physiology
Situations such as the boss calling you into his office, a colleague challenging your ideas or a friend questioning your judgement, can all affect your physiology.
If you perceive any of these incidents as even slightly threatening, you may go into a state of apprehension or even anxiety.
As you read about this happening, it might seem silly to your logical, rational mind to respond anxiously to these day-to-day situations.
But, whenever you feel threatened, rational thinking ceases — it doesn't matter whether or not the threat is valid.
Your 'caveman' brain kicks in
Your body behaves like your cavemen ancestors would have behaved when confronted by a predatory animal. Your body shuts down the ‘thinking’ part of your brain.
The ‘reacting’ part of your brain kicks in and causes a fight, flight or freeze response. This response is known as ‘cortical inhibition’. Whatever you say or do after this point will be reactionary and — probably — regrettable later!
Some of the symptoms of anxiety are:
- Stomach churning.
- Muscle tension.
- Feeling ‘hyper’.
- Shortness of breath.
- Heart racing.
Unfortunately, even with all these symptoms, you might still not be aware of feeling anxious.
Most commonly, because you’re not paying attention to your body and the state you’re in.
You’re too busy thinking or doing
However, now that you are aware of the importance of your state — and the part it plays in getting what you want — the good news is that you can do something to improve it.
Being able to access a flow state — and maintain it — is a key component of the conscious creation process. It’s difficult to consciously create a positive new reality if you’re stuck in a negative old state.
How to improve your state
Apart from perceived internal and external threats, substances also affect your physiology:
- The food and drink you consume as fuel.
- The use of drugs (prescription or otherwise)
If you believe any of these three things might be affecting your situation or ability to reach your goals, you might like to research them some more. I’m not going to do that here.
Breathing and heart rate
Breathing has a massive effect on your physiology, which in turn influences your state and thus your thoughts, your behaviours, and, ultimately, the achievement of your goals and dreams.
There are medical instruments to measure the electrical pulses or beats in your heart. If you’ve ever seen a heart rate monitor, you’ll notice that the heart rate spikes up and down over time. This response is known as your Heart Rate Variability or HRV.
The average of these spikes measured over time is what your doctor calls your pulse. However, when you’re under pressure — real or imagined — your HRV increases dramatically, producing the fight, flight or freeze response described earlier.
The result is that your thinking is no longer helpful. You’re reacting from a state of uneasiness, apprehension — or in the extreme — anxiety, fear and panic.
Those are not useful states
The good news is that you can control your heart rate variability by controlling your breathing. Taking slow, measured, and balanced breaths calms the heart rate and improves brain function.
Inhaling for about six seconds and exhaling for six seconds in a steady wave can quickly and easily improve your state. This improvement will give you back control over your thinking brain, your behaviour and, ultimately, what you achieve.
There are a variety of technologies that enable you to monitor your heart rate variability and give you a visual representation of the difference that breathing makes. Try searching the web for HRV monitors. There are even apps that you can use with your smartphone.
5 Techniques to easily change your state
I’ve found five techniques that work really well to help me achieve a breakthrough state. They all take less than seven minutes (most less than three). You’ll make up that time easily by being more productive.
Experiment with each, and discover which works best for you, as they each have a slightly different aim.
Easy Breakthrough State Technique #1
This simple exercise is designed to align and tap into the innate intelligence of your head, heart and gut brains. It will assist you to achieve a state of flow and to behave with courage, creativity and compassion in whatever you do. (From Grant Soosalu and Marvin Oka — mBraining)
- Sit or stand in a comfortable position with your back straight and your shoulders back
- Begin breathing from your lower abdomen. Breathe in slowly and steadily through your nose, taking approximately six seconds. Then breathe out for six seconds, through your nose or mouth, in a gentle wave. Six seconds is optimal, but regularity and rhythm are more important than length of time. So, if you can only manage four seconds in and four seconds out, that’s fine. This type of breathing balances the autonomic nervous system. You will begin to notice an emerging calm.
- Create a feeling of appreciation or gratitude. (You can do this by thinking about something or someone that you truly and deeply appreciate or that you’re grateful for.)
- Put your hand on your heart or put your hands together as if in prayer with your thumbs pressing into the groove of your chest. Each time you breathe in, imagine that you’re breathing that feeling of appreciation and gratitude into your heart. You could also imagine your breath as a particular colour — whatever colour springs to mind, so that you’re breathing that colour into your heart. As you breathe out, imagine breathing that appreciation, or gratitude down into your gut.
- Continue breathing in this way for about five minutes. Notice the calm state of being that results from these few minutes of deep, steady breathing.
This exercise in itself is scientifically proven to have many positive mental, emotional and health benefits.
The equilibrium that results from balanced breathing can last up to four or five hours and will give you a vast improvement in physiology, state, thinking, doing and, of course, your general performance on your way to reaching your goal.
For those reasons alone, it’s worth doing this exercise three or four times a day.
It’s equally valuable to begin paying attention to your physiology.
Your physiology is your personal feedback mechanism
As soon as you notice any form of tension, you can become aware of the trigger. Did something or someone trigger the stress or was it simply your thoughts?
In this way, your physiology becomes your personal feedback mechanism. You can engage in balanced breathing as soon as you’re aware of any harmful physiology. In this way, you can be your best more often.
Easy Breakthrough State Technique #2
According to Annette Gudde, in her TED x talk another way is to simply relax your tongue and loosen your jaw. This helps to quiet your thoughts according to Annette Gudde.
I would also suggest looking up towards the ceiling or the sky. Gudde also recommends lowering the amount of light if possible, by dimming the room or closing your eyes.
Don’t have 5 minutes to do some balanced breathing? Try this:
Easy Breakthrough State Technique #3 Peripheral Vision Exercise
This exercise, From John Overdurf takes you to a state of heightened sensory awareness, which is particularly useful for learning and concentrating.
- Find a point in front of you and slightly above normal eye level.
- Fix your gaze on that point. Notice whatever details you can about that particular point. (or focus your attention on the centre of your forehead or your third eye)
- Loosen your jaw.
- Allow your mind to relax and let your awareness expand out to the sides of the room while still being aware of the point in front. Notice what you can see, hear and feel in the outside edge of that space.
- Continue to expand your awareness all the way out to the sides of the room, while still focusing on the spot in front of you.
- Once you notice your breath has changed, lower your eyes to the normal level and become aware of how your state has also changed. (You may want to anchor this learning state.)
Easy Breakthrough State Technique #4 - Centring and grounding yourself
- Centre yourself: Stand up with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Focus all your attention on the point behind and below your belly button. In Tai Chi, this is known as the lower dantian and is where you control and store energy. Imagine energy flowing from this centre, down your legs and into the ground, anchoring you to the spot.
- Ground yourself: Feel the ground beneath your feet. Tell yourself, “I am right here” and keep your attention on your centre. Repeat until you feel totally present, calm and grounded.
NB: This is a great exercise to do outside on the ground or at the beach in your bare feet.
Easy Breakthrough State Technique #5 - The Calm Spot
- A breakthrough state can launch you into other physical and emotional states that help you achieve flow, creativity, inspiration and productivity.
- Your state drives your thinking.
- Your thinking drives your state.
- Your behaviour results from your state and affects what you do - and thus what you achieve.
- It’s worthwhile making your state your top priority, no matter what you’re involved in.
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