By Claire Dale and Patricia Peyton with some interesting thoughts on brain hacks.
When we first met Tom, he was the new CEO of an organisation going through a merger. He had a lot of responsibility on his shoulders and was struggling to find creative solutions.
His mother was also in ill health, his house was being renovated, and he had a long commute each weekend to check on his mother. He had become so tense that his throat, neck, and shoulders were rigid. As someone who always pushed on regardless, he had not realised how the increased physical tension, the build-up of emotions, and diminished creativity were linked.
Over the course of just three coaching sessions, Tom was able to release years of tension that had built up in his body. A few tears were shed, and we laughed a lot, too.
Once Tom found his own way of releasing tension, he was able to meet the challenges of the merger by thinking creatively, encouraging innovative solutions across the team, and better understanding the needs of all stakeholders.
Brain hacks to kick-start your creativity
Today, Tom is more aware of when tension builds in his neck and shoulders. He uses alerts to remind him to get up every hour to stretch and walk around and do his sequence of flexibility movements, (especially important in the midst of the current crisis where screen time has increased for him as it has for so many of us).
He is also much more aware of his overall physical state – he is present in his body – able to feel how his chemical balance shifts when the pressure is on.
When that happens, he breathes freely, goes for a walk, and stretches to release tension and be more open. It doesn’t completely stop the feelings from coming, but they no longer create blocks in his body and he can process them.
In short, Tom has become more Physically Intelligent. Right now, there are literally hundreds of chemicals (neurotransmitters and hormones) racing through each of our bodies in our bloodstream and nervous system.
Those chemicals largely dictate how we think, feel, speak and behave, yet most of us operate at the mercy of those chemicals, experiencing thoughts, reactions, and emotions without realising that we can strategically influence them.
Physical Intelligence is the ability to detect and actively manage the balance of certain key chemicals through how we breathe, move, think and interact with others so that we can achieve more, stress less, and live and work more happily.
There are four key aspects of Physical Intelligence: Strength, Flexibility, Resilience, and Endurance.
Flexibility is most closely linked to increased creativity but relies on having already established a foundation of Strength. Here are a few techniques you can easily incorporate into your day to help with both.
Strength in Physical Intelligence terms means inner strength, confidence, resolve, appropriate risk-taking, standing our ground, and thinking and acting wisely and decisively in complex situations.
To build and convey strength, cortisol (the stress chemical), testosterone (power and control chemical), dopamine (pleasure/reward chemical), and DHEA (vitality chemical) all must be in the proper balance.
These two techniques will help you maintain that balance:
Practice Paced Breathing:
Paced breathing releases acetylcholine (balance chemical), counteracting adrenalin (fear/excitement chemical) – empowering us to feel mentally/emotionally stable and confident – able to handle situations with clarity, balance, and control. Allocate 10+ minutes daily to breathing diaphragmatically, with a steady count in (through the nose) and out (through the mouth) – in and out counts can be different.
Explore counts comfortable for you:
A study of South African bankers found that after 21 days of paced breathing, they achieved an average of 62% improvement in cognitive capacity on complex decision-making tasks, whereas poor breathing leads to procrastination and delaying important decisions. Meditation is a great way to bring paced breathing into your daily routine.
Sit/Stand Up Straight:
The amount of time spent hunched over screens and devices, with jutting chin and curved spine, reduces the amount of space there is for the lungs to expand, rising carbon dioxide levels, which elevates cortisol levels, reducing the quality of our cognitive function and mental and emotional performance.
Sit/stand with your feet flat on the floor, grounding you, straighten your spine (imagine a string from the top of your head suspending you from the ceiling) and square your shoulders (imagine them floating away from you toward opposite sides of the room). Pay attention to your posture throughout the day.
Consider investing in a posture device to remind you to use proper posture.
Flexibility in the world of Physical Intelligence refers to collaboration, creativity, innovation, and agile thinking.
The key chemicals for increased Flexibility are Oxytocin (trust and social bonding chemical), Dopamine (pleasure/reward chemical), released when our visual cortex is stimulated by seeing landscapes, DHEA (vitality chemical), produced by swing and twist movements because they help detox the adrenals, and Serotonin (happiness chemical), independent neurons in the gut that are stimulated by twisting movements.
Balancing those four chemicals will up your ODDS for creativity. Here’s how to do it:
Start Walking and Shift Your Perspective:
Several studies indicate that we should be standing/moving/walking for 2-4 hours each day. Those who sit all day have a 13% greater risk of cancer and a 17% greater risk of mortality than those who spend time moving. In addition, according to a Stanford study, we are 45% more likely to have a creative idea while walking vs. seated – even if just walking on a treadmill.
When you consider how many hours people have been spending in videoconferences, especially over the past several months, it is clear that we need a revolution in the way we work! While more challenging in the midst of COVID-19, we can still make meaningful changes.
Look for opportunities to get up and move throughout each day. Use a stand/sit desk, if possible, to be more mobile and flexible and set reminders for movement each hour.
If your creativity is blocked and you cannot move, simply shifting your perspective and looking at something you find beautiful in nature or art will help spark creativity.
Shoulder Stretch and Drop:
This movement is easy to do at your desk.
• Begin by using a good seated posture.
• One by one, lift the shoulders up in eight steps so that by the eighth step the shoulders are up by the ears.
• Tip the head back and squeeze the neck and shoulder muscles.
• Breathe in, hold for a second and then drop the shoulders down, simultaneously breathing out and balancing the head back on the vertical spine.
• Repeat as needed.
Do this at least twice a day if you spend a good portion of the day seated.
• Begin incorrect seated posture.
• Keep the knees and hips facing forwards.
• Cross the left hand and arm diagonally down across the body, so that the back of the left hand/wrist presses against the outside of the right thigh.
• Straighten the left arm and press the back of the hand/wrist gently but firmly against the outside thigh while twisting the whole torso to the right.
• Turn your head to look over the right shoulder. Your hand and arm create leverage so that you can gently increase the range of the twist. Do not lever yourself to the extent that you cause any pain.
• Breathe in and out. Lever yourself further into the twist depending on the flexibility of your spine.
• Breathe again, release the position, then slowly face front.
• Repeat to the left with the right arm crossing the body.
Even if you’ve never played golf, the golf swing action is a great way to release tension. Don’t worry about the perfect stroke.
• Bring the arms back to prepare and then swing them through freely, letting the movement come to a natural end.
• Repeat on the left side and right side, breathing out while you swing through.
Commit to incorporating Strength and Flexibility movements into each day and watch what it does to your creativity.
About the authors:
Claire Dale and Patricia Peyton are the directors of Companies in Motion and authors of award-winning best-seller Physical Intelligence (Simon & Schuster), available now in ebook and hardback, priced at £14.99. Join the Physical Intelligence community for brilliant tips, tricks, and exercises: www.companiesinmotion.com/
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