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Breathing Awareness (Exercise 1)

 
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Developing breath awareness, and learning to breathe properly, is one of the easiest ways to improve your mental and physical health. As Donna Farhi, author of The Breathing Book says, “The unconsciously altered breath allows us to survive, but it does not allow us to thrive.”

This brief and gentle mindful breathing exercise can help you create a relaxation response in your body in as little as 5 minutes:


  1. Find a relaxed, comfortable position. You could be seated on a chair, on the floor, or on a cushion. Keep your back upright, but not too tight. Have your hands resting wherever they’re comfortable. Close your eyes, if that feels comfortable for you, and just allow your breath to be natural.

  2. Tune into your breath. Feel the natural flow of breath—in, and out. You don’t need to do anything to your breath. It doesn't need to be long or short, just natural. Notice where you feel your breath in your body. It may be in your abdomen. It may be in your chest or throat or in your nostrils. See if you can feel the sensations of breath, one breath at a time. When one breath ends, the next breath begins.

  3. As you tune into your breath, you may find that your mind wanders- distracted by thoughts or bodily sensations. That’s OK. Just notice that this is happening and gently bring your attention back to your breath.

  4. Stay here for five to seven minutes. Notice your breath, in silence. From time to time, you’ll get lost in thought. Gently return to your breath.

You don't have 5 minutes?

When trying to calm yourself in a stressful moment and there is not much time to spare, it might help to start by taking an exaggerated breath: a deep inhale through your nostrils (3 seconds), hold your breath (2 seconds), and a long exhale through your mouth (4 seconds). Just this simple action can activate your relaxation response.



 

Human Potential and Health

 
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Over the past 30 years, the medical community's definition of what “Health” is has grown from one of physical health to a much more expansive and holistic concept. As such, the approach to healthcare has expanded as well, from a characterization focused exclusively on diagnosing and treating medical conditions, to one with a much broader scope. This scope includes preventative care and wellness, whereby, wellness can include multiple dimensions including: physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, social, and financial.

At InHouse Physicians, we recognize this definition of wellness, however, we believe wellness can be more accurately summed up in one sentence – the conscious, self-directed and evolving process of achieving one’s full potential in life. Reaching your full potential can be measured, not only by achieving peak performance, but also through obtaining personal fulfillment.

To achieve this new definition of “wellness,” it is important to understand the neuroscience of human performance, because, reaching your full potential starts in the brain.

Over the past decade, the neuroscience of optimal human performance has been widely researched with state of the art tools leading to multiple discoveries. Scientists have found that all humans are innately designed to do their best. However, optimal performance is dependent on your state of mind. The state of mind most closely correlated with optimal performance is called the “Flow State” or “Flow” for short.

Flow can be thought of as "being in the zone."

It is when your brain is supercharged, your productivity is off the charts with seemingly little effort, and you are experiencing a heightened sense of well being. The good news is that this state of being has a specific neurobiological footprint in the brain that can be measured and even more importantly, this footprint can be reproduced on demand with certain specific interventions.

When in Flow, you not only have a heightened sense of well being and improved productivity, but you also have a greater capacity for learning, stronger ability for interconnectivity and collaboration with others, and a significant boost in creativity - all the things that are not only important for personal fulfillment, but also important to corporations.

Corporations continue to invest in the “well-being” and development of their employees. Neuroscience interventions designed to achieve optimal performance have become the key to satisfying an ever-evolving workforce. This new workforce expects their employers to provide a culture focused on a growth mindset, a holistic set of wellness offerings, and tools to achieve greater performance in the workplace. And those organizations that deliver will benefit from higher employee engagement, stronger employee retention, and an improved bottom line.

If You Are Not Doing This Every Morning, You Should Start Today

 
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When you get out of bed in the morning and hit the ground running with barely a moment to spare, let alone a thought to yourself, you are NOT in charge of your day. You are operating on automatic, going through the motions to get you from point “A” to point “B.”

If you long to be a self-determined individual with goals and aspirations, in good physical and mental health, you need to stop operating on automatic and take the reins of your life. This begins by taking control of your day. Experts call this sense of control “agency,” and it ranks as a high predictor of good mental health. 

Setting the tone from the start of your day predicts how you move through the rest of it in terms of your attitude, focus, perspective and motivation. When you choose to be active and direct upon waking allows your time to engage in a routine that energizes, invigorates and inspires you. You send the message to your brain that 

your world is full of possibilities

 and YOU are a clear, strong, calm, and capable person able to seize them!

The best way to go about seizing these possibilities is to find one or two things that resonate with you and practice these consistently, just as you make time in the beginning of the day to shower, dress, and check your email.

Here are some ideas for daily self-care practices to fill your cup:

  1. Keep a journal or log to jot down passing thoughts, feelings, dreams, or ideas; it helps to unload if you tend to have a lot on your mind.

  2. Go for a walk in your neighborhood or at a close by park or garden so you are able to take in some fresh air and sunshine, especially if you are likely to spend the better part of your day indoors.

  3. Do some light stretching or yoga to feel back in your body, to warm up your muscles, and to relieve achiness and stiffness after a night’s sleep.

  4. Engage in a meditation or breath awareness practice. These can be one in the same as meditation, in its most basic form, is relaxation of the body and the mind with a gentle abiding awareness of the breath. There are several apps to assist you with meditation and guided breathing practices such as Headspace, Brightmind, Calm, and Meditation Time.

  5. Sit outdoors on a patio, deck or bench, enjoy the sun and fresh air and do absolutely nothing but watch the world go by and breath deeply, knowing you have things to tend to later, but for now you have absolutely nothing you need to do but be.

  6. Read from a book for pure pleasure or inspiration; sometimes just grabbing a line that inspires at the start of the day can serve as a focal point for the day and bring us back to center when things start to go haywire.

  7. Go to the kitchen and cook something slowly for yourself like warm cereal with added spices, nuts and chopped fruit, enjoying the ritual of doing something healthy for your body at a pace that supports your peace of mind.


Consider these practices a way of consolidating yourself. These simple routines help you pull your efforts inwards first towards self-care before continuing your day and putting your energy, effort, thoughts and ideas out into the world. 

The 5 Elements of BioStacking

 
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Human Performance starts with our mindset. BioStacking leverages a handful of neuroscience tools to enhance human performance and well-being. Below is a brief description of the five elements of BioStacking that help you achieve Flow state easier and more frequently by balancing your brain’s neurotransmitters to give you what you need to perform at your highest level.


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Focused Attention (1)

Sitting in quiet stillness, with focused attention to the breath, to a “mantra” or repeated phrase, or simply with a gentle softness of all that enters your awareness is a century-old practice known as meditation that is now scientifically proven to be phenomenally advantageous to our health. Meditation establishes new pathways in the brain and syncs the brain to a rhythm conducive to deep states of healing.

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Mindfulness (2)

In-the-moment awareness can be practiced at anytime, anywhere, by anyone. The habit of bringing mindfulness to more moments in your day enhances the richness of your life by allowing you to live in your present experience. Without a mind that is dwelling on thoughts of the past or anticipating, planning or worrying about what has yet to come, you are afforded the gift of taking pleasure in the now.

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Future Visions (3)

Do you know that your brain processes images, both real and imagined, in the same way? Capitalizing on this fact is what lies at the center of the visualization practices. Techniques such as guided imagery have been used successfully to help illicit physical changes in the body such as calming respiration and heart rate and even increasing strength. Visualization also can be employed to help you build and reach towards the future version of yourself that you wish to step into. Research in this area has proven that where the mind goes, the body follows.

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Metacognition (4)

Those of us with the greatest ability to lead, to change, to grow, and to be innovative will also demonstrate the ability to understand how we arrive at our mental conclusions. This is known as metacognition, or how we think about how we think. Even if you have good habits of reviewing the steps of your thought processes, the field of metacognition still has plenty to offer you in the form of memory techniques, learning devices, and overall approaches to comprehension that will transform the way you move through both your social and your professional world.

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Recovery (5)

What was once thought of as motherly advice is now proven essential to our very capacity to excel physically and mentally: good nutrition and adequate sleep are both essential. “Good nutrition” calls for incorporating specific foods into your diet regularly, which have been proven to enhance cognitive function, learning, and memory. And, while adequate sleep at the end of the day is critical for recovery, so are regular periods of non-sleep rest. Learning the function of down-time and its impact on creativity, productivity and mood level may change the way you prioritize being on-task 24/7.


 

Neuroscience: Stacking the Deck in Your Favor

 
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Are you looking for competitive advantage?

Of course, you are - we all are. As humans that is what we are genetically programmed and socially conditioned to do. So where do you start? To discover true competitive advantage and sustain it at work and in life - start with the brain.

Over the past decade, the neuroscience of peak performance has been widely researched with state of the art tools leading to multiple discoveries. Scientists have found that all humans are innately designed to do their best. However, optimal performance is dependent on your state of mind. The state of mind most closely correlated with optimal performance is called the “Flow State” or “Flow” for short.

Flow can be thought of as ‘being in the zone.’ It is when your brain is supercharged, your productivity is off the charts with seemingly little effort, and you are experiencing a heightened sense of well-being. Flow is the state of consciousness where you feel most alive, intensely productive and innovative. The good news is that this state of being has a specific neurobiological footprint in the brain that can be measured and even more importantly, this footprint can be reproduced on demand with certain specific interventions.

I have spent over a decade building a formula for optimizing human performance based on neurobiology. This formula consists of stacking proven, individual neuroscience interventions on top of one other to move the brain closer to a Flow State – a process we have termed as “BioStacking.”

BioStackingSM leverages the latest knowledge in neuroscience research to improve focus, memory, learning, complex decision-making, creativity, and emotional regulation resulting in dramatic improvements in your personal and professional performance. The key neuroscience interventions included in BioStacking are:

  1. Focused Attention – meditation to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, relax, and balance.

  2. Mindfulness – open monitoring to be in the present, live in the now.

  3. Future Visions – visualization to identify your core dreams, associated purpose, and remove limitations.

  4. Metacognition – learning to better think, memorize and analyze.

  5. Recovery – downtime is productive time and recovery from stress.

When in Flow you not only have a greater capacity for learning, you also have greater interconnectivity and collaboration with others, and overall reduced stress. All the things that are important to your professional performance and personal life. As corporations continue to invest in the well-being and development of their employees – the neuroscience interventions of BioStacking become the key to satisfying an ever evolving workforce. This new workforce expects their employers to provide a culture focused on a growth mindset, a holistic set of wellness offerings, and tools to achieve greater performance in the workplace.

BioStacking supports the growing change in focus in organizations from employee health to wellness to performance. An organization’s bottom line depends on it and so does your employees’ engagement and fulfillment. I am a physician, researcher, and speaker who wants to ignite your human potential through the mastery of neurobiology. Whether you are a VP of Sales, HR Executive, or Meeting Professional, I have strategies that will maximize team engagement, learning, and purpose at your company meetings. I also help teachers and administrations create meaningful experiences for the classroom with neuroscience techniques that can give young people the tools they need to better cope with the stress in their daily lives.

Stack the deck in your favor through BioStacking and discover true competitive advantage and fulfillment that can be sustained by starting with your brain. Through these techniques, you begin to balance your own neurotransmitters and give yourself what you need to perform at your highest level. Visit me at JonathanSpero.com to learn more and discover how neuroscience tools can help leverage your power to ignite your human potential.