In this episode, I am speaking with Mark Waldman – an internationally recognized business and personal development neuro coach, and author – about the science of brain energy and three powerful mindfulness exercises to rewire your brain for energy, focus, and creativity.
In this podcast, Mark will cover:
- The science of “brain energy”
- How to rewire your brain for relaxation, focus, and productivity
- The Network Theory (Neuroscience explained)
- Why you lose focus at work (And the simple trick to reset your brain)
- The incredible link between yawning and increased performance
- The power of imagination (And why it can be a double-edged sword)
- The left brain/right brain myth
- Want to get rid of anxiety and worries? The most powerful exercise to release negative emotions
- The one-minute exercise to lower stress, improve focus, productivity, and creativity (You will be amazed at how simple this is)
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3 Powerful Mindfulness Exercises To Rewire Your Brain For Energy, Focus and Creativity with Mark Waldman – Transcript
Ari Whitten: Hey everyone. Welcome back to the Energy Blueprint Podcast. I am your host, Ari Whitten, and today I have with me for the second time my good friend and neuroscience expert, Mark Waldman. I want to read you his official bio so you can get a sense of his background. He’s an internationally recognized business and personal development neuro coach. He has authored 14 books, including the national bestseller How God Changes Your Brain, which Oprah selected as one of the nine must-read books for 2012. He’s considered one of the world’s leading experts on consciousness, communication, spirituality, and the brain, and he’s on the Executive MBA faculty at Loyola Marymount University and teaches at Holmes Institute. His research has been published in journals throughout the world, and his work has been featured in Time Magazine, The Washington Post,The New York Times,Forbes,Entrepreneur, andOprah Magazine. He has appeared on hundreds of radio and television programs, including PBS and NPR, and his Ted talk—which I highly recommend watching—has been viewed by more than 100,000 people. He has received the Distinguished Speaker Award from the Mind Science Foundation, and his latest books, which I highly recommend, are How Enlightenment Changes Your Brainand NeuroWisdom: The New Brain Science of Money, Happiness, and Success. In today’s episode, we’re going to talk about brain energy and all kinds of cool science surrounding that topic. Welcome back to the show, my friend.
Mark Waldman: Thank you very much, Ari. I’m fascinated with this topic because anytime you ask me to come on this program, you usually ask me a question I have absolutely no information about, which forces me to jump back into PubMed, read about 25,000 studies, bring them together and then present them to you. My aha moment today was to see if the term ‘brain energy’ is even used in the research, and it’s not. Nobody talks about the energy of the brain, but there is such a thing as energy, and the simplest way to describe it would be neural activity. There are probably six different forms of energy that take place in the brain. I don’t know if you want me to go into detail.
Connecting the dots between neural activity and “brain energy”
Ari Whitten: We could talk about neural activity in one sense, where neural activity is entirely disconnected from one’s subjective sense of brain energy. For example, your day-to-day experience of how well your brain can perform and how energetic you feel more broadly, but also cognitively demanding tasks—are you able to have sustained focus and high cognitive function without being fatigued as a result of doing any cognitively demanding tasks? Let’s try to connect the dots between neural activity and that subjective sense of brain energy.
Mark Waldman: I love what you just said because while you and I are talking right now, there are all kinds of different networks in the brain turning on and off: visual networks, auditory networks, memory and imagination systems. All of this is going on, and we have absolutely no access to it at all. For those of you who are listening to audio, if you were to put your fingertips right above your eyebrows, those are two tiny areas in your brain that are the most active when you’re doing any task. If you are focused on what I am saying, which means you can hear my words and translate them, you just have these two little thumbnail areas that are active, and most of the rest of the brain is quiet.
Everybody says, “I want to have more focus. I want to have more clarity. I want to be able to stay on task to accomplish more goals,” but the problem is that if you keep that area of your brain turned on all the time, that’s called ‘work burnout,’ and you actually exhaust all of the neurotransmitters necessary to keep that part of your brain active. When we consider the best way to improve your brain, or if there even is such a thing as brain performance, we need to know that the different parts of the brain perform differently. Until just a year or two ago, we talked about parts of the brain, the amygdala or the hippocampus, and even for an expert neuroscientist, you would get lost in the terminology because there are over 1,500 identified parts.
Suddenly, the language has changed into what’s called ‘network theory,’ and it makes neuroscience very easy to explain. Instead of talking about parts, we look at whole networks. We look at the network that’s involved with vision, thinking, decision making, imagination or intuition. Now we can decide if you have too much imagination and not enough focus. That might make you a great artist, but you’ll never produce a work of art, yet if you stay highly focused all the time, you may accomplish goals, but you’ll never be able to tap into that imaginative, creative place where your brain solves problems in its unique way.
Debunking the left brain/right brain myth
Ari Whitten: You just reminded me of something that I’ve seen from you in the past where you’ve talked about the left brain/right brain theory because what you just explained
might be interpreted by some people as the left brain is responsible for the logical, analytical tasks and the right brain for the creative, imaginative tasks. But that’s not true, is it?
Mark Waldman: It has never been true. The idea caught on from that 1980’s book on drawing from the right side of your brain. I recently did a project and gave a presentation at the Art Center, and they said, “Yes, you have to tell the world there’s no such thing as right-brain drawing [inaudible]. In fact, artists and creative individuals use more of certain parts of their left prefrontal cortex than certain parts of their right cerebellum, and great mathematicians who love numbers actually see beauty in certain types of equations, but a different part of their brains light up entirely, so the aesthetic experience is a combination of all kinds of things.
The brain likes to identify what something is. It likes representational art more than abstract art, but that raises the question of why everybody does abstract art. When you look at an abstract painting, there are about 15 different processes going on. Some neuroscientists think it’s one of the most complex processes, and yet that aesthetic experience, that urge to draw something, predates the invention of written language by about 30,000 years.
Ari Whitten:So, it is, in fact, the case that there are different networks of the brain that are more associated with logical, analytical, and rational thinking versus creative, imaginative thinking, but it’s not a matter of left brain/right brain.
Mark Waldman:That’s right, because there’s a constant interchange taking place, and I’ll show everybody a picture of what the new brain models look like. You no longer see a part of the brain labeled over here in the part of the brain. If there is a part of the brain you’re focused on, you’re going to see these long tentacles coming out from tens of thousands of neurons called axons, and those axons will literally extend from the right side of your brain to the left side of your brain and from the front of your brain to the back of your brain. It is so vastly interconnected that it’s impossible not to use any one area of your brain within a period of one or two hours. Everything is active. Even when you’re sleeping and think your mind is calm, more of your brain is active than when you’re focused on doing a particular task.
That network is called the default mode network, and it actually grew out of our research. If you’re going to study somebody who is meditating—who is just sitting there doing nothing—then how do you compare the activity of meditation to non-meditation? We would simply tell people, “In the brain scanner, just lie there and rest. Don’t think about anything.” That was called a resting-state scan, and then we would compare that to the activity that people were doing. People were fascinated by the fact that when they were resting, a huge amount of brain activity was taking place, yet they didn’t believe they were thinking about anything at all.
Somebody decided to call that the default mode network. They thought that after you finish doing a task, your brain goes back to default. It’s not a good term. Seligman came up with a great term for it. He calls it the imagination network. When we focus our attention on something and just use that tiny area called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, that is where all of our decision making takes place, where our planning takes place, and it is the only area in the brain where we consciously think about anything, mostly memories pulled up from the past and a little bit of imagination trickling down.
This huge imagination center not only includes fantasies and creativity, but it includes every positive and negative thought you could possibly have. This provides a brand-new way of looking at anxiety, for example. What you have is too much activity going on in the imagination center. It’s not about the object that you’re worrying about; it’s the fact that there is a worry center that’s part of your imagination center, and it’s going on all the time. You don’t get rid of it, but you can use a specific strategy to sit back, and if you simply watch your anxiety taking place, you stop reacting to the anxiety taking place, and then you can use it in a creative way.
Why the “you only use 10% of your brain” claim is false
Ari Whitten: I want to come back to that a little bit later. I have another myth that just popped into my head that I would love for you to address in this context. You said something in passing about how pretty much all parts of the brain are active during any particular task, or a large percentage of the brain. There’s this common idea that’s been out there for many decades that we only use 10% of our brain and the question of what would happen if we tapped into the other 90% of our brain. What do you think of that claim?
Mark Waldman: Nothing would happen if you tapped into the other 90% of your brain. That’s an interesting myth. Because neuroscience is so complex when a neuroscientist tries to explain something, we’re going to oversimplify it, and then it’s like the game of telephone you used to play as a kid. You whisper something into one kid’s ear, they pass something into another kid’s ear, and by the time it goes around to 20 kids, it has nothing to do with what you originally said. It even happens if Time Magazinereads one of our books and takes a part of the book that’s there in writing where we say, “Maybe the thalamus is the grand central station of all of our thoughts, feelings, actions, and everything else.” Time came out and simply said, “The thalamus is…” We don’t know if it is or not.
Ari Whitten:That’s interesting. Then you have to defend or try to clarify a position that was never yours, to begin with.
Mark Waldman:Right. We took our assumption and we based our hypothesis on it, that this is the reality formation center in your brain that brings together all of your sensory mechanisms and sends the information out all over the place. Then one new-thought individual decided to say that the thalamus was the place where your conscious thoughts leave your brain and go out into the universe. That’s how it can get this distorted.
So, the 10% myth has never been true, but understand that there was never a way to measure activity inside of the skull until they invented EEG machines back in the early 1900s. Remember that I described the neuron and how it has a long axon extending from it and from the other end there are a bunch of dendrites that collect information and pass it on; all those EEG machines do is read the electrical activity going on within the axon, which is part of the mechanism for sending a message through it. Another way of looking at it is to say you have a sports car, and you have six gears. If you want to go really fast, you’re going to use all six gears, but you can’t go fast forever. You’re going to have to slow down, so you’re going to constantly shift between those gears all the time. It’s the same with these brain networks, and particularly between our imagination network and our focusing network, which I like to call the thinking network, aka the central executive network: they go back and forth. When one becomes active, the other one becomes inactive, and it is supposed to go back and forth in a certain type of balance.
Recently, a whole bunch of neuroscientists did brain scans on who they consider to be healthy people with no anxiety. Then they measured somebody who is highly anxious, has borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, or who is highly depressed. Then they compared how those networks are functioning [in the two subjects], and how long their imagination network stayed on. It turns out that the biggest problem in people with disorders seems to be that they spend too much time in their imagination network. The question then is if we can teach a person to step out of their imagination to become more focused.
The imagination networks
Ari Whitten: There are a couple things there that I want to dig into. This a perfect segue to a question that I wanted to ask. You actually just said something that’s a bit surprising to me, which is that we spend too much time in the imagination networks and not enough time in the thinking networks.
Mark Waldman:For most of the psychological disorders that we have. Neurological disorders would simply be a wide range of malfunctioning, particularly between three networks, and the third one is called the salience network. It’s the part of the brain that puts an emotional value on anything you’re experiencing.
Ari Whitten:Okay, are you talking about depression and anxiety? Because I believe that I’ve seen a study showing that people with depression and anxiety have excessive activity in the prefrontal cortex. Is that not accurate?
Mark Waldman: Part of the prefrontal cortex is in the default mode network, and part of it is in the executive network. There’s no such thing as a good picture of this, and those of you who are just listening to the audio may want to look at the video to get a visual of what we’re talking about. You can see how I’ve drawn this large, pink area in many parts of the brain: this is your imagination or default mode network. We think in this tiny area in the front of our prefrontal cortex, but it overlaps.
All of this is your prefrontal cortex. Part of it is in the imagination network, and the imagination network overlaps all of the other networks in the brain. All these networks overlap in one central area here, which we can access through deliberately changing the way we think and using specific strategies to become more aware. This network, the salience network, is what creates a balance between the other networks. That’s the current theory. Is it true? We won’t know for another 10 years.
Ari Whitten: Let me clarify a couple of points with regards to some of these networks. A lot of people are interested in using nootropics to optimize their brain function, to have more sustained ability to concentrate, focus and perform their work, to think at a high level, and so on. So, people are using nootropics, and people have been using caffeine for a very long time for that purpose.
One of the things that you said earlier was to the effect of if we try too hard to keep those areas active for too long, then we kind of crash and burn out. What do you mean by that? What is the optimal balance between focus-oriented tasks and the more imaginative networks?
Mark Waldman: That is truly the perfect question. I will provide with you my best sense of what that balance would be. One of the things we know about neurotransmitters is when you’re highly focused on a task, you have a lot of neurochemicals being released from the neurons in your prefrontal lobe and specifically that one small area called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. I’ll show you a picture of where it is in the brain and how it operates. When those neurons get released, they have to be recharged. It’s as if the neuron has exhausted all of its energy, so if you force those neurons to overwork, they can actually implode.
They can actually die. In my opinion, we should prioritize having focused attention because most people who go to therapy or coaching and counseling, their problem is that they are spending too much time mind wandering in all these creative, jumbled, wonderful thoughts, fantasies and illusions, but they haven’t learned how to activate the center that’s all involved with planning, decision making, weighing and assessing, and consciously taking an action. Obviously, going to school will train you how to do that, or going to business college will teach you how to do that, but we see that the people who are the most successful at work have a very interesting imbalance.
The third part, the network that I call the salience network, is your social awareness network. That’s where empathy, intuition, compassion, and forgiveness come from. People who are highly imbalanced towards focused concentration, who are in CEO mode, they tend to be incredibly insensitive towards the people around them. The flip side of the coin is that therapists, for example, and people who have a really big heart, they may spend too much time in the salience network. They feel everything that’s going on, and they’re just taken for a ride with the other person’s emotions.
Most people who come in for counseling or therapy usually have a problem with not being able to focus, and I think that’s why there’s been an overemphasis on focusing. In mindfulness, there are exercises that teach you how to focus, but there are other exercises that teach you how to ‘unfocus,’ to use Srini Pillay’s term. When you ‘unfocus,’ when you stop focusing and you deliberately shift into a kind of daydream state—and your brain does this two to four times per hour, we’re just not aware of it—you’ll begin to see how your executive network, or your thought process, is working. You’ll see thoughts popping in and out. You’ll see imaginations, fears, and anxieties. For most of the research from the last 40 years, mindfulness has meant that you activate the salience network by sitting back inside of your brain and watching all the activity going on in other parts of the brain, and the result is a kind of disconnection.
If you’re too emotional or overly reactive, remember that 90% of all worries, fears, and doubts are memories from the past being brought up into conscious awareness and then being filtered in with fantasies being projected onto the future. They have nothing to do with reality or what is happening in the present moment. We’re never taught how to train ourselves to be in the present moment, and we don’t think that children actually have the ability to be consciously aware of what it’s like to be thoughtful. When we’re born, we have a huge imagination network that’s active, and our focus network and our social networks are barely developed at all; they literally take 18 to 25 years to fully develop.
What we’re looking at now is if you can actually conscious observation of the conscious mind itself because the only thing, we can be aware of is right up here and this is where thinking takes place. I don’t use the word “thoughts” because nobody has been able to identify what the thought is, so there isn’t an object called a “thought,” but there is an activity called thinking, and it’s basically the information being pulled up called working memory. We only hold a little bit of it, and we work with that little bit of memory for five or ten seconds, then we bring up another chunk of information, and that’s how we sequentially gather enough information to make a conscious decision. We’re now finding out that you can use your conscious mind to watch your conscious mind. When you do so, the negative part of your fantasy system becomes less active, the other side that’s more optimistic becomes more active, and the part of your brain that’s involved with calmness, awareness, serenity, and observation becomes the most active. Most people will call that meditation.
Ari Whitten: That’s interesting. There are a few concepts that I want to clarify because they almost sound contradictory to me, although I’m sure they’re not. You’ve suggested that people have a deficiency in the ability to activate the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and cognitive function.
Mark Waldman: A better word would be ‘imbalance.’ It’s as if you’re juggling five balls, or if you’re walking across a tight rope, how do you orchestrate all of your muscles to stay on that tightrope? Maybe that would be a good metaphor for your brain. How do you orchestrate the turning on and off and the shifting between these networks in an orchestrated way? When you say people want to have more focus, the metaphor I would use with you is that it’s like going to the gym. If I want to have stronger biceps, and so all I do is spend all day working on building up that one bicep, you tell me what would happen if that’s the only exercise I did at the gym.
Ari Whitten:If you did it every day and too high of a volume, you would tax the muscle to the point where you wouldn’t make any progress, and there would be a big imbalance between that and the other muscles at the same time.
Mark Waldman:Directly apply that to staying focused and accomplishing a whole bunch of tasks.
Ari Whitten: That makes sense. With that in mind, it sounds like you’ve said a couple of times that many people could benefit more from the ability to activate the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and sustained focus, attention, and cognitive function, but you’ve also said that people could benefit more from the ability to unfocus and drop into the default mode network or imaginative network. Is that accurate? Clarify that for me.
Mark Waldman: Again, it’s like juggling. We have to figure out if it is possible to consciously shift our attention between these three networks because we can only catch glimpses of the imagination network. When you have an intuitive flash and insight, that’s coming from your imagination. Everybody asks, “Where does that come from?” We can now see on a brain scan precisely where it comes from. It is processed through the salience network, and the only tool and strategy we have for that is if you become aware of whatever is happening within your thought, feeling, and thinking process.
That’s how you can activate the network that can catch glimpses of the larger processes of the brain, and you do so just like a scientist [would make observations]: I’m just going to sit back and watch how my negativity operates. I’m going to watch how my sadness feels. I’m going to watch how this food tastes and might even want to savor it so I can stimulate the salience network even more.
Savoring is a process where we accentuate the positive experiences in our life, and if we do it consciously, we develop a stronger salience network, which is what everyone is saying acts as a regulator between the imagination network and our thinking network. It’s a balance. If you do too much thinking, you turn off your imagination and your emotions and feelings. If you get too much caught up in your emotions and feelings and imagination, it shuts down your thinking process, and that’s where anxiety comes from, which is a form of mental stress.
Regarding anxiety and mental stress, we only see a bunch of neurological activity going on in these large frontal lobe areas, both sides, and that’s basically controlled by blood flow, the key energy system because it is the one that we have the most access to. We can shift and change our blood flow; we can increase it dramatically, for example, through aerobic exercise, and if you’re doing deep aerobic exercise, it’s really hard to be worrying about something after two or three minutes. That’s a neurological fact, not a projection.
What’s mind-blowing about this is that we used to think that our feelings were down here in the lower part of the brain, and those emotions are totally different from what we’re normally feeling. The feelings that we have are part of the imagination: they aren’t real. When we realize that, we can begin to kind of play with them. We can deliberately go back and forth between doing focused attention and then relaxing.
Yawning is one of the fastest ways to increase the blood flow in this part of the brain (called a thermoregulatory mechanism), and the research shows that any psychological or neurological disorder that you have, the stronger it gets, the more likely you’re going to start yawning. Yawning has been looked at as a symptom of a neurological disorder. All of us doing this research are pretty much certain that you can switch that around, and that you can actually use yawning to suspend those. It’s all anecdotal research.
You can take somebody with a very severe neurological disorder, have them yawn ten times, and that neurological disorder is temporarily suspended. What I’m promoting—either because people love it or it’s different or it works, we don’t know—is to set a timer to go off two or three times an hour when you’re working, and when you hear the timer ring just stop in the middle of your work for ten seconds and do not just a single yawn, but a mindful yawn where you pay attention to what that yawn feels like for a few seconds. Sit with that sense, then get back to work. You can also do a super-slow stretch for 60 seconds to interrupt any anxiety you have. You’ll feel the little aches and pains in your muscles, and that super slow movement, if done gently, will allow your brain to send a relaxation signal to those muscles. We’re slowing down, we’re becoming more aware. We’re using not just yawning, but mindful yawning, as a way to interrupt the busyness going on in our frontal lobes, then we get back to work. We have found that if you stay highly focused for more than 40 minutes, that’s when you will begin to have neurological burnout. You may not recognize it for two or three years, and then when it hits, you may not be able to get back to work for another two or three years.
The power of yawning
Ari Whitten: Wow. I wanted to go deeper into yawning and some of the other practical strategies, but let’s paint a big picture first. What you just said is actually a perfect segue to that, which is that if you don’t have the correct balance, you can end up experiencing neurological burnout. On a big-picture level, before we dive into more practical strategies, what does the optimal balance between these networks look like? Do we really know what that looks like? Do we have a group of people who we’ve identified as having the best brain function in the world and whose balance we should try to replicate? How do we get a sense of what that optimal balance is?
Mark Waldman: For the past six months, I’ve been trying to find the neuroscientists who have gathered that type of information, and I’m going to find out one of two things. I may find out that the people who are presenting this model have simply borrowed assumptions on hypotheses from other models that may not have anything to do with it.
That was the case with mirror neuron theory; it turns out that it’s not at all true because everyone misinterpreted the first study. I may find that out, or I may find the person who has a database collecting them, and then I can ask them that particular question. For now, I have to go with what my intuition is telling me, which is part of my imagination center, which you access through your awareness center, and I can then think about it. If I can bring those two together—my model that I’m presenting to the mindfulness community and the neuroscientific community—there may be a handful of strategies that we can use to teach a person how to become aware, just as they can become aware of their arm, their leg, their neck. Can you begin to walk and move in a way where you can feel your arm, legs, and neck walking in a rather efficient way? My guess is that the brain is actually simpler than that, that the more you bring awareness to any form of psychological or neurological functioning that you can glimpse, that awareness itself is the balancing exercise.
Ari Whitten:Explain that more. What do you mean by that?
Mark Waldman:Okay, let’s do an example. What feeling or mood or emotion might you be experiencing right now?
Mark Waldman:Perfect. What I want you to do is now turn your full attention to what you call curiosity. I presume you really haven’t thought about it prior to this moment, right?
Mark Waldman:Curiosity is specific because it comes from your motivation network. Try to sit there and see if you can watch how your curiosity works, and all I want you to do is to share with me every imaginative impression or thought that pops into your mind. You’re using your imagination center to explore a center that’s really much deeper in your brain. When you look at your curiosity, what’s the first thing you sense or see or feel about it?
Ari Whitten:I don’t know.
Mark Waldman:Now pay attention to that shift in awareness you just had. Your eyes turned over, you sighed; it was like you were actually having a more natural physiological response because you were engaged in the present moment awareness of a particular activity that you’d never noticed before. This is almost an aha experience. An aha experience is very brain regulating.
Ari Whitten:Maybe this negatively influenced the results, but to some extent, the curiosity was when you were talking and explaining the concepts, and then when the focus shifted to me, curiosity was no longer there.
Mark Waldman:See if you can bring it back. This is exercise. Consider that you were moving your arm, then you became aware that I was moving my arm, and I asked you to become aware of your arm and whatever was going on that you weren’t aware of, but now move your arm around and see if you can become aware of it. Move your curiosity route. You’re going to have to use your imagination and creativity. What can you become curious about right now?
The mindful awareness
Ari Whitten:What are the processes going on in my brain right now as far as the different networks that are being activated during this exercise?
Mark Waldman:So, you have a question. Take a moment and see if you can savor what that question feels like. “Oh, I’m curious about that. That’s interesting. That’s something new. That’s something different.” That’s your motivation center working. Anytime your brain encounters something new, different, potentially pleasurable and potentially useful, that brain will go out and gather more of it, whether it be an object or money or relationship or knowledge in this particular case. In your case of curiosity, you’ve done it unconsciously, and what I’m saying is that you can shift into that awareness framework and begin to look inwards at your curiosity rather than just being followed by it. The act of doing that appears to create the best balance between the conscious and unconscious, particularly if you do it in dialogue with somebody else.
This is part of that salience network, of the awareness network. It’s the social awareness network. When we’re thinking up here, this is just goal-oriented; this is what I want to get for me to have more of that. It’s not about people, it’s about achieving a goal. This level is about how everything connects.
Mindful awareness means I’m aware of how I’m thinking. I’m aware of how I’m acting. I’m aware of how I’m feeling. I’m aware of what this food tastes like. I’m aware of how this exercise is affecting me. I’m noticing my negative thoughts and my positive thoughts. In doing so, you disconnect from the ability to overly emotionalize, to get too much caught up in your feelings. What happens with anxiety is that we latch onto the anxiety. “I’m going to fail. This isn’t going to work. I’m not going to make enough money to pay my rent,” and then we keep repeating it. What happens as a result is that it is being done so long, you’re forming a memory that when now recalled feels like a reality from the outside world, even though it started out as an imagination.
If you do it long enough and keep trying to figure out how to interrupt that anxiety, then you’re using up even more energy until you finally give up in some particular way. When you give up, that form of depression means you’ve just shut down your motivational center. You’re going to deliberately interrupt your natural, innate curiosity to explore something. That’s one kind of depression that is easily treatable by teaching the person that their depression is created by their imagination of an anxiety that doesn’t really exist.
Ari Whitten: I have a question for you. This process that you just talked about, as far as someone becoming aware of those things in the context of a conversation with another person, how would you differentiate that—which you’re framing as a positive quality—from someone being excessively neurotic and being in a conversation with someone where they’re saying, “Oh my gosh, what’s my facial expression doing? Do I look good? How are they judging me for wearing these clothes? Did I do my hair today?” They’re in their heads. They’re having lots of thoughts, and maybe they’re hyper-aware of themselves.
Mark Waldman: Exactly. They are hyper-aware of their imagination, but they don’t know that this is their imagination. That’s why I like the term imagination. “They don’t know that they’re in their default mode network” doesn’t seem to mean much to anybody, including other neuroscientists. This is part of that creative imagination that we’re born with, and this is what makes us unique. In other words, when we encounter a problem, we can use that imagination to come up with solutions that no other mammal can do, and if we make a problem, we might be able to figure out how we made it in order to avoid making the same mistake a second time, whereas the animals that created the problem for themselves, they’ll just withdraw.
The power of presence
Ari Whitten:I feel like there’s another concept that needs to be tied in here. It’s something that you mentioned briefly earlier, and that is the concept of presence, or to be present to another. What does that mean if you’re talking about someone becoming more aware of themselves in the context of having a conversation with another person? First of all, what does it mean to be present, neurologically speaking, and then how does that tie into what you’re talking about here?
Mark Waldman:Even if I explain these concepts, they won’t make any sense, so what I try to do in my work, and when I’m coaching other people and teaching other people, I try to create an experience that they can directly attach to a particular concept.
When we are focused, as when you have a question, you’re articulating your words in a very clear way, you’re really up here in your executive network. You are thinking; you are consciously thinking. Is there such a thing as a difference between consciousness and awareness? Here’s where each neuroscientist has to define their term. I’m saying consciousness is that amount of information that I’m processing in this present moment to achieve a particular goal. Listening, speaking to the other person, writing down something, going to the bank, etc. When you’re doing that, you’re using memories from the past, projecting them on the future: “I want to go to the bank. How did I do that in the past?” You’re not really thinking about the flowers and the trees, or what your feet feel like on the ground right this moment because that’s too much information. That’s why when you were thinking about something, the rest of your brain kind of shuts down and you really have very little awareness going on.
If you spend all of your time in awareness in that deeper sense, you will become an enlightened individual, so to speak. I can sit here, become aware of my breathing, my feeling, and there are all kinds awareness exercises. I think focusing on your breathing is a boring one. If you listen to the sound of a bell fade away, you have to listen harder and harder. That’s a way of training yourself to concentrate, but if you then just sit back and don’t do anything and see what you notice, I hear a buzzing in my ear. I see the light bulb above. I feel my breathing. I feel an irritability as if I must be worrying about something, or maybe it was just too much work today. These are unconscious, self-reflective thoughts going on, but I sit there, and I watch them. I don’t latch onto them. What happens is I become aware that I am sitting here in the present moment, aware of my thoughts, my feelings, and my sensations. If I take my fingertips and I run them gently over my face or my hands, I’ll feel more pleasure if I’m in the present moment.
A lot of times, people aren’t in the present moment unless they’re doing a pleasurable activity that they love. You might say if you’re going to golf, you have to be in the present moment. As you do that swing, you’re aware of everything that’s part of a particular movement, or what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls ‘being in flow.’
Ari Whitten:What is that? What is that presence or flow, neurologically speaking? Is it to drop out of the thinking network and enter the imaginative network?
Mark Waldman:I would say the perfect balance between all three when the thinking network and the imagination network can shift back and forth like a beautiful seesaw, and then the fulcrum of that seesaw, that’s your salience network. It is there helping that particular balance through your awareness. That’s what I’m saying. Simply by becoming aware of anything solves half of the problem, then the other half of the problem can be solved either with your imagination or with all of the skills you’ve learned in the past.
How to optimize the balance between between different networks with mindfulness exercises
Ari Whitten:That’s interesting. Let’s segue into how we actually optimize the balance between these different networks. You’ve already mentioned yawning as a profound strategy to help accomplish that. What are some of the others, and maybe you can talk specifically about what yawning is doing in terms of these different networks, and then talk about some of the other strategies as well?
Mark Waldman:When we are overly stressed, our ability to focus tends to shut down. In other words, you might say that stress is the fact that I’ve been focused too much on something, whether inwardly or outwardly. I’ve exhausted the neurochemicals in that part. I’m not having enough blood flow to move the glial cells around and to recirculate those neurochemicals. It also means that when someone is feeling stressed out, what we will usually see in a brain scan machine is that there’s too much activity going up here in the imagination center, and not enough ability to focus or even to be aware of how everything is chaotic.
In 2006, [inaudible], we were the first research team to know this. I began to form what’s called a thermal regulatory theory for yawning. Every pain circuit in your brain is regulated by yawning. I have a wonderful little video here showing a fetus yawning 16 weeks in the womb. If that fetus doesn’t yawn, it will be brain-damaged when it’s born.
Every animal and mammal that you see does a whole lot of yawning throughout the day. They do it when they wake up; it’s even a form of primitive social empathy. So, why do we stifle our yawns? We have 5,000 years of history, and part of it is thanks to religion: there was a belief that when you yawn, the devil will get into you. Anyway, yawning involves a lot of muscles in the neck. It increases your blood flow, that increased blood flow is like a radiator. you’re getting more fluid circulating through the engine, so the engine cools down. Remember that there is a lot of heat being generated from the activity in your brain, and it’s your blood flow that is mainly responsible for not letting it get overly active.
And that’s what happens. It usually takes three mindful yawns, and if you want me to, I’ll guide everybody through. [Ari Whitten: Please do.] I’m going to do this in a way to teach you what awareness is. Go ahead and do a yawn, and everybody else who’s watching this, do a yawn. Fake it or just breath in and say, “Ah” as you exhale. I’m willing to bet that most of you don’t feel any difference in your mental state or mood. Do you feel any particular difference, Ari? [Ari Whitten: No.]Now we’re going to do a mindful yawn, and the only thing about that is that we’re going to bring our full attention into the experience. What does that yawn actually feel like? Where does it begin? What does it feel like while you yawn? Then after you do that mindful yawn, sit quietly for 10 seconds with your eyes closed and see if you notice a little subtle shift in your mental state, your mood, or your state of relaxation. Ready? We’ll all do a first mindful yawn.
Ari, do you notice any subtle shifts in your mental state or mood or body?
Ari Whitten: Yeah, less tension.
Mark Waldman:In your body?
Ari Whitten: Yes.
Mark Waldman:How about in your mind?
Ari Whitten: Both mental and physical tension.
Mark Waldman: How would you describe less mental tension?
Ari Whitten: When I’m performing an interview, I have a lot of thoughts going through my head at any particular time about the next question I’m going to ask, but also trying to be extremely attentive to what the speaker is talking about in this moment because I may either ask a predetermined follow-up question, or I may ask something that’s a natural follow up to what they just said.
So, there’s a lot of activity going on, and a lot of pressure to make sure I conduct the interview in the right way and make sure that I allow the speaker to deliver the best material. All those thoughts are going on, but the yawn took me out of that for a moment. It allowed all that chatter to calm down.
Mark Waldman: Yes, and by the third mindful yawn that you and I and the audience will do, it’s quite possible that both you and I will forget almost everything we’ve said and may not know what to say next, but if we sit in that state of present moment awareness (that’s what that awareness is), that’s where you can allow your intuition to direct the conversation.
If you do this with two people, you can end up having the spontaneous, intuitive conversation that seems to come out from nowhere, and after about four minutes when we do this in a group situation, 25% of the people have tears running down their faces because you’re not trying to think your way through a conversation: instead, you’re just experiencing the few words the other person says, and you’re savoring it in the present moment. You’re saying whatever pops into your mind, that’s your intuition, and you go back and forth, and when you bring this into the workplace, you can solve problems in about five or ten minutes that would normally take 20 to 40 minutes, or even several days to solve.
Let’s all do a second mindful yawn now and see if you notice it. Most people who have not done this before won’t feel what I’m trying to describe until the third one. Here’s number two.
It becomes easier to spontaneously yawn the more you do this. Again, just sit and be aware of anything. Sounds, feelings, thoughts, your body. What do you notice, this time, Ari?
Ari Whitten:I was actually thinking back to the thermoregulation thing as I thought I felt a sensation of coolness in the lower back part of my brain.
Mark Waldman:Well, since we can’t actually feel anything in our brain, you’ve just used your imagination center that creates the images. That’s very different from what our visual cortex [inaudible]. Now, let’s quickly do another mindful yawn, and you’re going to watch that part fall away.
I want to take you to the place where you lose all control of how to guide this interview because it’s easy to come back into focus. Personally, this time I feel an incredible calmness and serenity: pleasure. What about you?
Ari Whitten:Just calmness. There are some birds chirping in the tree outside. That’s the first time during this interview that the birds singing popped into my head.
Mark Waldman: Instead of interviewing the way you normally do, ask your intuition, not your logical, well-honed rational mind. What question would your intuition like to ask and see if something brand new comes to mind that you never thought of before. That means you have to sit there for a while and let something whisper to you because your intuition, which is the creative problem-solving part of your brain, isn’t very language-based, so it comes through as an impression. We have to allow those words to find themselves.
Mindfulness exercise – How to lower stress by counting words
Ari Whitten: What comes to mind for me is what I asked a little while ago about what the optimal balance is between these different networks of the brain and if there was any specific segment of the population that we could look to as having the sort of ideal brain balance. What came into my head just now is if there is a more individualized, optimal brain balance for people in different roles and different settings. I have a baby that’s on the way in a couple months, for example, so could it depend on whether you’re the mother of a newborn or you are the CEO of a business? Is there going to be a very different balance between these different networks of the brain for those two people in those two different contexts?
Mark Waldman:Yes, it does depend, because when you try to put the two together, all parents will tell you that it’s simply called brain meltdown. Somehow you perform everything without even knowing how you got through it because you didn’t sleep for a month.
Here’s another exercise. Recall the salience network, the network that balances your imagination with your focus. If you stay in that relaxed, moment-to-moment state and only speak about 10 words, maybe 20 at the most, pause, come back into that relaxed state, then let the other person respond.
You and I can do this for the next couple of minutes, and I’m willing to bet it will be a surprisingly intriguing conversation for both you and me and those who are watching and listening.
We’ll see if you can do it from that intuitive part. It’s a different way: I’m asking you to speak from your intuitive imagination rather than your normal executive network, and because it’s hard to come up with words, you’ll probably only get about ten to come out. Don’t go more than 10: we’ll both do it with 10 words each.
Why traditional mindfulness is overrated
Ari Whitten:You mentioned earlier that mindfulness is overrated. Why?
Mark Waldman:Perfect. It takes longer if I’m going to concisely answer that in the most salient way possible.
It’s not a cure for anything. It simply enhances your thought process, your imagination. If you mindfully watch how a drug affects you, the research shows that the drug is more effective.
It’s overrated because the way it’s traditionally taught is that you do 20 minutes in the morning and then you throw yourself back into all of your old habitual ways of working, which causes all the stress in the first place. Our business model, and what we teach our executive MBA students, is, therefore, to set your mindfulness clock to ring two or three times. Do one mindful yawn, maybe one super slow stretch, and then at the top of the hour, take 60 seconds to mindfully sit and be aware of your thoughts, your feelings, your values, and what you want to focus on for the next hour. Once again, it’s kind of like juggling or breathing; instead of doing one mindfulness thing in the morning and then returning to a normal workday, I want you to mindfully breathe throughout the day rather than habitually breathe, but since you can’t do it throughout the day, just do it a few times a day. If you do 60 seconds once an hour, at the end of the day, you will actually have put in eight minutes of practice and in about eight weeks, if we were to put you back into a brain scan machine, we would almost certainly see structural changes, as much as 25% in some of these key network areas. But if you stop doing it, the benefits go away. It’s both under underrated and overrated.
Ari Whitten:Define that for us. In which context is it underrated, and in which is it overrated?
Mark Waldman:It’s underrated because people don’t realize that a few moments of mindful awareness are actually resetting that balance between these three networks. We’re doing it consciously, and maybe it’ll come to you in two or three months, particularly if you’re working with a mindfulness-based neuro coach, or as in my case, it could take 20 years, but it’s so easy to do. What I’m adding to the mindfulness framework is to get into that state of mindfulness or to have your best-focused attention. If you take 60 seconds to physically relax and mentally relax, with whatever strategy works best for you—whether it be 60 seconds of slow, gentle stretching, three mindful yawns, or even doing something pleasurable like a very slow stroking of your hands or arms or face—that pleasurable sensation will pull you into the present moment.
Add any of those three strategies to your meditation practice, to your mindfulness practice, to your work, and to your concentration. Do it before you exercise on the treadmill and do it for a minute when you get off of it. In doing so, you’re simply bringing more awareness to the activity you are about to do, and then you’re bringing more awareness to the experience of the activity after you’ve finished it. Those brief moments of mindfulness alongside any other activity is going to allow you to become more consciously aware of that activity, and that’s all the nonconscious parts of your brain need to make that activity more effective and efficient the next time you do it.
Ari Whitten: Excellent. So, you’ve talked about yawning and you’ve talked about this interruption once or a few times an hour to engage in dropping out of the thinking network and having more awareness versus just being conscious. Are there any other strategies that you want to mention to help bring these different networks back into a better balance?
Mark Waldmann: Well, it turns out that the salience network is the part of your brain that actually puts a value on any experience you’re having, either from the outside world, your emotions, or from the way in which you are thinking.
One of the favorite exercises of my executive MBA students is to do a few mindful yawns and stretches, come into the present moment, then ask their intuition what their deepest, innermost value is. And they sit with that, and they see what word pops into mind. Again, this is far more effective to do with a group of people or with somebody else. If I ask myself, “What is my deepest, innermost value at the moment?” I get two words this time: savoring peace. It used to be peace for me, but this is a new one: savoring peace. When I’m in that peaceful state, I become more aware of it. What pops into your mind? What’s your deepest, innermost value.
Mark Waldman:Okay, now you notice that you paused beforehand and you kind of looked inwards. That’s how you know a person has shifted into that state of mindful inquiry. That’s where you know your intuitive process is operating.
We ask our students to do that once every morning for 10 days. Then we give them a set of questions and we find that 90% of our students discovered that their stress levels went down at work, and these are all CEO’s and managers of huge companies, so they’re working 12-14 hours a day. Their stress levels go down, and their work productivity goes up. Now, when you’re at work, there is a different kind of question you can ask. We call it a power word rather than an inner value word. Inner value has to do more with a person’s deepest relationship values, deepest about spiritual values, and deepest happiness values. Work values are different. For me, one of my work values at the moment is to make sure that I stay incredibly relaxed and aware of any tension building up so that I can do more work with far less stress.
So, every hour you can ask yourself what power word you need. Maybe it’s just confidence; maybe you’re about to give a presentation, and you’re feeling anxious and you simply say, “Confidence, confidence, confidence with peace,” or whatever word comes to you, and you can even turn it into a mantra. You can say, “I breathe in peace, I breathe out stress. I breathe in peace, I breathe out stress.” This is Herb Benson’s seminal research work. If you take one of those value words and you keep repeating it silently to yourself, many times throughout the day, after eight weeks you will be able to establish 1,200 stress-reducing genes turned on. In another study, 1,000 immune-enhancing genes were turned on simply by repeating a value word. We know from our research that the value word turns on the salience network: that’s your mindful awareness center. That’s the thing that’s creating a balance with all these other networks. Until I’m proven wrong, that’s what I’m going to stand by.
The CRAP board exercise
Ari Whitten: One more thing I want to mention here is that you’ve developed an exercise called the CRAP exercise, the c-r-a-p exercise, which is not actually meant to spell “crap” but is a play on words.
Mark Waldman: It is all the crappy thoughts and feelings and problems that you think you have that you want to get rid of.
Ari Whitten: Before we discuss the specifics of it, I want to give some context here. This exercise is one of the most powerful exercises I’ve ever done. I’ve found it to be absolutely transformative. I think it’s an amazing thing. I believe you had just invented it when I first did this exercise several years ago—it must have been seven or eight years ago. Coincidentally, I just saw an email you sent out earlier today talking about complaining and helping people become more conscious of how often they are having negative, complaining type thoughts throughout the day, and it mentioned specifically that some people may have up to 25 complaining thoughts per hour, and there was a little quote at the end that was something to the effect of “A complaint today keeps the therapist employed.”
So, talk about those negative thoughts, especially for people who are prone to ruminating on very negative thoughts, and the value of either the exercise you sent out today in the email or the CRAP exercise or both of them.
Mark Waldman: They’re all really tied in together. CRAP stands for conflicts, resistances, anxiety, and any other problem that you think you have. You just take out a sheet of paper and you write down all of your faults, all of your weaknesses, and all the things that you’d like to change. For example, I’d like to be less anxious, less self-critical, worry less about A, B, and C, and so on. You put it down on a piece of paper, and you try to fill up the whole piece of paper. I’m pretty good at this and can sometimes write down 200 things on a piece of paper.
Ari Whitten: Yes, I was shocked at how many things I wrote down. I consider myself a pretty positive person and a pretty secure person who has good mental health and on. I have gone through periods of depression and anxiety and such, but I feel like I’m in a pretty good place for the most part, yet I wrote down an enormously long list of negative things that I have anxieties about or insecurities about. I was shocked at how many things came up when I really spent some time thinking about it.
Mark Waldman:Well, this is an old cognitive therapy, a strategy that has been used for decades. You make a list of all your negative thoughts and a list of all your positive thoughts on a different day so that you become more aware of it. What I’m bringing to this exercise though, is this relaxed state of mindful awareness. After you put all those words down on paper, then I want you to yawn and stretch and relax and ask your intuition what else should go on your paper.
I’m just curious. I want to do it right now. I want to see what my intuition says. What should I put on my CRAP board? Anyone listening can do this, and Ari can do this. What goes on my CRAP board? Ah, this is a good one. I can think of lots of CRAP. I’ve been in this incredible enlightened state of bliss and serenity for about six months, and I’m afraid it’s going to end.
Ari Whitten:Mine is this overwhelming feeling that there isn’t enough time in the day and the year to get done all of the things that I want to get done, so I constantly feel behind on all the projects that I’m trying to work on.
Mark Waldman:That may actually be true. It probably means that you haven’t taken out a sheet of paper and done a daily planning thing of how much time it will take for each of the things you want to accomplish; it would probably add up to 26 hours. You can set yourself up for a fall.
Here’s the brain part of it. Just by putting a worrisome thought or a negative feeling on a piece of paper. If you just look at that piece of paper, your brain seems to disassociate from it basically because when you’re looking at your words on your paper, you are unwittingly using the awareness of them. You’re just becoming aware of those words. On the contrary, if you’re really highly anxious, the words will bother you even more. That’s why it’s very important to then very deeply relax, to go into this incredible relaxed state through yawning, stretching, and gently stroking parts of your body, or whatever puts you in the present moment. Then when you look at your list, you just gaze at your board and they just become words. Then you can look at them and you can ask yourself the question, “Are these really true?” Give each one an intensity number: how true is it that I’m worried about my blissful state disappearing? Well, I’d give it a five, but I might’ve been thinking it was a ten, but when I do it right now, I say, “Oh, a five, that’s not so bad. Maybe I’m not that worried about it.” In doing that little exercise, I allow myself to have a different perspective.
When you shift networks between imagination, awareness and the normal way that you think with all your old behaviors and memories, if you can consciously go back and forth between those two, it’ll simply give you a broad perspective. You’re looking at the problems, you’re looking at the possibilities, you’re looking at the skills that you have, but you’re just looking to see if there might be something brand new, and you’re detaching yourself from the emotional content that you’ve probably projected onto it. So, you never throw your CRAP board away. You just keep it up there, look at it each day, and add things to it.
I just had a really amazing email from a colleague. I’m volunteering to help a woman who was working with adolescents and adults who have had brain trauma, mostly from different types of tumors that may have left them partly blind or whatever else, and their cognitive skills are also a little compromised. My colleague has tweaked this board in such a way, and she’s seeing profoundly remarkable results. They don’t do conflicts first; they use the word “problems” first because the word “conflict” must create conflict for them. They write down the problem on their CRAP board then look at it and consider, “Is it true or not, this [inaudible],” and they’re gaining great insights just by having their problem written down on a piece of paper. It’s amazing to me how many people have found that.
Ari Whitten:Yeah, I’ll say again that on a personal note, this is one of the most amazing practices I’ve ever engaged in, and there really is something magical that happens when you have these things all listed out on a piece of paper, and it’s really counter-intuitive for a lot of people. I’m sure there are a lot of people listening to this right now saying, “You want me to spend time thinking about all the negativity in my life, then write it down.
Mark Waldman:I don’t want you to spend time thinking about it; I want you to write it down, watch it, and not think about it. I want you to be aware of it.
Ari Whitten:Right, and that’s the counterintuitive part. What I found is that when you actually get it out on paper and then practice in a way that you guide people to practice this exercise, it stops happening so much inside because it’s out there on the paper. What I experienced was my brain saying, “Oh, I don’t have to continue to constantly remind myself of all of those things because if I need to reference them, they’re on the piece of paper,” and it really created this profound dissociation for me where my brain got to relax about all those things and stop thinking so much about them.
Mark Waldman:I’m trying to teach people not to think about their problem but become aware of the thought process that’s involved in how they perceive or construct that problem. For example, if you’re a highly anxious person, the moment you become aware of that, your anxiety level will drop even though you’ve done nothing else other than becoming aware of it. That’s the power of mindfulness. That’s why I’m suggesting you bring it into your therapy room, bring it into your problem-solving room with your board of directors to do a mindfulness based brainstorming session.
Ari Whitten:Mark, this has been absolutely fascinating stuff. I’ve really enjoyed this conversation tremendously. I have really enjoyed having you on again for the second time, and I do want to say that I feel like we’ve covered a lot of stuff and a lot of concepts and that there may be some people who feel overwhelmed by all of this. Can you maybe do like a very brief recap of the two or three most important takeaways from this conversation?
Mark Waldman:I have a far more powerful strategy that I do at the end of every talk, and that we do at the end of every teaching lesson at LMU. I have everybody close their eyes, so everyone who has been watching and listening, close your eyes for a moment and do whatever strategy feels best to you. A mindful yawn, a super slow stretch, or stroking your hands or arms while thinking of a deep inner value. Immerse yourself in an incredible sense of pleasure, and instead of trying to think about everything we’ve been talking about, just ask your intuition what you found the most interesting, curious, useful from everything that we’ve been saying, and write that down.
If I was to tell you what is important to me, I will have violated a basic neurological premise of yours that every human brain is designed to collect information in a unique way to apply it to its own unique circumstance and to come up with its own unique solutions. So, the insights that you come up with are far more important than the ones I think you should have. When we do this with clients who are highly anxious or students who are uncertain, we’re teaching them how to trust their own inner wisdom, and that helps them to have more self-confidence and self-esteem rather than remaining dependent upon somebody else to tell them what’s important. I don’t know what came to your mind. As for me, I like this brand-new metaphor of looking at these three networks—your imagination network, your thinking network, and your awareness network—and viewing them as three balls that you’re juggling. As long as you’re constantly touching and moving between them, they’ll all stay active, they’ll all stay in movement, and this is what I believe is the most efficient, productive, effective way to exercise your brain and keep that neurological balance going well into your nineties.
Ari Whitten: Beautiful. Mark, this has been so much fun. Thank you so much again for coming on the show, and I look forward to having you on again in a few months and having some more conversations with you in the very near future.
Mark Waldman: Happy to do as many of these with you as you’d like.
Ari Whitten: One final thing. Obviously, you have a couple of books that have come out in the last few years. How Enlightenment Changes Your Brain and NeuroWisdom. I highly recommend both of those. I’ve personally read them. I’m a huge fan of Mark’s work, so go pick those up on Amazon, but Mark, where can people follow your work, subscribe to your newsletter, and learn more about what you do?
Mark Waldman: I have a whole series of new e-books. If you go to my website, www.markrobertswaldman.com, you’ll see two free e-books right there on the front page. One of them is 10 Mind-Blowing Discoveries About the Human Brain. Another one is on simple exercises like this that you can bring right into your workplace. We also created NeuroCoach Press which resulted from encouraging my students to delve into this rich, vast world of neuroscience and put together a small ebook collecting the newest, coolest stuff in neuroscience along with an experiential exercise to demonstrate that capacity so that you can immediately apply it to your life. This is what we call practical neuroscience. you’ll find all of that information on my webpage.
Ari Whitten:Excellent. That is great stuff, my friend. Thank you again and enjoy the rest of your evening.
Mark Waldman:Take care.
3 Powerful Mindfulness Exercises To Rewire Your Brain For Energy, Focus and Creativity with Mark Waldman – Show Notes
Connecting the dots between neural activity and “brain energy” (2:28)
Debunking the left brain/right brain myth (5:45)
Why the “you only use 10% of your brain” claim is false (10:53)
The imagination networks (14:52)
The power of yawning (30:43)
The mindful awareness (35:14)
The power of presence (39:32)
How to optimize the balance between different networks with mindfulness exercises (43:53)
Mindfulness exercise – How to lower stress by counting words (52:26)
Why traditional mindfulness is overrated (54:48)
The CRAP board exercise (1:03:27)
To get Mark’s 2 free ebooks, go visit his website www.markrobertwaldman.com
Get Mark’s book How Enlightenment Changes Your Brain on Amazon (Affiliate Amazon link)