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The toothbrush for your Brain!

How often do you brush your teeth? Once a month? A couple of times a week? I hope not! I am sure most of you brush your teeth at least twice a day, once in the morning and once before you go to sleep. In fact, it is probably on autopilot at this point.

Would it be just as effective to brush your teeth longer, like maybe for 30 minutes once a month? I am no dentist, but I doubt it. The really large gains and progress in life usually comes from small, consistent daily habits. In fact, if you improve just 1% each day, you will see 100% improvement in just 70 days.

I want to share an activity that can be done in less than 10 minutes a day that can have a profound impact on the other 23 hours and 50 minutes. Think of it as the toothbrush for your BRAIN.

I have long heard about the benefits of journaling.

– Reduces stress and clarify thoughts and feelings

– Strengthens immune cells

– Helps remove mental blocks

– Increases focus

– Helps to harness creativity

Even knowing the benefits, the thought of staring at a blank page wondering what to write was a roadblock to me getting started. Like many people, I am also short on time, then I across the Five Minute Journal. Five minutes? I can come up with Five minutes. But the best part is that it provides a simple structure that is backed by research of proven principles from positive psychology.

I have been using this journal now for two months and it has had a huge impact on the days I utilize it, so much so that I wanted it with you.

It is incredibly simple. Each page or day has you complete three short sections in the morning and two sections in the evening. That’s it!

blog 5 min insert in body

IN THE MORNING

Each day at the top of the page is quote or a weekly challenge. Today for example:

“If you want to conquer fear, don’t sit home and think about it. Get out and get busy!” – Dale Carnegie

These are great to get you jump started and in the right mindset.

Next are three lines to complete the sentence I am grateful for.….

We have been given a great gift of being able to choose where we focus our conscious thoughts at any moment regardless of the external circumstances. We have this power, but many rarely use it, instead being pulled from event to event, thought to thought in the river of the day’s activities and distractions.

Starting off your day focusing on your blessings, what is going well and really appreciating what you have in your life can make a tremendous impact. In fact a study in 2008 involving brain scanners showed that people experiencing gratitude influenced in a positive way the part of their brain that directly impacts stress, sleep and eating.

I have challenged myself to come up with new things that I am thankful for each and every day. I try my best not to repeat them. It can be easy to jot down, family, spouse, kids or career without really giving it much thought. I have received the most value when I really sit and focus on the little things most of us take for granted, but truly aren’t that little.

– Clean water at my fingertips

– Spring weather

– Lazy weekends

– Air conditioning (I do live in Texas)

– My children’s innocence and curiosity

Some days they will come to me rather easily. Other times I need to sit for a few moments and really think about the little things that I take for granted. The power is in really “feeling” the appreciation and not rushing it.

The next section has three blanks to fill in the statement: What would make today great? I love this question and have been surprised at how difficult it is to answer some days!

It is easy to get caught up in the minutia of everyday life and to continuously move from one To Do List item to another. But is that really having an impact? I know I am guilty of sometimes being busy, but not necessarily productive, looking back at the end of the day and wondering what I really accomplished.

This question has really helped me get clear on what the highest priority is, what would make the biggest impact and where my focus needs to be for the day.

I will often ask myself, if I ONLY accomplish three things today and nothing else, what would make today a success? That seems to help me break through the clutter and get clear on what is really important. I have been surprised the impact of writing these items down has on the rest of my day. It really drives me to make sure I complete these three items and adds to my accountability.

 Tip: Focus on areas YOU have control over. It might be nice if you won the lottery, but you will have greater success and impact if you focus on the specific things you have control over.

 The last part of the morning session is two Daily Affirmations – I am (fill in the blank). This section is simply about how you want to show up to yourself and to others in the coming day. You are priming your brain for how you want to act, feel, think, or interact with others. There are distractions all around us, this helps you define your area of focus. Instead of just going with the flow and again being pulled in all direction from external events, you decide who you will be today. For more on Priming check out my previous blog post.

Examples from my journal:

– I am grateful for all the large and small blessings in my life and take time to appreciate them.

– I am relaxed and able to stay focused in the moment.

– I am focused, organized and spending my time on areas that have the greatest impact.

I have found that these three sections can take five minutes or twenty minutes depending on the day. I have found that the longer it takes, the more I NEED it!

That is it for the morning portion; get on with your day primed to optimize your success!

IN THE EVENING

Just like you brush your teeth in the evening as well as in the morning, there are questions to be answered either at the end of your work day or just before you go to sleep. (Maybe even right after you brush your teeth).

3 Amazing things that went happened today

Research shows that most people pass through their accomplishments too quickly and tend to linger on the negative. Put another way, our brain is like Velcro for the negative and Teflon for the positive. This section helps you to relieve your magic moments, or victories no matter how small. It is similar to the way we started the day (gratitude), but in reverse. It allows you to relive great moments you might have otherwise dismissed along the way.

I don’t have huge accomplishments every day, but this exercise has really helped me to appreciate the little things that are so easy to overlook.

  • An interaction with my daughter
  • A funny comment from my son
  • Having a chance to read a book while I had coffee
  • Getting to the gym.

It is a great way to end your day and get ready to go to sleep. The best part is that no matter how your day was, your brain wants to answer whatever question you give it. If you give it some time as you replay your day, you will find 3 things to celebrate.

How could I have made today better? 

This last section reminds you that progress and improvement is the key to success. It is also a reminder that you have the power to learn from the past and improve for the future. Being future focused is a critical mindset for anyone to reach their potential. We have talked about priming your brain, this works the same way. You are priming your brain on how what to do “the next time”.

If you had a time machine and your day started all over again, what would you have done differently? Pick two areas and right them down. For example:

– I woke up when my alarm went off and went straight to the gym (instead of hitting snooze)

– I took a walk outside in the afternoon to reset my focus and energy level.

By priming your brain with how you want to act, you are training it for future opportunities.

This process in the morning and in the evening is very simple and doesn’t take much time, but I have found it to make a big impact in the rest of my day.

Note: You don’t have to purchase this particular journal to receive the benefits, you could model the same structure if you prefer on a blank notebook or piece of paper. You could also modify the approach and add additional questions. I personally feel like the notebook has been worth the investment. (http://www.fiveminutejournal.com/)

Give it a shot and let me know what you think!

Your partner in success,

 

Josh Paulsen

Are You Addicted to Your Technology?

What is the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?

If you are like the majority of people in America you start your day by checking your phone. In fact, 80% of smartphone users check their phones before they brush their teeth. (IDC Research).

I am “old enough” to remember life without cell phones and the internet, but that doesn’t mean my brain hasn’t adjusted to technology overload.

Until just recently my IPhone never left my side. I would end and begin every single day checking my phone. I knew it probably wasn’t ideal, but it had become a habit I did without even thinking.

My biggest vice? EMAIL! I have three accounts, so if I didn’t have any email in one, I would move onto the other two. There was almost disappointment if there were no new messages, which was rarely the case.

It really hit me when one evening when I left my phone at my office. I realized it about 5 minutes into my commute. Normally I would have turned around, but my wife had dinner plans and I was already short on time. I actually started to panic as my mind imagined life without my cell phone.

Then it hit me. I went 20 years without a cell phone, am I not capable of making it 12 HOURS without my phone?

Full disclosure: my wife actually swung by my office on her way to dinner to pick up my phone. I didn’t even make it 12 hours.

That is when I decided to take a closer look at how I used technology.

Maybe it is because I am about to turn 40, (no I am not going through a midlife crisis), or maybe because I have young children, but when I came across a poem titled Slow Dance by child psychologist David L Weatherford it really hit me.

SLOW DANCE by David L. Weatherford

Have you ever watched kids on a merry-go-round,
or listened to rain slapping the ground?

Ever followed a butterfly’s erratic flight,
or gazed at the sun fading into the night?

You better slow down, don’t dance so fast,
time is short, the music won’t last.

Do you run through each day on the fly,
when you ask “How are you?”, do you hear the reply?

When the day is done, do you lie in your bed,
with the next hundred chores running through your head?

You better slow down, don’t dance so fast,
time is short, the music won’t last.

Ever told your child, we’ll do it tomorrow,
and in your haste, not see his sorrow?

Ever lost touch, let a friendship die,
’cause you never had time to call and say hi?

You better slow down, don’t dance so fast,
time is short, the music won’t last.

When you run so fast to get somewhere,
you miss half the fun of getting there.

When you worry and hurry through your day,
it’s like an unopened gift thrown away.

Life isn’t a race, so take it slower,
hear the music before your song is over.

The author wrote this poem over 20 years ago – before the widespread use of the internet, email, text messages and social media, but is probably even more appropriate today.

I realized that somewhere along the way, I had started letting technology use me instead of me using it.

I now do my best to put my phone aside after 8pm. I no longer check my phone like a crack addict first thing in the morning to see if I had received some earth shattering email that required immediate attention. In fact, I am currently experimenting with checking email just three times a day instead of constantly hitting Send/Receive.

The results thus far have been wonderful!

I urge you to ask yourself. Are you dancing too fast? If so, how can YOU slow down?

Your partner in success,

Josh Paulsen