This Simple and Effective 5 Minute Activity Will Get Your Week Started Out Great
Mantras or daily affirmations sometimes come with a negative stereotype, but science demonstrates that it is a powerful practice.
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I remember baseball season in high school fondly, particularly away games, when our team would ride a bus to the opposing team's home field. On that departing bus trip, we were not allowed to say anything, as our coaches insisted that we sit in silence and think about the upcoming game and what was expected of us.
Even if our thoughts drifted to whatever fills an over-active, hormone-induced high schooler's brain, the silence and mindful practice was very effective in preparing us mentally for the game ahead of us.
This practice of mental focus and suggestion -- imagining scenarios and telling ourselves something we want to believe -- is something most professional athletes do to prepare for a competition. Since business, and even life to a great extent, is very much like a competition, why aren't more entrepreneurs applying this to their daily lives?
There is science to back the benefit of this mental training. According to YogaJournal.com, one study published in the Journal of Cognitive Enhancement by researchers from Sweden looked at a group of subjects who participated in yoga sessions, then finished with an 11 minutes mantra-based meditation, which requires subjects to sit quietly and repeat phrases to themselves.
The subjects were analyzed by neuroscientists using brain-imaging tools to determine the health benefits of this ancient practice. The researchers found that repeating phrases helped reduce the type of brain function ordinarily related to distractions and helped promote more focus.
Another Israeli study from 2015 suggested that when an test subjects repeated a word, namely the Hebrew word for "one," they too were able to reduce the amount of distraction and were reported to be more relaxed and have fewer distracting thoughts.
Of course, this and other research does not mean that if you sit on your couch and repeat, "I am can hit any curveball," that it will magically come true and your outfield position with the LA Dodgers becomes a lock.
Instead, what this practice will help you do is prepare mentally for the grueling lifestyle that most business leaders have. More important, by consciously focusing on positive words and thoughts, we can flush out all the negative thoughts that may be plaguing our unconscious minds.
So how do you do it? There is no need to spend hours in an uncomfortable seated position, burn incense or play calming music in the background -- although, if that is your thing, go for it. And, you do not need to embody the silly SNL character of Stuart Smalley from his famous routine, Stuart Smalley - Daily Affirmations.
Instead, dedicate five to 10 minutes of your day, preferably in the morning -- yes, you can get out of bed 10 minutes early -- and sit in a quiet place and practice repeating positive phrases to yourself. This is difficult for many people, especially those who have never done it before or those with super active minds. For this reason, try using a mantra while you sit, or simply repeat a word or a series of words over again in your head. By doing this, you force yourself to think about those words and calmly ignore the other thoughts that may race in and out of your brain.
Breathing is also important, and my Inc colleague, Minda Zetin, does a great job describing how to master your breathing technique.
And if you are still unsure how to start, just start simple. Use any of the nine affirmations used by the most successful people repeat, as researched by Inc columnist Jeff Haden, or just use one of these two I have found useful in the past.
I am patient, I am committed, I have faith
I can hit a curveball, I can hit a changeup, I can hit a fastball
Ok, so maybe that second one is not for you -- but I can still dream, right?
What do you think? Do you have a daily mantra? Please share your best practices with me over on Twitter.