Would you like to know a simple mental performance hack to make yourself think more clearly or up your problem solving game during busy periods at work?
It turns out that there is a special way that you can actually amplify your brain signals, specifically the Alpha brainwaves. Boosting your alpha waves has been found to increase your creativity levels. In a 2015 study, researchers found creativity in test subjects surged after researchers stimulated alpha waves in the brain.
You see, your brain runs on electrical activity, as do your muscles and your internal organs. Of these organs, your heartis one the most powerful centres of electrical activity in your entire body. It relies on electricity to to generate the the messages between the nodes that cause your heart to beat and if you can consciously control your heart then you can amplify the activity of the heart’s electrical signals. And research has shown that the strength of the electrical field generated by the heart directly impacts the level of brain activity, resulting in greater levels of alpha brainwaves.
This is why you feel calmer after exercise – your heart’s electrical activity increases during recovery, and your brainwaves and your body chemistry change.
A 2014 study found that biofeedback training helped people with generalised anxiety disorder. In this study, anxious people were found to have lower levels of alpha brainwaves than usual, and through biofeedback, the researchers saw an increase in alpha waves and a resulting improvement in overall cognitive performance.
So how does this work? You have a nerve in your body called the vagus nerve, which is the communication pathway between the heart and the brain. This pathway is designed to keep the heart and the brain in sync., which is why when we get anxious or worried about something, our heart rate increases. Those of you that have attended my workshops or presentations will have seen me demonstrate this phenomenon, often called the cybernetic loop – how our thoughts affect our body, and how our body affects our thoughts.
So by learning to slow down our heart rate, we increase something called “Heart Rate Variability” or HRV. I explain HRV in much greater detail in one of my other videos, and you’ll find a link in the description. As your heart rate variability improves, the greater the amount of alpha waves that your brain will produce, and the more creativity you will have to bring to bear on tasks.
Now this may sound woo woo, but there’s a strong body of research behind this, as well as lots of happy clients that have experienced a notable improvement in their productivity using biofeedback.
You can slow your heart down just by using your breathing, and the simplest way to do that is to take longer to breathe in than you do to breathe out. Say breathe in gently for five seconds, and out for ten seconds. However, after a while this will make you sleepy and it’s actually a pretty neat hack for getting to sleep quickly.
Instead, try what is called Coherent Breathing. This is gentle breath in, slightly deeper than you normally would, for a count of 6 seconds. Followed by a gentle breath out for 6 seconds. There’s a link in the description to my breathing pacer that you can use for free.
But if you want to significantly increase your alpha waves and cognitive performance, then you want one of these. The Heartmath Inner Balance. This device gives you real-time feedback on what’s going on with your heart, training you to consciously slow your heartbeat and increase your cognitive capacity.
The device connects to your smartphone and I get feedback from clients all of the time that just five minutes twice a day helps them crush mentally challenging tasks with greater ease, without wiping them out at the end of the day.
These devices aren’t cheap, retailing at £159 but the feedback I get from those that use it is tremendous. If you’re serious about improving your mental performance then it’s worth the investment over and above what you’ll get from doing the breathing alone.
And if you are interested in buying one of these, then please get in touch as I offer a special deal for a Heartmath Starter Pack, which includes a sensor, how-to videos and a coaching session to ensure that you get the most from the device.
So there you go, a simple hack to improve your mental performance. If you’d like to see more science-based hacks and techniques, then be sure to subscribe to my channel and I’ll see you in the next video.