Motivational speaker, life coach and politician, Les Brown says: “You must see your goals clearly and specifically before you can set out for them. Hold them in your mind until they become second nature.”
What exactly constitutes deep mental focus? Is it Zen-level singular focus, or is it the rather more achievable “almost asleep” state? Is it that state achieved by monks and other acolytes of the esoteric mental disciplines or that very pleasant state of almost being asleep but capable of lucid experiences?
At which state is the brain most receptive to new information and most capable of encoding and “entraining” that information?
Focus – is it mental or physical?
What does it mean to really focus? We know that changes in brainwaves occur when “subjects” are asked to perform specific focus tasks. There are gender differences, differences caused by environmental factors, and learned behaviors that mold the brain’s behavior in performing different tasks. Along with these behaviors, there are neurochemical and endocrine changes that have a roll-out effect on the entire track of dominoes running down that chemical chain, depending on the way the brain is being stretched. Things that are highly stressful to some people are common practices for others.
Many studies have been carried out on meditation and the people who meditate, over the last two decades.
Ever since the popularization of Transcendental meditation, and the emergence of an awareness of Eastern mental focus techniques like yoga and meditation, these practices have been around enough for anecdotal and scientific evidence to support the benefits of meditation. Especially on one’s ability to focus on the essential priority pyramid of life and happiness.
Much research has also been done on the phenomenon of neuroplasticity and how we can entrain behaviors by telling our brains that the experiences are real. This has been achieved through using visualization and mental projection and imagined actions.
Focus is a movable state of relaxation transiting from the alpha where you are wakefully relaxed to the gamma state of deep relaxation which is where the entrainment and encoding of information take place.
The power of visualization
If visualization is the picture forming through a process then entrainment is the goal of the visualization exercise. Entrainment is the end result of habituating the brain to new patterns of thought and behavior. Entrainment is what results in new desired behavior and outcomes from repeatedly practicing the same behavior or imagined outcome.
Relaxed and Dreaming states
Brains need sleep, and appropriate spells of sleep are necessary to our mental and physical wellbeing.
It’s more than a physical need. You may be sleeping enough to keep the physical body working reasonably well, but to keep a healthy mental state and for us to entrain and remember new information, we require additional hours of sleep, at the times suited to our body clocks and circadian rhythms.
We are specifically susceptible and open to new or recurrent information when in an alpha or wakeful, relaxed state and enter a gamma state which is the state where conscious thought is believed to bind to perception and the experience of the environment. (Wikipedia, July 2017, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamma_wave)
Giulio Tononi and Chiara Cirelli conclude in their paper, “Sleep and the price of plasticity: from synaptic and cellular homeostasis to memory consolidation and integration”(2014), that:
“Sleep is universal, tightly regulated, and its loss impairs cognition. But why does the brain need to disconnect from the environment for hours every day? The synaptic homeostasis hypothesis (SHY) proposes that sleep is the price the brain pays for plasticity. During a waking episode, learning statistical regularities about the current environment requires strengthening connections throughout the brain. This increases cellular needs for energy and supplies, decreases signal-to-noise ratios, and saturates learning. During sleep, spontaneous activity renormalizes net synaptic strength and restores cellular homeostasis. Activity-dependent down-selection of synapses can also explain the benefits of sleep on memory acquisition, consolidation, and integration.
Sleep helps us learn and encode new information. Whether that information was acquired through the normal course of learning something new, or from imagination and visualization, the brain’s circuits and neural pathways will entrain and commit to memory information it has received when in a receptive state.
It is evident that these altered states are desirable and necessary to acquire new information and integrate the recently acquired experience into our environment.
How can I help my brain?
Synctuition is designed to be used when your brain is in a receptive state. Whatever it is you have chosen to set as a goal and focus upon, focused visualization, practiced regularly in a MindSpa session can help to enhance your practice by giving you the tools and methodology to achieve your goal.