10/04/2012 05:37 EDT | Updated 12/04/2012 05:12 EST

Five Steps to Calm Your Brain



Most highly successful people got that way from having a great idea -- a moment of insight. There are techniques anyone can learn that make brilliant insights happen more frequently. It's not a difficult thing to do. Ralph Waldo Emerson got great ideas merely by walking in the forest. Henry Ford used to sit in a rocking chair to do it.

A study from the Center for Neural Decision Making at Temple University found that when people take the time to quiet down the left brain -- that's the part of our brain that's processing to-do-lists -- solutions often percolate up from the subconscious. After a period of not thinking about the problem, the answer simply appears. The more these study participants were able to let go, the more activation was seen in the part of the brain associated with enhanced vigilance and awareness -- exactly what you need if you're looking for a new idea.

Our brain contains approximately a hundred billion neurons, which are constantly disengaging and engaging in new neural networks, creating brain patterns that we experience as ideas and feelings. Fortunately, scientists now know that we have some control over all that neuronal activity. We can consciously change existing neural patterns through hypnosis, daydreaming, presleep, and other interventions, such as simply taking quiet time early in the day so that it becomes natural for us to generate brilliant insights.

Stilling the brain takes about 20 minutes, and contrary to common belief, we're not actually slowing our thoughts down, but rather speeding them up. Once we stop distracting the brain with menial everyday worries and tasks, we release it to work at its maximum speed long enough for the brilliant ideas that are constantly fired at us to come into our awareness.

Want to generate brilliant insights? Here's how to do it.

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5 Ways to Calm Your Brain

Do it first thing in the morning.

This process is best undertaken early, after waking. That's because our days are filled with sensory input right up until we fall asleep at night. Unless you're a meditation master, a still mind is much easier to achieve while you're not fully awake.

Create a solitary, calm, comfy setting.

This is a technique you must practice alone. Inviting moments of inspiration requires that you separate from the disruptive energy and influence of other people's thoughts and intentions. Choose a calm place away from as many interrupting sounds as possible. A favourite chair, in a quiet corner, with a blanket to keep you warm works well.

Cleanse your energy.

Rub your hands together vigorously until you feel the heat, then place them on your temples and drag your palms down your cheeks. Shake your hands as if air-drying them, and repeat this two more times. Do the same for your forehead three times, and then cross your arms and brush your hands over the opposite shoulders and upper arms three times.

Relax, breathe, and sigh.

Always sit to prevent falling back asleep. Get relaxed, but with your feet on the floor. With your eyes closed, if helpful, take deep breaths in and exhale with an audible sigh. Repeat this until you feel deeply relaxed, and concentrate on relaxing every part of your body, starting at the top of your head and moving down to your toes. Feel your connection to the earth through the soles of your feet.

Distract your left (logical) brain.

Focus on your normal breathing -- in and out. Try to follow it through the nose, curling into the lungs, and back out. Do this for 10-20 minutes. If extraneous thoughts pop into your head, let them float away. Follow only your breath, not your thoughts. This exercise takes practice, but it should not be difficult to learn. What you're doing is stilling the part of the brain that inhibits creativity and spontaneity.

When you open your eyes, get the blood flowing through your body by standing and stretching. Smile. Thank yourself for this gift of a few minutes of peace just for you.

Don't immediately plug your brain back into those stressful texts, emails, or media headlines. If you can, go outdoors for five minutes and touch a tree, smell the greenery, and breathe in some fresh air before returning to the noise of your everyday life.

If you go through this simple routine every day, you will be amazed at the kind of thoughts that begin to come to you effortlessly and routinely. You may solve a problem that's been long bothering you. You may have an idea for a song or a painting. You may come up with the next brilliant innovation in business. I came up with the ideas for both of my $100-million businesses by learning to generate moments of insight. You can do it too.