Learning Strategies Blog

Unwind with a Good Book

by Pete Bissonette

Reading may be the best way to help you unwind in a flash—better than listening to music, sipping tea, or going for a walk, said David Lewis, cognitive neuropsychologist at Mindlab International.

Lewis shared this theory in a video created by Time to Read, a partnership of public library authorities in the Northwest England.

To test it, researchers measured stress levels of participants aged 19 to 54 by analyzing heart rate and skin conduction with a method similar to what is used in polygraph tests.

Heart rates were first increased through a series of time-racing exercises and tests.
Once stress levels were up, participants were asked to choose one of five ways to relax for six minutes—sipping a cup of tea or coffee, going for a walk outdoors, listening to The Beatles’ music, playing a video game, or reading their favorite book. Book genres varied, including travel, romance, crime, and historical fiction.

Of the five activities, reading had the greatest calming effect, dropping stress levels by 68 percent. Listening to music followed at 61 percent; sipping tea or coffee at 54 percent; walking outdoors at 42 percent; and playing video games at only 21 percent.

When you read, Lewis explained, you enter a different level of consciousness, temporarily allowing your mind and senses an escape from the real world. The effect is the same with any genre, as long as your mind is fully engaged.

“By losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book, you can escape the worries and stresses of the everyday world and spend a while exploring the domain of the author’s imagination,” Lewis concluded in the video.

I invite you to explore my imaginary world in my soon-to-be released novel Breakfast Tea & Bourbon.After escaping into the imaginary treasure hunt in the story, embark on your own adventure by following the clues woven into the book to an actual $50,000 treasure hidden somewhere in the United States.

You could experience not only the mental and physical relaxation reading brings, but potentially the financial relief an extra $50,000 might bring!


Your Prescription for Play

by Pete Bissonette

When was the last time you played playfully?

“Played what?” you might ask. “Tennis, cards, the guitar, a good crossword puzzle?”

Could be. It’s also possible to embody the spirit of playfulness while doing your job.

But when you’re playing with a grim determination to excel, you’re not being playful.

Playful: “liking play; prone to play, like a child or kitten; experimental; frolicsome,” says the dictionary. “Lighthearted, in the now, letting go of judgment, gently poking fun at oneself,” adds the spiritual master.

Experts agree that playfulness makes life better:

  • It is a sign of health among animals. Scientists say the healthier and safer the herd feels, the more they play.
  • Playfulness is one of the signs of a marriage that is likely to last, according to relationship researcher Dr. John Gottman. It can ease tension during times of stress.
  • “Playfulness motivates people to learn mathematics and makes them more likely to own what they learn,” says the National Centre for Excellence in the Teaching of Mathematics.
  • People who practice “laughter yoga” reduce their blood pressure as well as the stress they feel.
  • Finally, playfulness made the short list of the 24 most important human strengths identified by researchers in the Positive Psychology movement.

Are you ready to play?

Try these exercises from our Euphoria! personal learning course to move you into the safe, lighthearted space where playfulness thrives.

  1. Take a deep breath and raise your shoulders up to your ears. As you exhale, drop your shoulders and make the sound “Ahhhhhhhh.”Do it one more time. Feel as if you’ve let go of a large burden. You’re free. Let that feeling flow down through your body to the soles of your feet and out. Ahhhhhhhh.
  2. Now gently smile, remember some experience that gave you great satisfaction, and make the sound “Hmmmm,” the sound we make when something is absolutely delicious.

Notice the breath deep in your belly. Put that smile in the corners of your eyes and the corners of your mouth, and make that happy hum again.

Feel the breath flowing in, through every part of your body, into your belly, expanding your lower abdomen. Then exhale, Hmmmmm, and feel the breath flowing out through every part of you, expanding your field of vision and your sense of possibility.

Now, ask yourself, “What’s the right way for me to add a dash of playfulness to my life right now?”

The answer is inside you.

Have fun!


Learn to Trust Your Intuition

by Paul Scheele

Unsure what to make for dinner? Which car to buy? The next step in your career?

Leave it to your intuition to decide. Your unconscious brain will support it, research suggests.

According to a recent study at the University of Rochester, your brain is hard-wired to help you make the best decisions possible—especially when you let its unconscious side decide.

To determine the brain’s accuracy, associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences Alex Pouget set up an unconscious-decision test involving a computer screen with dots moving in random directions. A controlled number of these dots were set to move in uniform, patterned directions.

Pouget asked participants to watch the screen and predict which direction the dots would move next—right or left.

The longer participants watched the dots, the more they became aware of the dots’ patterns—even before they realized they were aware. By analyzing neuronal patterns, Pouget observed the parts of the brain that track left or right movements would light up in accordance with the dots’ movements. This allowed participants to accurately calculate the next move farbefore their conscious minds kicked in, when they could confidently state predictions as definite answers.

Your unconscious decision-making skills allow you to reach reasonable decisions in a comparatively small amount of time, says Pouget. If you wait until you’re 99 percent positive, you waste time accumulating unnecessary data before making a decision, he suggests. If you require only 51 percent certainty and trust your intuition, you can make decisions as effectively and in less time.

Learning to trust your intuition can be a matter of trial and error and practice. There are many techniques to ask your intuition for yes and no responses to a variety of questions. In our Intuition Amplifier Paraliminal, we suggest the simple technique of muscle testing. To try it, follow these steps:

  1. Put your thumb and index finger together to form a circle.
  2. Put your other index finger inside that circle and pull to break it apart, right where the thumb and index finger match.
  3. At the point you pull, say, “Show me strong.” Notice how hard it is to pull them apart.
  4. Next, say, “Show me weak,” and notice how easy it is to pull them apart.
  5. Ask, “Is my name George?”, and pull them apart.
  6. Now ask, “Is my name ____________”, then state your name and pull them apart. You will notice the difference and see it is strong.

Whatever the situation, you can use muscle testing to help guide you towards the best decision. Pay attention to whatever your internal resources bring into consciousness for you. That’s intuition.


2 comments total - Most Recent:
  1. Alex K Viefhaus, Instructor and Coach

    What about testing, do I need to figure out why I am impatient?

  2. Marion Lynn Connell

    Never did that test before. Showing strong and weak were not too diifferent, but then I do tend to be defiant at times. The name test,showed a major difference. I do from time to time let my” inner voice” decide, but sometimes impatience takes over and rational sets in. I’m going to have to figure out why that is, since in the long run rational takes longer.

Change Your Life in an Instant

by Paul Scheele

In one critical moment you can change your life with no more effort than a shift in a single thought.

While in college and working at a hypnosis clinic I was asked to give a presentation to a youth group. The clinic director explained a number of stage hypnosis tricks to improvise an interesting performance.

During the show I told a teenage boy his foot was glued to the floor and he couldn’t move it, basically a simple demonstration of a “level one” hypnotic trance. No matter how the rest of his body struggled, his foot was completely glued to the floor.

I looked at the young man and said, “You can try to tell me your name, but you can’t. You’ve forgotten it.” No matter how hard the boy struggled, he seemed completely unable to speak his own name.

At that point I had a stark realization: “Oh my gosh, we’re doing this to ourselves all the time! Every day we take perfectly reasonable abilities, perfectly reasonable resources of mind, and throw them out, simply by accepting the suggestion I cannot.”

Normal human capabilities vaporize—become impossible to access—simply by focusing the mind in a way that makes us believe they are not available. Simple trance phenomena have a profound effect on everyone.

What sort of trances are you living in today? What self-limiting beliefs are keeping you from pursuing your goals and dreams?

In a split second your mind can take you to failures from the past and project images of limitation into the future. All of the thoughts are fictitious representations, false projections—momentary trances we can attach to and amplify with the power of mind.

On the other hand, if you can appreciate the state for what it is and realize you are the hypnotist of your own mind, you can take back your power. You can wake from those temporary nightmares of imagination and find freedom in a trance-free zone.

During my hypnosis demonstration with the youth group, I gained a new understanding of the mind’s tremendous capabilities and how to release them for the benefit of others.

  1. The words you speak out loud and silently to yourself are powerful commands to your vast nonconscious mind.
  2. Eliminate the words “I can’t” and direct your thinking to what you now choose to create.

The opportunity to awaken from trances and step into your abundance and power can occur wherever you are, now and into the future. Simply learn to consistently direct your thoughts and you can create the life you desire.

You will find numerous techniques to help in our innovative Abundance for Life course.

Train Your Mind to Heal Your Body

by Pete Bissonette

Many of the world’s most successful people credit their achievements to a well-trained mind. Self-hypnosis propelled golfers Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods to the top of their sport, led Albert Einstein to develop the Theory of Relativity, and helped Arnold Schwarzenegger sculpt his body and advance his acting and political careers.

Medical research has shown self-hypnosis and visualization can also aid in weight loss, reduce pain in cancer patients, and even alleviate the discomfort of hot flashes.

In a Baylor University study, women who specifically pictured images associated with coolness during hypnotherapy had a dramatic decrease in hot flashes—cool relief for the estimated 85 percent of women who experience them.

“Areas of the brain activated by imagery may be identical to those activated by actual perceived events,” said Dr. Gary Elkins, professor of psychology and neuroscience. “Consequently, it may be that while a woman suffering hot flashes imagines a cool place, she also feels cool rather than the heat of a hot flash,”

A study of children and adolescents with Tourette Syndrome found that 79 percent of participants using self-hypnosis reduced their symptoms of motor or verbal tics, the Journal of Development and Behavioral Pediatrics reported.

“Once the patient is in his or her highly focused ‘special place,’ work is then done on controlling the tic,” said Dr. Jeffrey Lazarus. “We ask the patient to imagine the feeling right before that tic occurs and to put up a stop sign in front of it, or to imagine a tic switch that can be turned on and off like a light switch. Further suggestions are made, including encouraging the patient to invent his or her own images.”

So how can you gain the benefits of self-hypnosis for your health?

First, tap into that “highly focused” state dominated by alpha and theta brain waves, the lower frequencies associated with a relaxed but alert mind. Use this easy yet effective technique recommended by hypnotherapist Nikki Goldman, Ph.D., in our Euphoria! personal learning course:

  • While sitting or lying in a relaxed position, begin with a fixed stare at one spot on the wall or ceiling.
  • Notice and name three things you see with your peripheral vision. Then name three things you hear. Then name three things you feel. You may do this aloud or silently.It may sound like this: “I see the light fixture, I see the window, I see the bookshelf. I hear the sound of the fan, I hear my breathing, I hear a dog barking outside. I feel my feet in my shoes, I feel my hands touching my thighs, I feel my body relaxing.”
  • Repeat the entire process. If you recite a particular sight, sound, or feeling over again, that’s okay. Just do this process over and over until you feel your eyes want to close.

With your eyes closed, now imagine your desired outcome. For example:

  • To alleviate pain or discomfort in your back, vividly imagine the way you want your body to feel. Sense how every muscle feels the way it did when you were more vibrant and in peak health at a younger age. Picture yourself going about your day with ease and joy.
  • To eliminate the stress or anxiety that builds in your busy day, imagine yourself in the most peaceful setting you can create in your mind such as a favorite getaway by the beach. Use your senses to capture the environment—the sound of waves lapping on the shore, the scent of wet sand, the feeling of the breeze on your skin. See yourself smiling and contentedly basking in the sun. Feel your breath slowing and your body relaxing.

When you practice such techniques on a regular basis, Goldman says, your brain becomes accustomed to functioning at the lower alpha and theta frequencies. At first, this natural relaxed state of euphoria will last for an hour or two after you complete the technique. However, once you do this routinely, you will discover you maintain this enjoyable state throughout the day.