Mind & Body
Relaxation Isn’t Just About Avoiding Stress, It’s Also About Success
Ask most people what relaxation is, and they’ll say something like, “not feeling stressed out or tense.” In other words, it’s the absence of a negative experience; feeling relaxed is feeling healthy.
But when you look at the brains of some of the most successful people in the world, you find something unusual: they don’t just look “normal” – they’re in a fundamentally different state.
Just put yourself in the shoes of somebody like Ray Dalio, for instance, the billionaire investor and head of Bridgewater Associations. Dalio presides over an organization of hundreds of people managing tens of billions of dollars of client money. If his investment business makes a mistake, it could lose it all. Some investment houses have!
Whenever you see Dalio appear on TV, though, the man is the embodiment of cool. He seems unphased, even by the most terrifying of financial challenges. They don’t get to him. Instead, he continues doing what he does best: making great investment decisions and generating healthy returns for his grateful clients.
So what’s going on here? Why is a man like Dalio able to block out the noise and focus on his trade? How does it manage to get into the zone and deliver the results he does? It seems superhuman.
The answer may come down to a trait that he shares with many other people who achieve his level of success: a deep sense of relaxation in everything that he does.
The idea that we need to be relaxed to be at our best flies in the face of everything that we learn at school and from the culture. Passing exams requires our adrenaline to be pumping and weeks of high-stress, focused efforts. Creating great art requires us to be in a manic mood – usually drug-induced – instead of, say, chilled out in the bath. That’s not where the magic happens, we’re told.
It turns out, though, that something very interesting is happening in the brains of people who seem to be able to perform at peak levels with the weight of the world on their shoulders. The likes of Barack Obama, Winston Churchill, and even Steve Jobs were able to call upon a sense of peacefulness in the face of the most overwhelming odds and power through to victory.
Researchers think that these people might be in what they call a “theta wave-dominant state” for most of their lives, a type of brain state commonly associated with meditation.
Most people spend the majority of their lives in either alpha or beta brain wave states. Alpha waves are the type of quiet flowing thoughts that you might have while relaxing on the sofa or when you first wake up in the morning. Beta waves are our “normal” waking state of consciousness, a type of brainwave that keeps us alert and helps us focus on the task of the day. Delta waves are long-pulse waves that dominate while a person sleeps.
Theta waves lie somewhere between alpha and delta. Researchers associate them with mental functions, such as learning, intuition and memory. Theta waves draw cues from the external world and then use them to construct an accurate model that the person can use to their advantage. What’s interesting about theta waves is that they can occur during sleep, too and are the main reason people experience vivid dreams.
Poor Brain, Rich Brain
For many people, therefore, the goal is making the transition from regular alpha and beta waves to theta waves so that they dominate thinking. But how do you actually do that? How do you go from “poor brain” to “rich?”
The first part of the process is to step back from active thought and trust the more unconscious segments of your brain to take over in due course when they’re ready. If you find it challenging to get into a more relaxed state of being, Vaping Advisor provides some helpful content. Ideally, you want to find activities or tools that allow you to take a step back from your current situation and observe.
Crucially, you don’t want to be in a mental state where you’re trying to force a solution using conscious thought. Being in that state-of-mind all the time not only causes stress, but it can impede your capacity to find the answer. If you’re worried about forgetting all those juicy “theta-state” thoughts after you have them, just write them down in a journal or on a smartphone app.
Okay, so once you’ve got a system in place to record your thought, the next step is to review your so-called “theta thoughts” to see whether any of them stand up to the cold light of day. Sometimes, you’ll discover that your ideas appear profound at the time, but they don’t stand up well to logical scrutiny. Other times, you won’t see the merit of the ideas themselves at first, but over time, that will begin to emerge, and all will become clear. You may want to flick back to your ideas several times to check whether running back over them reveals new insights you couldn’t see before.
Staying In A Theta State
Of course, the above assumes that you’re able to detect when you’re in a theta state. Sometimes, it’s not obvious. Also, it implies that you’re flicking in and out of it throughout the day, instead of being in that mode most of the time.
Remaining in a theta state – or a state of relaxation in general – is the ultimate goal. It’s not about being lethargic or throwing caution to the wind. It’s a psychological mode that enables you to be at your best all day long. For many, it is the holy grail of achieving the life that they want.
Some people are lucky and able to operate in their theta state all the time, only occasionally coming up for air at a time of their choosing. For others, getting there requires regular meditation, and sometimes therapy.