What is “Mind Practice”? and Why “Mind Practice?”
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, between 2020 and 2022, over 40% of people had experienced a mental disorder at some time in their life. Over 20% of people had a 1-year mental disorder, with anxiety being the most common. Please note: the data doesn’t include unreported mental health cases.
The problem is severe, affecting our families, friends, and community. A lot is being done on this matter, but there is still a big gap, mainly, I believe, because we focus more on analysis, insight, and knowledge rather than practising every day for a happier and healthier mind. Let me explain more.
I like this quote from Albert Einstein:
We tend to focus more on insight and knowledge of our rational mind and less on pragmatic practices for our intuitive mind. We have many books, classes, and seminars about happiness, which are great for gaining insight but ineffective in changing patterns, paradigms and habits. Many methods, tools and exercises exist, but still, the focus is more on theory and logic than doing the exercises and constant practice. To explore what I’m saying, let’s look at Neuroscience and the Intuitive Mind.
The smart brain is in charge of thinking and problem-solving, so called rational mind. The emotional brain ensures our needs are met and we feel safe, in control, happy, and connected. The survival brain controls automatic processes that keep us alive, such as breathing, blood flow, digestion, and alerts. The emotional brain and the Survival brain comprise the Intuitive Mind. They work closely together in sending alerts to protect us, called the limbic system.
For example, in unsafe situations, our mind sends us alerts, which could be in the form of emotions or stress, asking us to pay closer attention and take action to stay safe, which is a survival mechanism. If we don’t eliminate the unsafe situation, our mind continues sending us alerts, such as stress, which may enter a limbic loop. Sometimes, even after removing the cause, the alerts won’t stop unless we quiet them by certain practices.
Our mind stores life experiences in neural pathways and uses them for automatic responses. Our emotions are examples of automatic responses generated by our intuitive mind.
As you can see, most of our choices and responses are automatic by our intuitive mind.
For example, when you feel certain emotions, such as upset, angry, or anxious, in different situations, you are not consciously creating emotions; your intuitive mind generates them automatically based on your current neural pathways. To change your automatic responses and patterns, you need to change your neural pathways with constant practice. Otherwise, you will follow the same patterns as before, whether you are aware of it or not. And to be capable of changing our neural pathways, we need to be mentally fit.
The more you experience positive emotions and the less you experience negative emotions, the happier you live.
If you often feel stress and anxiety or tension in your body or experience negative emotions such as frustration, anger, disappointment, guilt, shame, embarrassment, or worry, your mental fitness is not great. Many of our physical health issues could be a byproduct of negative emotions.
The question is:
Given our choices and responses are automatic based on an established system and wiring over many years of our past experiences, how do we experience less negative and more positive emotions to feel happier?
Some people think they cannot change their feelings, saying: "This is how I feel and cannot change it", which is not true. We can change our emotional responses and feelings if we learn how. Some people increase the knowledge of their rational mind to change how they feel and the automatic responses of their intuitive mind; hence, only a little happens, and they follow the same patterns repeatedly. Some people use mental fitness apps and exercises for a while, which are great, but give up quickly rather than constant and persistent practice. Again, they experience a slight change in their happiness and return to their patterns and paradigms soon.
You can not keep your mind fit or rewire your mind by only reading books and attending seminars. You need to practice.
Can you become a tennis player by reading books about tennis? We know it is impossible. Knowledge is helpful, but you need a lot of practice to train your muscle memory and your intuitive mind to shape your automatic responses on the tennis court.
The same applies to life skills like happiness, inner peace, and relationships. If you want happier relationships, to feel better most of the time, and reduce your stress and anxiety, reading books to increase your knowledge of the rational mind will only help a little. You need to care for your intuitive mind and mental fitness. Gaining knowledge and insight by reading books and attending inspiring events is excellent, but you need more than just insight to feel happy and fulfilled. You need to practice every day to improve your mental fitness and health.
Some people say I haven’t done any practice, but I’m happy and doing well. They do not realise they have been practising good habits without being aware of them, perhaps learned early in their family, such as gratitude or positive thinking. They’ve been lucky.
At the top of the Mental Fitness Triangle is YOU. You are the leader of your life! You choose how to feel! Once you make that choice, you decide to take action and look after your mind and mental health.
The main elements of mental fitness are mind diet and mind blocks. You can improve your mental wellness by enhancing your mind diet and weakening your mind blocks.
At the core of this triangle is constant mind practice. Continuous care and daily practice is the key message here.
It’s lucky to learn good habits early on in life, for example, in your family, that will keep you mentally and emotionally fit and resilient without making too much effort. For others, it is never too late to start building good habits through daily practice.
Your ultimate goal is to make mind practice a habit, not an exhausting exercise. It might be a bit hard initially, but it becomes second nature if you persistently practise.
Like physical fitness, you need a good diet for your mind, which I call a mind diet.
At the core of your mind diet are mindfulness, good thoughts (the way you think), good words (the words you use), and Gratitude; a healthy diet also includes Love and Intimacy, being social, being active, having Fun, Contribution, Learning & Growth.
On the other hand, mind blocks sabotage our happiness. They are strategies of our intuitive mind in overcoming life challenges that are helpful; however, when taken too far, they become a need in our mind, which will have a reverse effect and become barriers to our happiness and success.
The main mind blocks are: Perfectionism, Control, Avoid, Please, Victim.
Adopting a good mind diet and weakening your mind blocks will maintain your mental health, fitness and well-being in great shape, leading to a happier life.
It’s important to note that a poor mind diet, like negative thoughts and words and strong mind blocks, can stop you from choosing happiness in the first place, which will add to the vicious cycle some people experience in their mental health deterioration. Only seeking help to break the vicious cycle could change their life towards a more positive direction.
Mind Practice aims to fill the gap for constant mind practice. At Mind Practice, you can practice constantly to improve your mind diet and weaken your mind blocks until your neural pathways store them and become your habits, changing how you respond to life challenges and enhancing your emotions, feelings and relationships. At Mind Practice, you will learn exercises to support your mental fitness for the rest of your life.
Just as an example, when you get back pain, doctors advise keeping your back muscles strong by exercise. Often, people exercise for a little while, and as soon as the pain goes away, they stop their exercises. Guess what? The pain will come back. Your mind is the same. If you often experience negative emotions, it means your mind is alarming you to do something to stay safe, happy and connected.
My vision is to have mind practice in every home every day to bring more inner peace, joy, happiness, and healthier relationships to our families and community.
Thank you for your attention, which means you have chosen to live happier. Your next step is to take action and care for your mind and well-being. Scan this barcode and visit mindpractice.com.au.
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Author: Nima Sedigh, Founder of Mind Practice