In the way, way back, humans lived or died by their sensory responses (seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, and extrasensory perception). Although we no longer need to spend much time sensing physical threats, and our meals often come ready to eat, we still have the ability to to hone in on what our senses alert us to.
WE’RE OVERWHELMED AND DISTRACTED BY OUR SENSES
Our senses are constantly bombarded with information. For example, when we sit in a café, we feel the sun on our back as it streams through the window, the sight of passersby on the street, the earthy smell of coffee, the deliciously sweet and fiery taste of the extra cinnamon we sprinkled on our chai latte, the sounds of conversations over the rush of street traffic, the pressure of the hard, uncomfortable seat on our bums.
Each time we notice something in our environment, we are paying attention to it. This ability to focus on something while ignoring other stimuli is called selective attention. If we didn’t have selective attention, we’d never get anything done.
It’s no wonder then, with all the stimuli our brains are processing, that when we do sit down to write in our journals, we are so easily distracted.
As you know, I wholeheartedly suggest that before facing the blank page you close your eyes and take some deep, calming breaths. Even better, use my guided relaxation to still your mind. It’s 5 minutes of soothing music and relaxation that quiets your mind chatter and prepares you to hear the voice of knowing within.
Confession time: I’ve been completely unable to write this bloody blog for over two hours now. I can’t seem to sink into it…
MUSIC HAS CHARMS TO SOOTHE A SAVAGE BREAST
If you need your savage breast charmed, big time — like mine does right now — turn on the music. Just make sure it’s the right kind.
When I worked in advertising and communications years ago, my last position was in Cubicleland. After I never seemed to find concentration until everyone would leave for the night. I also couldn’t listen to music at all; it was far too distracting.
But, then I discovered Bach cello. There is something about the resonance of the cello that instantly calms and soothes me. Just moments ago I turned on the music and began typing madly, with focused concentration.
My personal favourite music to write to is Yo-Yo Ma’s Unaccompanied Bach Cello Suites.
WELCOME TO THE STATE OF ALPHA, WHERE WORDS FLOW...
When I discovered that I was listening to Baroque music, a door opened for me. I read research studies that showed listening to soothing music that plays at about 60 to 80 beats per minute decreases brain activity and leads to a relaxed concentration called alpha state. The alpha state is characterized by an increase in alpha brain waves and a decrease in higher activity beta waves. Increases in alpha waves have been tied to a psychological state of decreased self-awareness, timelessness, and motivation known as flow. Writers, musicians, songwriters, athletes, and meditators have all described that experience when flow state is reached.
Music that plays at about 60 to 80 beats per minute, decreases brain activity and leads to a relaxed, but awake state called alpha.
GO FOR BAROQUE, BABY!
I highly recommend classical music from the Baroque period to get into flow. It’s excellent for use in Writing From the Heart practice and it is what you will hear in my videos. Bach and Handel are the two most commonly recognized composers of that era. Some people prefer spa music, others the sounds of nature, still others swear they concentrate best in cafés, where the ambient sounds of indistinct conversation make everything else fade away.
Choose the type of ambient sounds or music you prefer, as long as it doesn’t have words or catchy tunes to distract you, play it quietly in the background, and watch the magic happen.
In my Writing From the Heart workshops, I use music from the website focus@will, which I highly recommend (and I am grateful for their permission to use it). You can sign up for a free 30-day trial and choose from a dozen types of different music, ambient sounds, drumbeats, nature sounds, and even café noise. There are also 3 different energy levels for each type of sound to choose from. You can sign up for a free 30-day trial to get hooked, then purchase a yearly plan for a very reasonable price.
The music and ambient noise from focus@ will have been scientifically studied and are proven to help improve attention, concentration, focus, and flow by as much as 400%.
HERE’S ANOTHER TIP TO IMPROVE YOUR WRITING FLOW
Scientific studies have shown that it takes about 20 minutes to get to that magical place where alpha brain waves lead to the state of decreased self-awareness, timelessness, and motivation of flow.
I’d wager I’m not the only one who struggles with getting into writing practice on occasion. So, why not write longer and clean all the crud out of your pipes, so that the good stuff can flow freely? Just keep the pen moving and eventually you’ll get where you need to go.
I listen to music while I write for my clients too. Here’s a productivity tip that I learned several years ago for work that requires intense concentration, or when doing a longer Writing From the Heart practice.
- Turn off or set all your devices to Do Not Disturb, including the computer you are working on, to minimize distractions.
- Turn on the focus@will music of your choice.
- Set a timer for 50 minutes and write away.
- At 50 minutes, take a 10-minute break, allowing yourself to stretch,
It will take about 20 minutes to really get into it, but you’ll be amazed at how much you can get done once you get into flow.
You can set the timer for another 50-minute writing session if you wish, but do take the 10-minute stretch break in between. It will help clear your mind and get the blood flowing again.
Confession time again: as soon as I turned on the music, I slipped into flow and I was on a roll with this blog at last. So much so, I almost missed my dental appointment because my reminders were all turned off!
When you come back from flow state, don’t be surprised if you feel like you just woke up… it sometimes takes a bit of time to come back to the real world. It’s a divine feeling. Give it a go and let me know what happens for you.