If you don’t know what a sensory deprivation tank is, don’t worry. You’re not alone. Primarily used for relaxation and meditation, there is some promising evidence that suggests that some of the symptoms of fibromyalgia could be treated or at least kept at bay by frequent sessions.
Flotation REST is a form of Reduced Environmental Stimulation Therapy (REST) that uses a shallow pool of heavy water about the size of a large bed. The water is made heavy by super- saturating it with Epsom Salt (MgSO4) to the point that a person floats on his or her back effortlessly on the surface of the water like a cork. The water is heated to skin temperature and the pool is enclosed in a lightproof, soundproof environment. This device, invented by Dr. John C Lilly, effectively removes external stimulation and creates a neutral environment that gives the feeling that one is floating comfortably in space.
Other symptoms like insomnia, depression, and anxiety are more speculative in their beneficial claims but there are studies connecting the decrease of stress and the decrease of each of these things as well. Another interesting link is the theory that fibromyalgia could be closely linked with the body’s lack of proper levels of magnesium, an element that is incredibly prevalent in the same medical-grade Epsom salt that is used in sensory deprivation tanks in order to increase buoyancy.
There is still much more study to be done in linking the effects of sensory deprivation tank therapy and fibromyalgia but there could be promising results on the horizon. More information can be found out about the Fibromyalgia Float Project here.
Our lives are defined by the decisions we make each day. When we choose one option over another, whether we are selecting a restaurant or considering a cross-country move, we shape our lives. The decision-making process can be empowering, allowing us to enjoy the benefits of self-determination. Yet it can also be a source of anxiety because decisions force us to face the possibility of dissatisfaction and inner conflict. As a result, many of us opt to avoid making decisions by allowing others to make them for us. We consequently turn our power over to spouses, relatives, friends, and colleagues, granting them the stewardship of our lives that is ours by right. Though the decisions we must make are often difficult, we grow more self-sufficient and secure each time we trust ourselves enough to choose.
Ultimately, only you can know how the options before you will impact your daily life and your long-term well-being. Within you lies the power to competently weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each selection. Even if you feel incapable of making a decision, your inner wisdom and your intuitive mind will give you sound counsel if you have faith in yourself. Try to come to your own conclusions before seeking the guidance of others, and even then, treat their suggestions as supplementary information rather than votes to be tallied. Before making your choice, release your fear of wrong decisions. Perceived mistakes can lead you down wonderful and unexpected paths that expose you to life-changing insights. If you can let go of the notion that certain choices are utterly right while others are entirely wrong, you will be less tempted to invite others to take the reigns of your destiny.
When your choices are your own, you will be more likely to accept and be satisfied with the outcome of those choices. Your decisions will be a pure reflection of your desires, your creativity, your awareness, and your power. Since you understand that you must live with and take responsibility for your decisions, you will likely exercise great care when coming to conclusions. As you learn to make informed and autonomous choices, you will gain the freedom to consciously direct the flow of your life without interference.
Living with it, dangling over your head like the sword of Damocles, day in day out, is enough to send anyone spiraling into a state of anxiety, fear and paralysis.
Like it or not, though, uncertainty is the new normal. We live in a time where the world is in a state of constant, long-term flux. And, that’s not all. If you want to spend your time on the planet not just getting-by, but consistently creating art, experiences, businesses and lives that truly matter, you’ll need to proactively seek out, invite and even deliberately amplify uncertainty. Because the other side of uncertainty is opportunity.
Nothing great was ever created by waiting around for someone to tell you it’s all going to be okay or for perfect information to drop from the sky. Doesn’t happen that way. Great work requires you to act in the face of uncertainty, to live in the question long enough for your true potential to emerge. There is no alternative.
When you find the strength to act in the face of uncertainty, you till the soil of genius.
Problem is, that kills most people. It leads to unease, anxiety, fear and doubt on a level that snuffs out most genuinely meaningful and potentially revolutionary endeavors before they even see the light of day. Not because they wouldn’t have succeeded, but because you never equipped yourself to handle and even harness the emotional energy of the journey.
But, what if it didn’t have to be that way?
What if there was a way to turn the fear, anxiety and self-doubt that rides along with acting in the face of uncertainty–the head-to-toe butterflies–into fuel for brilliance?
Turns out, there is. Your ability to lean into the unknown isn’t so much about luck or genetics, rather it’s something entirely trainable. I’ve spent the past few years interviewing world-class creators across a range of fields and pouring over research that spans neuroscience, decision-theory,psychology, creativity and business.
Through this work, a collection of patterns, practices and strategies have emerged that not only turbocharge insight, creativity, innovation and problem-solving, but also help ameliorate so much of the suffering so often associated with the pursuit of any creative quest.
We tell ourselves stories all day long. I’m skinny. I’m fat. I’m talented. I’m stupid. This is genius. This is awful. I will succeed. I will fail. I’m terrified and anxious. I’m confident and proactive. It turns out, the storylines we create around a particular circumstance are far more determinable of success than the circumstance itself. They affect not only our willingness to act, but the quality of our ideas and solutions.
If you create a story that empowers action and innovation, that’s great news. Unfortunately, our brains have a strong bias toward negativity, leading most of us to create stories around circumstances that need action in the face of uncertainty that are more likely to paralyze and stunt creativity than fuel action.
Reframing is a process that asks you to suspend negative story lines explore if the story you’re telling is the only one and, if not (which is inevitably the case), construct or frame a new story line that empowers you to experience an uncertain circumstance not as a prime for failure and inaction, but as a signpost for meaning and opportunity.
For example, if you’re disabling storyline is around the risk of failure, instead of just asking “what if I fail?” and creating a doomsday scenario, you also ask “how will I recover, what if I do nothing and what if I succeed?” Then build new stories around those questions.
2. Practice Mindfulness.
Reframing is an immensely powerful tool in the quest to lean into the unknown. But it also requires a certain equanimity; the ability to pull back and see what’s really going on, re-center, then breath into that uncomfortable place long enough for amazing things to bubble up. Over time, a daily mindfulness practice goes a long way toward equipping you to do just that.
Plus, it cultivates the sense of persistent grounding that makes living and acting in a world where there is no new normal far more enjoyable. And it trains you in the practice of dropping thoughts, among those, destructive, limiting-beliefs.
3. Exercise Your Brain.
We’ve all seen the research on exercise and health, weight loss and disease prevention. But, did you know that certain approaches to exercise also have a profound effect on your brain?
Daily cardiovascular exercise, for example, especially with high-intensity bursts mixed in can improve mood, executive function, decision-making and creativity and decrease anxiety and fear. The latest research even reveals the possibility that exercise can grow new brains cells, something that until only a few years ago, was thought to be impossible. It’s also strongly correlated with decreases in anxiety and increases in mood, which are directly connected to improved creativity and problem-solving.
4. Single Task.
Multitasking is out. Turns out this badge of honor from the ’90s is more fiction than fact. Our brains don’t multitask, they just rapidly switch between tasks, sometimes fast enough for us to believe we’re doing many things at once. Problem is, every time we switch, there is a “ramping cost” in your brain, it takes anywhere from a few second to 15 minutes for your brain to fully re-engage. This makes you feel insanely busy, but simultaneously craters productivity, creativity and increases feelings of anxiety and stress.
Multitasking also requires you to hold a lot of information in your working memory, which is controlled by a part of the brain known as the prefrontal cortex (PFC). But the PFC is also responsible for will-power, and for keeping fear and anxiety in check. Multitasking increases the “cognitive load” on the PFC, overwhelming it and effectively killing it’s ability to keep fear, anxiety and the taunt of distraction at bay.
Simple solution–just say no. Do one thing at a time in intense, short bursts.
Instead of creating in a vacuum, explore the possibility of bringing a “lean” or “agile” approach to your creative process. Focus on maximum learning, create the simplest version of your idea possible, then bring a select group of those who’d potentially enjoy it into the process earlier in name of soliciting and integrating input into the next iteration. This not only minimizes waste, it changes the psychology of creation by adding more certainty earlier in the game and encouraging consistent, incremental action.
These five strategies and practices can change the way you experience the creative process in a profound way. They’ll not only allow you to tap a reservoir of previously hidden creativity, they’ll also allow you to experience any creative endeavor with a far deeper sense of equanimity and joy.
[notice]Editor’s note: This is a post from Jonathan Fields, author of Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt Into Fuel for Brilliance.[/notice]
A classroom full of 10-year-old students is asked to solve a problem with children crossing the street on the way to school. The children come up with ideas that have been used successfully in other places: traffic calming devices, overpasses, fluorescent jackets and speed limits. All these ideas are conventional, exactly what the teacher wants to hear.
Except for one. A student recommends that the school board sell the property and move the classroom online. This is not what the teacher was expecting.
This idea may not be practical, popular, or even possible, but when it’s ridiculed by the class it might be the last independent thought that the student dares to express — the death of another independent thinker.
Independent thought is not popular — it is absolutely rare. Nothing you read about in the papers or see on the television is independent. Whatever we take in from the popular media is regurgitated conventional knowledge. There is nothing independent about most of the world.
This is a tragedy — independent thought is essential for progress. Conventional thinking moves us forward gradually at best (at worst it pushes us backwards). Independent thinking is required to achieve any substantial jump in performance.
Logically, when we think like everyone else is thinking, the best we can expect is to achieve what they’re already achieving. If our aim is to over-achieve, we need to avoid the same banal influences and think impossibly. We need to become independent from conventional wisdom.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be particularly intelligent or well educated to think independently. Consider small children. Conventional wisdom says that shoes are for wearing and bananas are for eating. Independent thinking allows children try eating the shoes and wearing the bananas on their feet. Their lack of conventional wisdom and utter disregard for how others view their decisions allows children to experiment without anxiety. In this case they may be wrong, but in other cases they can be shockingly right.
Using these 5 strategies you can develop your independent thinking ability.
1. Disconnect from sources of conventional thinking
Instead of plugging into your TV, PC, or library for answers, think for yourself first. Without cutting yourself off from the world, you can increase your capacity for independent thought by limiting the conventional opinion you absorb. This means reducing the media you consume and the level of devotion you give to it. Independent thinkers aren’t necessarily contrarian, but they don’t agree with the status quo by default. They devise new criteria for perceiving the world rather than seeing everything through the screen of their computer.
2. Immerse yourself in experiences that conflict with your current perspective
Instead of substituting a new conventional thought for the old one, deliberately seek out experiences that challenge your views. These experiences may exist in foreign cultures, unusual subcultures, or between the pages of a book you disagree with. The point is not to adopt a new train of thought, but to disrupt the conventional railroad.
3. Watch the process from a distance
Leaving your normal life behind can give you the freedom to see issues from another perspective. Watching the world instead of eating it up gives you the peace of mind to think for yourself. Standing still from time to time gives you the opportunity to ridicule your own beliefs and explore new angles.
4. Randomize your sensory inputs
Instead of visiting the same places, eating the same foods, and talking to the same people, you can actively pursue new experiences. Many people cling to the familiar to simplify decisions and create a sense of security. If you truly want to think independently, you need to get outside your comfort zone.
5. Practice disbelief
Without becoming a cynic, you can develop the habit of instinctively distrusting thoughts that rely on conventional wisdom. Instead of assuming that these “truths” are self evident, suspend judgement until you’ve have confirmed that there is reality behind the logic.
If all of this sounds too difficult, consider what can be gained from independent thought. Even microscopic steps towards thinking independently will increase your contribution to the world. You will see opportunities and solutions that others overlook. You will obtain a competitive advantage over less creative thinkers. Most importantly, your thoughts will be your own and not just recycled media.