Ask how you can support them. It can be incredibly difficult for someone to be vulnerable. Responding to someone feeling anxious with, “You’re fine!” or “Look on the bright side!” can cause the person to shut down and no longer share their heavy feelings with you. Rather, respond with, “Thank you for sharing that with me. What can I do to support you right now?” Giving them an opportunity to share how they would like support helps create boundaries and expectations for everyone involved. They may share that they just need to talk it out, or they just need someone to sit with them while they cry, or they may just need someone to get lunch with. Let them show you how they would like your support.
As a part of my series about “How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Patrick Porter.
Patrick K. Porter, Ph.D., is an award-winning author and speaker who has devoted his career to neuroscience and brainwave entrainment. As the creator of BrainTap®, Dr. Porter has emerged as a leader in the digital health and wellness field. BrainTap’s digital tools and apps bring mindfulness and meditation practices to the next level and have made tremendous advances in helping mental, physical, and emotional health issues. BrainTap has been praised for helping people relieve symptoms associated with stress, insomnia, pain, and much more.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
Thank you for the opportunity! I have been interested in the mind since I was a kid. Growing up, I was a troubled child with learning issues. My dad had experience in technology, so he trained me and my siblings in tech driven mediation. As I got older, I continued to use the technology to become an Honor Roll student and three sport captain. After graduating with my undergraduate degree in psychology and electronics, I joined the Light & Sound Research team and developed the first portable light and sound machine, called MC². This machine won the 1989 award as the innovative gadget of the year at the Chicago Consumer Electronic Show. After using my experience in technology throughout several businesses — as well as my franchise company — I started BrainTap in 2013.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I am often impressed by people who share the benefits they have seen in their own lives from using BrainTap. One story that stands out to me is from a speech pathologist based in California. Dr. Joqueta Handy shared how she uses BrainTap with the children she works with, specifically with non-verbal children and children on the Autism spectrum who were benefiting from brainwave training. Additionally, I love hearing stories from families, especially when parents tell me they used the system to destress and have a more productive home life.
What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?
To build a fantastic work culture, I’ve found that there needs to be easy and accessible ways for the team to share their wisdom and skills. Allowing the team to be able to learn from mistakes helps facilitate a safe environment for growth and bettering. To create a great work culture, it’s important to keep in mind that the only failure is to stop trying. We encourage each other forward to become our best selves.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
When I was a young man, my father had a policy after he received help. The way he discipled was to have us pick out a book; we then had to read it and report back to him on how we would use the knowledge to change the bad behavior. My favorite book — and I still keep a copy on my desk — is James Allan, As a Man Thinketh. It changed my negative thinking to one of more optimistic outlooks.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. From your experience or research, how would you define and describe the state of being mindful?
To put it simply, my definition of being mindful is being more present. This allows us to bring our best selves to every situation.
This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to spell this out. Can you share with our readers a few of the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of becoming mindful?
Absolutely. Becoming more mindful affects every aspect of your life. Once a person learns to be more mindful and have a mindfulness practice each day, that person will have more energy. We live in an energy economy, meaning the more energy we have, the better and quicker we can manage or finish a task. A person who practices mindfulness will have more mental power and more clarity of thought; this will also help improve cognition and memory. And the largest benefit is the emotional aspect. With most people suffering from chronic low level stress, we need a lifestyle change that is going to lower the emotional burden that stress creates. A daily practice of mindfulness will help inoculate a person against the negative effects of stress.
Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. The past 5 years have been filled with upheaval and political uncertainty. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop mindfulness during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.
- Commit to a mindfulness practice. When you learn to relax your physical body daily, you have a 72 hour neurological benefit. We call this the halo effect. This type of practice will allow people to handle the symptoms of stress. While practicing mindfulness, you will also be adding a level of certainty as you plan out your days, weeks, and months.
- Turn off the news after 7pm or within 4 hours before sleep. Our brain processes news very differently than a humous movie. The news raises cortisol levels while increasing and exciting the brain with no solution. This will prevent a person from entering the deep level of sleep needed to detox the brain and relieve stress. While on the other hand, watching a humorous movie helps release brain chemicals that have been proven to help relieve stress and actually help make the brain transition from an awakened state to a deep sleeping state. Pick the activities that are going to start slowing down the brain and preparing you for a rejuvenating sleep.
- Eliminate sugar and add more high fiber foods. Research has shown that sugar can actually intensify uncertainty, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. This is because the foods we consume convert to the energy our brain uses. When you look at mental health and the latest research, diet is becoming more and more important. For our family of nine, this was the first step my mother took in getting us off the list for medication. As a family we went from being overactive and disruptive to being a family of very intelligent children. This all started when my mother removed white sugar, white flour, and junk food from our home. This strategy continues in my house to this day.
- Move, Breathe and Rise. The fears related to the pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. One of the main reasons for these feelings is people are becoming less active. You may have heard of the joke “COVID 15,” meaning people have gained 15 pounds during COVID. There is a real need for physical activity because the best defense is good offense. As an example, since COVID started, I have taken off 40lbs. So my suggestion is to focus on what you CAN do and can control. You can eat healthier, and you can find an exercise program that gets you up and moving. In my case, I started using Blood Flow Restriction bands as a way to lift light weights while maximizing my results. While others may sit around stressing and causing more sugar release from your liver, you can choose to get up and burn the excess sugar. The truth is stress is more fattening than chocolate because our body has the capacity to make sugar. Take time to go for a walk or practice yoga. Turn on YouTube and slowly to build up your muscles that will burn those stress calories.
- Set your sleep and waking time. Our brain is designed to recognize patterns so one the worst behaviors for health is binge watching anything late into the evening and sacrificing sleep. Our brain needs a night time ritual that calms the nervous system and prepares you to enter deep restorative sleep. For instance, turn off most of your lights beginning two hours before your sleep time. Reading a relaxing book or taking a detoxing bath can be a wonderful way to get the body to calm down. With 2/3rds of America getting less than 6 hours sleep and having sleep issues, this may be the number 1 thing people can do to see the most impactful results.
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
From my experience, the five most impactful steps each of us can take each day to better support those who feel anxious or stressed are the following:
- Be a listening ear. When people are feeling anxious or may simply be feeling worried, sometimes it is best to just listen. Oftentimes, the best support we can offer is to be a sounding board. Understanding that we do not always need to offer solutions when those around us are feeling anxious can help us be We can be a better support system.
- Recognize signs of anxiety. One important thing you can do is learn to recognize the symptoms of someone who is feeling anxious. These signs may include being withdrawn, catastrophizing situations, unable to sit still, feelings of restlessness, insomnia and grogginess, and more.
- Reassure that you will always be there for them. People who are feeling anxious often fear sharing their concerns or worries because they feel that they will come across as “too much.” They don’t want to burden others with their anxieties, so they may keep them to themselves, only worsening their anxiety. Let them know that you are available to listen and comfort and that you are a safe place. Reassure them that their worries will not cause you to leave or abandon them.
- Don’t tell them “there is nothing to worry about.” Usually when someone is feeling anxious, they understand that there may not be anything in particular that is triggering their anxiety. Anxious feelings sometimes arise seemingly out of the blue, so telling an anxious person that there is nothing to worry about will invalidate their feelings. Anxiety can come on like a headache: sometimes there’s a known cause and sometimes they can just occur. What the person needs is someone to be with them while they feel these emotions.
- Ask how you can support them. It can be incredibly difficult for someone to be vulnerable. Responding to someone feeling anxious with, “You’re fine!” or “Look on the bright side!” can cause the person to shut down and no longer share their heavy feelings with you. Rather, respond with, “Thank you for sharing that with me. What can I do to support you right now?” Giving them an opportunity to share how they would like support helps create boundaries and expectations for everyone involved. They may share that they just need to talk it out, or they just need someone to sit with them while they cry, or they may just need someone to get lunch with. Let them show you how they would like your support.
What are the best resources you would suggest for someone to learn how to be more mindful and serene in their everyday life?
Having a daily midday mindfulness practice is one of the greatest things you can do for yourself every day. In the middle of your day, give yourself time to focus on mindfulness to feel more at peace and serene in your life. The idea of “mindfulness” has risen in popularity and as such, there are so many tools and resources available to facilitate and enhance mindfulness practices. My favorite of course, is BrainTap and I find doing a quick session midday helps me recharge. BrainTap is designed to help bring your brain to deeper states of healing, rest, and productivity. Taking time in the middle of your day to reset and refocus has been proven to help you regain up to 80 percent of your morning’s energy and productivity. That is one great way to live a significantly more mindful and serene life.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“You get what you rehearse in life, not always what you intend.” Philip Grinder
I first started learning out how the brain works through sports. I found very quickly that if I didn’t train my brain, it was hard to get my body to follow. I used this with my own son, Alex as we were learning TaeKwonDo. We would physically practice, but until we had mentally trained ourselves to go through the belt test in our minds, we could not finish the process for testing. This is important because each new belt is a new set of movements, and you have to know all the past belts in addition to the new belt to move forward. I was so proud of us both when my son — at 12 — received his Black Belt, and he mentioned that he thought he spent more time preparing mentally than physically. I think he was right! And this is true in every area of life: we either plan for success or adjust to failure.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
If I could start any movement, it would be this: No Brain Left Behind. When I progressed from being a student who was held back in 2nd grade to being an honor roll student, I knew right then the movement I wanted to start. Every person has an innate genius — they only need a way to activate it. I believe that BrainTap is one of the easiest and most effective ways to tap into that genius. I also believe if we can get one billion people using the BrainTap technology, we can have a positive effect on the stress levels of the entire planet. There are no stupid people — there are just different motivations and trainings. My hope is that everyone finds the motivation and training that brings them the greatest joy and shares their brilliance with the world.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
You can follow me @BrainTapTech on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Check out my YouTube Channel or visit www.BrainTap.com. You can also download the BrainTap Pro app for Free in the AppStore or on Google Play. (There are tons of free mindfulness sessions!)
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!