Well-Being//

Hacking Your Wonder Mindset

How I rewired my brain to use mindfulness when dealing with anxiety.

Benjavisa/ Getty Images
Benjavisa/ Getty Images

My first experience at meditation was in a hall in Bondi after a yoga session. I was 23 and had been told by my doctor to try yoga and meditation to help manage my anxiety. I had been prescribed medication to try and help alleviate the panic attacks, sweaty palms and constant chatter in my mind, but they made me feel too sleepy and dull and I wasn’t sure medication was really the answer — I needed an alternative. So I found myself in this meditation hall in Bondi Beach; in trying so hard to relax, my mind went into overdrive and I ended up storming out of the hall angry at myself and my failure to relax. I gave up. I took to exercise and nutrition and managed to take control of my well-being. Things were good for a while, but it was only after I had a suspected transient ischemic attack (ministroke) that I decided it was time to nail this whole meditation/mindfulness thing. My neurologist suggested that hypnotherapy may be helpful to encourage calm and alleviate anxiety. 

I found a hypnotherapist and asked her to help me learn how to be more calm and to meditate. She guided me into a trance; over an hour later when she counted me out, I came into a conscious and connected state — it was like she had massaged my brain. I had to know more! How!? Why? What? Omg! I enrolled in a course to become a qualified hypnotherapist and the skills I learnt during this course changed the way I understood myself, changed the way that I managed my thoughts and changed my reality.

Meditation is a form of trance guided by self or others into a relaxed state of consciousness. When we meditate we take our brains into a theta state; in this state our brains play, problem solve, imagine, heal. When we guide someone into a hypnotised state, we do the same; we bypass the critical faculty and then in this relaxed trance state, we make recommendations and suggestions to the subconscious to rewrite code and rewire thinking. We pop the boot and fix the wiring. It is helpful to know that meditation takes us into the same state, and with practice we can do this healing, rewriting, deleting, updating and clearing ourselves.

Our species evolved over millions of years but the most rapid evolution has taken place in the last 20,000 years. Specifically, we have refined language’ we have created capitalism, work, cultures, societies, technology and more. We have innovated and upgraded to the point of overwhelm — and our brains are paying the price. We have saturated our human experience with processes, expectations and layers of complexity that are causing us to melt down.

I genuinely believe we must learn to engage with our brains in new ways to survive this rapid evolution. This is where meditation and mindfulness come in. If we can take the time to care for our minds, to rewire our thinking, to rebuild our brains, we tap into the most powerful tool on earth, our neck-top computer. When we can hack our own minds, we are capable of profound happiness, connection, meaning, wonder.

All hypnosis is self-hypnosis and we can guide ourselves into a trance any time. We spend 95 percent of our day in a subconscious state, without our consciousness pilot at the steering wheel, in autopilot. Our brains execute a series of algorithms based on the programs we have created over the years: ordering coffee, behaviour in meetings, how-tos that effortlessly roll out “without thinking too much.” The danger in this is that we have many bugs, many unconscious biases and flawed lines of code or algorithms that can sabotage our lives without us even realising it! Ever catch yourself driving on the road wondering where your mind had gone? Or watching TV and realising you had zoned out? On the train or even in a meeting daydreaming? This semitrance state happens when our brains relax and take us offline. We are particularly malleable and easy to influence in this state (like our brains have let the guard down). Which is why if I am super tired, I take myself to bed rather than watching TV — I read a little or write a little instead of absently sitting in front of a TV when my brain is in such a vulnerable state — garbage in, garbage out, right?

I found myself all those years ago in a heightened state of consciousness, an “always on” anxiety-driven state fueled by fear, insecurity and a lack of self-worth. I was unable to be in the moment. My limiting self belief meant that I didn’t trust my autopilot; I had been cheated on, bullied and harassed at work, betrayed, laughed at and more in this “autopilot” state, the pain that I had experienced meant that I no longer felt safe to operate unless I was “on,” but we are not designed to be “on” all the time. 

Our brains use up 20 percent of the energy we consume and produce each day, and this is when they are on autopilot for a good part of the day. So what happens when we are feeling the need to stay alert, in fight-or-flight mode all day long? Burnout, exhaustion, weight-loss, lethargy, insomnia, anxiety. This had become my reality. Mine was an extreme case, but we are all motivated to avoid pain and our subconscious takes its job very seriously to ensure that you avoid this at all costs. This can result in behaviours that are not serving our highest good. If we fear being alone, we could be seeking attention, engaging in promiscuous behaviour. If we fear disappointment, we may give up, avoid or not try. If we fear success, we may self sabotage, opt-out, not put our best foot forward. These fears sitting in our subconscious form part of the algorithm that shapes your thoughts, which become your feelings, which become your behaviours, which shape your human experience. To change the outcome, we have to change the algorithm!

This is where the troubleshooting begins.

Troubleshooting our own thinking is a valuable tool for creating change in your life. How often do you ask yourself, “What am I thinking?” “What do I believe?” My guess is not often enough!

After I became a zen Jedi master (jokes — but I totally figured out the whole meditation thing), my whole world changed. I was able to process all of the amazing lessons I had experienced and understood what was right for me next. I became a qualified hypnotherapist; I became a practitioner of NLP; I learnt Reiki; I became a Design Thinking coach; all these things happened in a complete state of flow. I hacked my mindset — I hacked my life — all using meditation, mindfulness and hypnosis.

What have you got to lose? Tune in to your own thinking through journaling, mindfulness and meditation and hack your wonder mindset starting today!

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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