Mar 2 2011

The Flexible Mind

Have you ever noticed how easy it is for the mind to dwell on negative thoughts, or how hard it is for the mind to be grateful? Thoughts tend to enter the mind unbidden and to control one’s mood, and therefore one’s behavior. Anyone who has ever suffered from insomnia, or who struggles with depression, or who has to fight various addictions, knows the difficulty of controlling the influence of thoughts that enter the mind, and that in some cases seem to exert control over the whole person.

For a long time scientists, including cognitive behaviorists and others, have believed that the mind is controlled by external circumstances, or the environment.  The idea is that the way you were raised more or less totally shapes the way you think. What is happening around you controls what happens in the mind. Others assert that the mind creates various thoughts and emotions completely based on chemical processes that occur in certain sections of the brain.

More recent theories, however, suggest that the mind and the brain are far more flexible than anyone had imagined.  While both environment and genetic or chemical processes certainly are involved in the way the mind operates, or the way the brain functions, it may be that the brain is more than the passive object in the way the mind actually works. Rather than understanding the way we experience life through the mind as a direct result of what is happening in the brain, recent discoveries have shown that it is possible that the mind can influence the way the brain itself is hardwired.

In the late 1990s a scientist at Princeton named Elizabeth Gould found that the brain is more malleable than previously thought, and that new neurons and new connections could be created through learning new behaviors. In other words, rather than the mind influencing the way we act (for instance, negative thoughts creating foul moods and bad behaviors), actions could also influence the connections the brain makes, and therefore the way the mind thinks.

Another scientist named Richard Davidson from the University of Wisconsin built upon this discovery and found that changing the way one thinks can rewire the way the brain works. In other words, the traditional assumptions had it wrong: the brain does not, through genetics or chemical processes, have absolute control over the mind and therefore over the way we think and feel, but the mind can actually change the way the brain is wired, so that we can be less reactive to intrusive thoughts and more stable in the way we live and behave.

One of the primary methods Davidson used in his inquiry into the way the mind and brain function together was through mindfulness meditation. He discovered that the monks of the Dalai Lama generated far more gamma waves than other, average, healthy people. Those who practice meditation tend to use the mind to physically change the hardwiring in the brain in such a way that far more positive thoughts and emotions are generated than negative ones.  The implications are extraordinary. Not only is there a potential for naturally overcoming intrusive thoughts, which sometimes result in mental disorders, but also for healing Alzheimer disease and other afflictions that are rooted in brain functions.

Mar 25 2010

Using mental discipline to lose weight


Having time for one self

The quickest way to start losing weight is to start believing that you can. It takes mental discipline as well as a healthy diet and exercise to lose weight and keep it off. Achieving mental discipline is not as hard as one might think and you can start right away. Discipline is defined as “the ability to do the right thing even when no one is watching”. Mental discipline could then be defined as “the ability to control your thoughts when you’re not thinking”. Using mental discipline to lose weight is the ability to stay strong in a moment of weakness. Unfortunately, moments of weakness occur rather frequently when dieting. Imagine that your diet has been quite successful and your target weight is seemingly reachable in less time than previously imagined. Suddenly, just when success is in sight, a weekend from hell occurs and before you know it, you’ve skipped two workouts and consumed every Little Debbie and Pringle in sight, and when no one was watching, you secretly ordered take-out.


I need to lose weight

Having a strong sense of mental discipline may prevent that disaster from ever occurring. Occasionally we will give ourselves the green light to be bad. Then we make promises to ourselves such as working out harder during the next workout or skipping lunch or dinner, which is extremely unhealthy. Having mental discipline keeps your mind strong and your willpower in tact when you are consistently challenged during the course of a day. By properly programming your mind, you become able to override and overcome ingrained eating habits, and your energy level will naturally increase because you’ve stuck to a healthier diet. Skipping workouts is less likely to occur as well; in fact you’re likely to start looking forward to them.


I am finally reaching my weight goal

Create a vision of yourself having already lost the weight you feel you need to lose. Think about what you are wearing. Think about how you would feel. Confident? Ready for anything? Train yourself to think of this vision when you wake up, then keep the vision on your mind when you are in the shower, as you get ready for work. Think about this vision on your bus ride or drive into the office. After a couple of days, it becomes natural and easy. Remember, a belief is nothing more than a series of thoughts. It won’t be long before you start believing this vision is an attainable version of you! Suddenly, eating healthy is easy and working out is no longer the chore it once seemed. Achieving mental discipline will stop the sabotage from occurring and losing weight will no longer be the proposed chance of failure it once was. If you have decided that losing weight is your goal, and you want it bad enough, you must first believe that you can lose weight. Most people program themselves for failure not even realizing it. With mental discipline, and a strong desire to succeed, anyone can lose weight, and keep it off.

Feb 16 2010

“Reading someone’s “Tells” in a poker game


Does he have the better hand?

With the recent popularity of televised “Texas Hold ‘Em” poker games comes a new world-wide craze for poker and the strategies involved in winning. It’s no secret that more than half the skills needed to win at poker are about reading your opponent’s moves and body language, commonly known as “tells.”

Often times, players are unaware of what the subtle moves their body, eyes and behavior give away about their hand and how they feel about it. It’s especially true for players just out to have fun and maybe make some extra cash on a weekend in Vegas. A great poker player is constantly observing the tells and can pick up on when someone is trying to bluff their way out from behind a not-so-good hand. Understanding and picking up on these tells are half the strategy of the next move.

When it comes to reading the subtle clues of your opponent’s behavior during your games, it begins by just paying attention.

  1. Cool detachment. Yes, the stakes are high, and your nerves are rattling. But get out of the emotion of it by stepping into the director’s shoes, as opposed to being the actor on the stage. As the actor sitting at the poker table, your focus needs to remain engaged in the action there, but a part of you must also learn to step back and observe the scene from a broader range. From this detachment, you will be free to remove yourself from reaction and position yourself in a new controlled position of action and control, always the more powerful place to be.
  2. Size Them Up. Even before you sit down, begin to take mental notes on the other players at your table. Also remember to work quickly and concisely, because here, time really is money. Notice who the big bold players are, and also who the shyer, more reserved players are. Bold players will sit differently. They take up the whole chair, with bigger hand and arm movements, and often speak intentionally louder than everyone else, as a way to control the conversation. The less assured players will be sitting back trying to cover their cards with their hands and purposefully not making eye contact. Also remember that players will react differently during the shuffle than they do while the hand is being played.
  3. Learn the Tells. Look for any physical reactions going on with your opponent—eye twitches, blinking, fingernail biting, or any other tiny gestures they might be making. Notice what their breathing is like, but don’t jump to conclusions until you have studied this behavior. Accelerated breathing can often indicate good cards, but a great poker player will know to fake this to throw you off. Any color change in the skin, shifty eyes scanning what is left of the chips or gazing off as if distracted, shaking, jittery or fidgety movements. Watch, and wait, and see.
  4. Spend some time studying. Spend some time playing the table, watching and observing if indeed this particular tic precedes a good hand for them, or if this rubbing the eye always comes before a bad hand. Pay attention, because over time, you will get a gut feel for what you are picking up as the observer. As you watch the patterns of the players you start to feel the specific expression of everyone’s tells.
  5. Become aware of your own tells. Be exceptionally aware of the messages you are giving off. Don’t make any moves without forethought as it how it will affect your opponent, based on what you read in his tells. You might even have to spend some time practicing controlling your tendency to fidget.

    I got this hand in the bag!

  6. Sometimes, you want to make them think your hand is good. Commonly, a player will react meekly if they wish to throw you off. A good player will mix up their intentional tells, sometimes coming on strong with a great hand, sometimes playing it back. This kind of strategy is an equal part of the process of being an exceptional player. Acting in this way is considered a valuable skill in high stakes poker, almost as sly as counting cards.
  7. Discover the pattern of the other players’ behavior. Is it that they begin to talk when they had been quiet? Are they holding their arms differently? Open or protective? They may start talking when they were previously quiet. They may cross their arms differently or even hold their cards in a more protective manner. The keenest observer and shrewdest actor will be the big winner at the end of the day.
  8. Ignore the stare-down. Other players will inevitably try to intimidate you. One of the best defenses against this tactic is to purposefully stare back no matter what shape your hand is in. Be sure to not be consistent with your inconsistent responses!
  9. Forget the distracters. Poker players will go to great lengths to stretch the boundary of acceptable strategy. Some fakers will make disgruntled noises, or get loud and jocular, just to confuse you. Stay focused, detach and turn the tables by being in control of your own tells. Make these showboaters think they are getting to you, just to throw them off.
  10. When reading other players, understand pros won’t allow you to read them, which is why they are, of course, pros. However, most every game has amateurs, which you should be able to spot rather quickly.

poker eyes

What my eyes tell me that no one else sees

No one is completely immune to giving off tells. But with patience, practice, perseverance and skill, over time you can learn the fine art of poker tells and how to exploit this information to gain advantage. If you spot a tell that means your opponent has the advantage, lay down your cards before the flop; when you find a player who is showing weakness, raise your bet. Just one more tool to get the win.

Oct 2 2009

17 Tips To Wake Up Early

Whether you are a consistent morning person, or a person who would normally wake up at a later time but are trying to train yourself to get going earlier in the day, there are certain tried and true tips that will get you moving in the morning. Here are 17 tips that will help you become the morning person you truly want to be!

1. Make sure that you have a really good reason to wake up early. This is the most important thing when it comes to rising at an early hour. If there is no motivating factor, you would probably just stay in bed. Make sure your reason is a good one. It helps to make a list.

2. Get stuff done in the AM. Make sure that you give yourself specific tasks to accomplish. If you don’t accomplish your tasks, you will be less likely to get up early next time. Make sure that you use your time effectively.

3. Make sure that you catch enough ZZZ’s the night before. If you are tired during the day, then getting up early may be causing more problems than it is fixing. Make sure that you get a full night’s rest. Go to sleep earlier, so then you can wake up early and feel rested!

4. Calculate how much sleep you will need. Make sure that you give yourself enough time to begin to get ready for bed so that you can wind down properly and still get enough sleep. Everyone needs a different amount of sleep, find what works for you!

5. Sleep Better. Many people need to sleep “better,” not just longer. Make sure that you have a high quality pillow and a relaxing environment.

6. Don’t hit snooze! Make sure that you put your clock far enough away so you have to get up. Don’t listen to the voice in your head that tells you to sleep in! Get up when you plan on to.

7. Get straight out of bed! When that alarm sounds, get a move on! The longer you stay in bed, the more likely it is that you will sleep in.

8. Use an alarm clock. Make your alarm loud, annoying and hard to turn off!

9. Get yourself on a good routine. Get your morning routine down pat. Make sure that you stick to early rising, even on the weekends.

10. Reward yourself. Give yourself a small incentive in the morning. Some time to relax or have a cup of coffee and have a quiet moment is always a good place to start.

11. Know what you lose by sleeping late. Make sure you understand why you are waking up early and what will happen negatively (less personal time, staying late at the office) if you sleep in.

12. Don’t allow yourself to sleep in. Schedule important things early in the morning so you have to be up and at ‘em.

13. Have an early wake up buddy. Develop a friend support system. If all of you vow to wake up early, you can help each other stick to the goal.

14. Create a reward for achieving this goal. A reward creates confidence and motivation.

15. Keep records. Mark down how many times you choose to sleep in to help you realize that it’s not “just this one time”.

16. Applaud yourself for everything you got done. You deserve it!

17. Try to avoid the stimulants that affect your sleep schedule, namely caffeine and alcohol, which completely destroys your sleep and quality of your sleep, which actually touches on your waking time.