Thoughts racing too much and feel like the monkey mind has taken over? Can’t focus and too many distractions? Inner critic in your head running wild and won’t give you a break?
So many of us struggle with a mind that, quite simply, won’t shut the fuck up.
Regardless of what we do there’s a constant dialogue going on in the head, a consistent narration to the daily activities of life.
One of the most common questions I receive is about how to “clear your mind”, how to “stop thinking” or “let go of thoughts.”
For a long time I’ve recommended meditation, but I don’t actually believe that meditation is the most effective way to get out of your head. Meditation is great to OBSERVE the monkey mind, but to get him to stop jumping from tree to tree we need something else entirely.
Luckily, there IS a way – and it doesn’t involve sitting still cross legged on the floor for hours on end.
The fool proof method of getting out of your head and calming down the mind?
Transwhat the fuck!?!
Yes – Transient hypofrontality – a fancy word for a temporarily slowing down the pre-frontal cortex. Transient (temporary) Hypo (slowed/less) Frontality (pre-frontal cortex of the brain)
In layman’s terms, for a short period of time we can get the frontal region of the brain that controls our inner dialogue to calm down.
To explain – Most of that “inner dialogue” that is happening in your brain is controlled by the pre-frontal cortex. When we’re engaged in deep thinking and problem solving, this section of the brain is hyper active (extra active).
When we induce transient “HYPO” (opposite of Hyper = Slowed) Frontality, this section of the brain slows down.
So knowing the WHAT of Transient Hypofrontality is good and all, but how the hell do I induce it? How do I get myself into a state of transient hypofrontality?
One word – Exercise.
Yes – exercise – is the simplest way to induce transient hypofrontality.
Dr. Arne Dietrich, the man who coined this term, explains in his TEDx Talk that physical activity “forces” the brain to redistribute brain resources (a process known as down-regulation). So for example If you’re engaged in a competitive sport where you need to make decisions, you will involve the prefrontal cortex. BUT if you’re on a long-distance run through nature, your mind lets go of that prefrontal activity.
By performing exercise that doesn’t require us to think, exercise that allows us to zone out, the brain down-regulates the pre-frontal cortex and mental chatter falls by the wayside.
It makes sense too – if you’re engaged in intense physical exercise there is no room for thinking about the problems of the day. If your heart is beating out of your chest and your muscles are on fire, there’s no space to think about the shit you’re stressing over.
Transient hypofrontality happens when we are fully immersed in the now.
But is exercise the ONLY way to get into transient hypofrontality? Absolutely not.
You can induce it through yoga, long walks, dance – any repetitive activity where you can “lose yourself” in a task.
In fact, In 2006 a team of Israeli scientists discovered that when people lose themselves in a task—be it playing cards or having sex or climbing a mountain—a part of the brain called the superior frontal gyrus starts to deactivate.
Yep – Transient Hypofrontality.
So the next time that you feel like your mind is racing and you can’t let go of some repetitive thought loops? Go out for some intense exercise. Get your heart beating out of your chest.
Can’t get in a workout? Just go for a long walk. Stretch. MOVE. Get into your body.
At work? Take meetings or calls while walking instead of sitting still. Do some pushups or squats at your desk. Buy a balance board and spend a few minutes on it while you give your mind a break.
Lucky enough to have a flow activity? Turns out that Transient hypofrontality is one of the signature pieces of a flow state. When we’re in flow – the inner voice disappears as you are immersed in the now of your task.
In the end, you can’t think your way to a calm mind, you have to leave it by the wayside altogether.
The secret to a calm mind lies in being immersed in the present moment, getting into your body and out of your head. It’s that simple.
So for a calmer, happier, more peaceful life – induce transient hypofrontality as much as you humanly can 🙂
Also published on Medium.