The brain is not just a piece of meat (as UCLA brain researcher Jeffrey Schwartz pointed out in his excellent book The Mind And The Brain).
Neurons send information to each other via electrical activity. The combination of this brain activity creates oscillations, or waves, that can be measured. The activity of the brain is measured on the Hertz scale, and different ranges of activity are categorized into different states, which are all named after Greek letters.
The major brain wave states are Alpha, Beta, Theta, and Delta (and possibly, according to some research, even Gamma, Epsilon, and Lambda).
In different states of oscillation, our brain behaves differently. When we are in the Beta state, we are hyper alert and thinking very rationally. In the Alpha state, we tend to be more imaginative and creative (or daydreaming). Theta waves are associated with altered states of consciousness, like meditation or the drowsy state before sleep. When we dream, we are in a Delta wave state. Some very advanced meditators seem to enter into this state while awake.
Dr. Les Fehmi, with the aid of biofeedback, has developed a cool technique called “Open Focus” to get into “synchronous Alpha” an Alpha brain wave state that activates the entire brain. In this state, people are relaxed, confident, and creative. Basically, being in this state is being “in the zone.” Your brain is integrated and creativity and high performance in many tasks come naturally.
In our business, we use this technique a frequently, because accomplishing anything socially requires a sort of confident relaxation, especially in the midst of socially stressful situations (like talking to strangers, asking a girl out, going on first dates, etc). In stressful situations, the brain can enter into a heavily Beta Wave state. In this state, we “overthink” every action, and focus too narrowly. This means that actions that come naturally in most situations become awkward and unattractive. The solution is synchronous Alpha.
Here is a basic application of Open Focus. I suggest getting the book The Open Focus Brain to learn more advanced techniques. Basically, imagining empty space is the key to entering open focus. Apparently this imagining of “nothing” clears the brain of the tendency to overthink.
The quickest way to apply it is to become aware, right now, of the space between the letters and words in this writing. Did you even notice that before? Without fail, every time I do this, my field of vision widens. Yours likely has as well!
Become aware now of the space between you and the screen. Now imagine the space in your head, between your ears (note, it is the space; you are not imagining what your brain looks like). You should feel the relaxation response immediately, but continue doing it for better results.
This technique puts you into a mild trance state. It “widens” your focus, and takes you out of the narrow (and stressful) focus encouraged by modern life. Your field of vision should widen, and your awareness of your surroundings will increase. I notice that things get brighter and more colorful, and details (like shadows and reflections) become more noticeable. Life is just better in Open Focus.
When you are in a stressful social situation, or you just need to relax or harness creativity, I suggest pausing and using this technique. A good friend of mine, Joshua Wagner, will imagine the space around stop lights whenever he drives. Since he is on the road a lot, it’s a great way to promote relaxation on a regular basis.
There are many ways to get “in the zone” socially. Open Focus is a powerful one a lot of people don’t know about. I suggest you try it today!