How to hack your mind with neuroscience and mental reprogramming?
Neurohacking expert Sir John Hargrave gives us his advice on how best to hack your mind… In an interview on the podcast, “The Science of Mind Hacking”, this neuroscience expert discusses the significance of this increasingly popular “art” of mental reprogramming. Ready to effectively “de-clutter” your mind?
Let’s go back to the definition of the word “hacking”.
The original meaning of the term Hacking comes from the computer world. The good hackers, the original hackers, were those who found clever tricks or techniques to do something fun with computers. We still use this term when we talk about “life hacking”, “time hacking” or “schedule hacking”, etc. It means a trick or a technique that can be used to do something fun with computers. It means a clever trick or technique.
What is the distinction between brain and mind?
We talk about the neurochemistry of the brain, but it’s really focused on the individual experience of the mind because ultimately that’s what we’re stuck with. You have to know that each person is the programmer of their own brain, their own mind.
The brain, the mind and the computer: all three alike?
The closest thing to the brain, the mind and computers is the fact that they can work efficiently or inefficiently depending on their programming. For example, when you buy a new mobile phone, you look forward to getting rid of the old one so that you have a clean, uncluttered operating system to work on. We all know that experience where, after a while, the hard drive gets heavy. Our phone fills up with applications that we no longer use. And this inefficiency, this kind of clutter, is analogous to what happens in our mind. In his book “Mind Hacking”, John Hargrave tells us about awareness – the first step in the process. Next is debugging. This involves pinpointing the origin of problematic thoughts and then reprogramming the mind using a range of techniques or tricks.
The “What was I thinking?” Mindfulness practice
There are many mindfulness techniques. One of them is called “What was I thinking? And it is very simple! Ask yourself, as many times as you can during the day, “What was my mind thinking? Most people find this very easy at first, and then they forget to do it! Why? Because they end up getting lost in their mind. What we are trying to do is to develop the level of metacognition, of our consciousness. Rise above the mind to look at it from above, to look at the source code or the programming in progress and say, “What was my mind thinking? Try it! And at the end of the day, try to count the number of times you’ve managed to remember it… For millennia, the practice of mindfulness has guided many societies around the world.
The physiology of the mind-body connection
How does a change of state of mind affect the physical body? What happens at the physiological level?
The body and mind are very closely connected.
From the 20th century onwards, medicine, psychology and neuroscience have scientifically explored the notion of the body’s intelligence. We now understand the body not as a pile of organs over which the brain reigns, but as a complex and subtle entity, the seat of many interactions. The more we can think in positive directions, the more likely our health will evolve in positive directions too. Understanding these interconnections can do a lot for us. This is especially true for emotional regulation: the ability to reduce stress and increase pleasant emotions. We have known since the late 1950s that negative emotions, such as stress or anger, have deleterious effects on the body. For the past fifteen years, we have also been measuring the benefits of positive emotions. They rebalance our parasympathetic nervous system (the one that soothes the body, which slows down the action of the sympathetic system, the one that causes stress), improve our immunity, seem to slow down cell ageing, etc.
Updating procedures to develop your mind
The 5 Whys technique
Another practical tip for reprogramming your brain for a better life is the 5 Whys technique. How does it work? Kiichiro Toyoda, founder of the Toyota Motor Company, was involved in the innovation of many business and technological processes. One of his major innovations is called the “five whys”.
The idea is that when something goes wrong in his car production plants, he encourages everyone to ask five times why. Because our habit, as human beings, is to look only at immediate or first-order problems, which are the cause of known problems.
So, for example, if the timing belt of a car or car model is faulty, we ask why. The reason could be a loose part. And if you leave it at that, you may not get to the root of the problem. But if you ask again why, the reason is that we had to use standard parts instead of making something custom-made.
Why did we do that? Because we had to speed up production in order to reach the first quarter figures. Why did we do this?
Because our production and sales cycles are not aligned. By doing this, we get to a root cause analysis that can help us find the real source of the problem. And so it is with our minds!
If we don’t just look at the effects of the first request or just the emotions we feel, but start asking why and why again 5 times in a row, we can better understand the problem. So with this new habit, which we can call “core programming”, we can understand that it is the cause of this negative thought loop.
By doing this, we can really root out and debug at the source. Then we can reprogram that element, which will have much greater first, second, third, fourth and fifth order effects later on.
The “worst thing that could happen” exercise
How to do this exercise?
This is another way of dealing with uncomfortable feelings. We have just talked about the five reasons to get to the root of the problem, but another thing we can do is to unmask fears and anxieties that we have, which we often don’t know the origin of. What we need to do is to imagine the worst case scenario that could happen – even if the mind is not conscious at this stage.
When we verbalise it and write it down, we put it all down. By writing things down, we take them out of that abstract cloud in our head and turn them into computer code.
Then we have power over them, don’t we?
We can now look at our emotions from above. And this is extremely useful. You may think it’s terrifying to talk about your worst-case scenario and you may even feel superstitious about writing it down. But when you do, you discover this strange kind of power you have over it. And then you can start to say, “Okay. What would happen if this happened? First of all, I’d be dead, so it wouldn’t matter.” But in many cases, you can find ways to mitigate or protect yourself from this thing that scares you so much, and that’s really empowering.
The powerful effects of written affirmations
Write down the things you would like to achieve or see happen.
Why does it work? This technique in Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography is great. In a small notebook, which he carried around with him and in which he wrote down his virtues every day – those he wanted to see developed in his life – he noted how he was doing. This technique of written affirmations and its effectiveness was tested by John Hargrave: “For many years I tried the experiment of writing down my goal 15 times a day. And I measured at the end of each year whether I had actually achieved my goal. Did the statement come true in some way or not? I would say, in all honesty, that I have about an 85% success rate for written affirmations.” This practice of personal development through writing allows for a mindful reminder of one’s goals without being distracted by events that may occur. We inscribe our desires into a physical reality and make them real by writing them down again and again. So we create habits in our brain. Neuroscience talks a lot about the fact that our brain locks into the way we are used to thinking. And what we do is a kind of creation of a new groove. That’s why this technique is powerful.
The reality distortion field
Perception dictates reality…
When you are in the process of neuro hacking, you create a reality distortion field. This is something that we all have the power to create, and the results are very powerful. It changes our perception of reality and allows us to create our own reality. The one we want to live in.
Feeling, doing, having, giving, being
This is the key stage, where we visualise what we want. This is one of the most difficult (for most of us). We all know what we don’t want. It’s easy to complain about what we don’t like in our lives, but it’s extremely difficult to proactively determine what we do want. There are five words – feel, do, have, give, be. The idea is to find a word that represents each of these things you want in your life.
The questions are as follows:
what is the word that describes how you would like to feel?
what is the one thing you have always wanted to do?
what is the one thing you would like to have?
what is the one thing you would like to bring to the world?
what is the adjective that describes who you would like to be?
And once you’ve gone through these words, they don’t have to be perfect. You just get five words that speak to you and allow you to determine what you want now.
Mental de-cluttering to hack your mind
Free ourselves from the internal interruptions that plague us: unwanted and unpleasant thoughts, emotions and feelings, but also from external interruptions, such as all our digital distractions. Another exercise is to do a deep clean of all the digital distractions on your computer and phone. For example, silencing audible text alerts or turning off interruptions to any applications that you don’t really need to be interrupted for. It’s all about simplifying and streamlining that daily experience. There’s a lot of research that shows that these distractions have a real impact, a negative impact on us, because they take us away from deep concentration, deep focus that we might have on our work or on things that are really important.
Authenticity, the ultimate sign of being yourself
“I’m a big believer in authenticity, and that word is often used in an inauthentic way. It’s a bit of a cliché, but for me authenticity means trying to be yourself. We try to express our own personality in its broadest sense. The more we can develop it and express our own individuality, our own uniqueness, the more we have to offer the world. People are afraid to do this because we all want to look like a successful person. But at the end of the day, the more authentic we can be, the more we can be ourselves, the more successful we can be. Debugging is essentially trying to log in to what we would call, in computer language, the administrator level account. Once we can get into that state of mind, then we can begin to identify, through the techniques we have discussed, where the problematic thought is.
When we get into negative thoughts such as “I’m not good enough because I don’t have that education” or “I don’t have those friends, those social relationships or that job” the administrator level makes us realise what is behind our thoughts. It may not even be conscious, but then we can say, “Wait a minute, I don’t necessarily need this job” or “I could get this job by doing something. And we can start to uproot that problematic thought that’s holding us back in a very real way because it’s creating our reality, and start to replace it with better programming, better thoughts that will move our life in a better direction. So, are you ready to hack your mind?