Attention Training

How to think fast, find your focus, and sharpen your concentration.

Creative Mind-Body Summer Activities for the Whole Family Part 2

Turn your iPod into a mindset.

Cheers, it's summer again.  And this is a great time of year-as are all others-to make good memories, for yourself, with your intimate partner, and/or your children.  In my last post, Attention Parents: Creative Summer To-Dos (Part 1), I discussed using natural seasonal sounds and environments to help make memories from which both children and adults can optimize their mindsets.  These memories can be used to help individuals relax as well as activate themselves, depending on what they most need at the moment. They can also be tapped, at will, to bring forth some of our "sweetest" mindsets to enhance many daily endeavors.

In this post, I would like to build a little more on ways you can use sound this summer to create desired mindsets that can last, in some cases, for life.

One way you can do this is to make a Vacation Photo-Music Album.  This is one of my family's favorite activities.  During the summer, we spend time in a cabin along the ocean beach doing a lot of sunbathing, swimming, jumping waves, Tai Chi, jogging, hiking, and general exploring. We enjoy this time together because we do almost everything together during our days and most evenings.  It gives us a chance to make great memories together. 

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I find the best time to work on our own photo-music album is after dinner when things are settling down for the day.  My wife, Elaine, and I try to engage the kids in the activity in the cabin's soft-lighted veranda.  Sometimes we have the great scent of campfire smoke, hot cocoas, and teas-and always the calming white noise of waves pouring onto the beach.  For our purposes, we have come to call the activity a Vacation Photo-Music Album. But you don't have to be on vacation.  This activity works great at home too.  The nice thing is that it can involve the whole family.

You need a few things to get started.  First, you need access to a wide variety of songs that everyone making the album already loves.  You also need access to a digital camera, some digital pictures, a computer, and an iPod.  Photos from your vacation or recent days will work best.  What you are going to be doing is matching a few pieces of your favorite music with some favorite pictures and putting them on your iPod. This combination of music and photos will serve as your ready-made prescription for a great relaxed or elevated mindset--especially for those times when you really need a little help "getting there.".

Begin by picking out a favorite feel-good photo and then matching it with a song you love that enhances the overall feeling evoked by the photo.  It could be the instrumental or maybe the lyrics of the song, or maybe the images or all of these that add to the photo's intensity.  So try listening closely to each of these elelments and pick the song that works best. Everyone gets to pick one photo and song combination.

The next step is to assemble the selected photos and music on your iPod.  If you don't already know how to do this, you can get directions online that explain how to synch photos from your computer to any iPod and also on how to view your photos with your selected music as "a slide show."

Afterward, you can additionally put your song or anyone else's on your cell phone or work computer or on a CD. You can even put your favorite photo-music tune on your alarm clock and wake up to the positive feelings and images it ignites in your mind and body. 

Ultimately you and everyone who participates can later use their iPod (vacation photo-music) to help launch their best mindset (relaxed or elevated) as they work toward speciific daily goals. And the more you do this, the better it will work for you the next time.

Another "cabin activity" that we have enjoyed as a family is talking about songs that Mom listened to while she was pregnant with each of the children, even some songs that Grandma listened to and even Great Grandma. We make little family stories of these discussions.  It is amazing at how our daughters remember the stories and the songs attached to them. We talk about things like:  "Here is what we (Mom and I) would do and feel when we listened to "this song" or what grandma was always doing when she listened to "that song."  We play the songs and talk about their soothing (or elevating) effects and how they feel to each of us now as we listen-children included. Sometimes we try to singing along or even dancing-the four of us-fast or slow as is appropriate. This helps ingrain the memory.

The next step is to put these tracks on an iPod you, your partner, and your children can use to find calm when you need it or to arouse your mindset when you need a quick mood fix-e.g. you have an office meeting in 10 minutes and could use a fast lift.  Your fix will be in your pocket and just a click away.  And you can keep hitting replay until your mind and mood are right where you want. Your musical "pill" can be used time and again and, of course, with no negative side-effects.

Here are a few more ideas. Try:

A Family Jam Session: Use small instruments like triangles, hand-bells, snaps, maracas, hand-held drums, clavicles, etc. Try to combine with festive activity and celebration. This helps the child (and adult) gain experience using music to get into and sustain a flow mindset. Try recording one of these and putting it on your iPod for a quick mood shifter. Photos can enhance this activity as well.

A Group Sing-Along:   Create your own family sing-along. For example, singing along a campfire, if you are in an area where you can have an open or outdoor fireplace.  You can always do this indoors with or without a fireplace as well. Try using a photo here too.

Combining any of these with fragrence.  Let's say music and pine scent or mom's favorite perfume. 

Ingrain songs into your memory. Once you have a song that works at a certain place and time (it puts you into your most advantageous mindset), start using it then.  Play it over and over to start ingraining it into your memory.  This step will help make effects like entering flow (and all the others-calming/elevating) more automatic-that is you can train yourself to enter that mindset within the targeted situation (e.g. when your day is over and you are driving home). This is why, after just a few days of training, you can already hear the song playing in your head before you even turn on your iPod, MP3, or CD player. Your brain is already going right where you want it.

Train your brain like you would any of your muscles in the gym-frequently and use a lot of reps, and you will see results sooner and more dramatically.

Enjoy.

Joseph Cardillo, Ph.D., is the author of Can I Have Your Attention? How to Think Fast, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Concentration.

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