Attention Training

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

Carry Your Brain in Your Pocket

Start making the best playlist of your life.

Whether your musical taste is Bono, Billie Holiday or Celine Dion, you can customize playlists (a combination of your favorite songs) to keep you in an optimized mindset throughout the day.  And it's fun.  Music offers an easy, natural way to: relieve anxiety, increase alertness, feel happier, sharpen memory, improve mood, and fight off insomnia, depression and even addictions without any side effects.

Change the Way You Operate

Many individuals resort to products like caffeine and energy drinks for that quick energy boost. In small amounts, these products can certainly do the trick, though not without side-effects, and the results are short term. You may ask, isn't there something else? The answer may be as simple as reaching for your iPod, MP3 player or cell phone. We all know how good it feels to hear our favorite song. Imagine powering up your brain with that clean, positive energy at will, anytime, anywhere, without side-effects. Imagine being able to think more clearly than usual, with a heightened perception of your surroundings, and being able to reach that state whenever or wherever you need. It doesn't matter if your musical taste is Luciano Pavarotti, Bono, Billie Holiday or Muse. You can achieve this state at virtually the push of a button. We now know that music affects every part of the brain. This "connection" is why music is able to regulate your thoughts, goals and actions. Music can be used to change the way you operate in specific situations (like that next office meeting or contract negotiation). It can increase your ability to deal with stress and call forth your best, or peak mindset.

 What Is Your Peak Mindset?

But what exactly is your peak mindset? It is a "balanced" mindset. This means you are simultaneously operating from a place of both maximum calm and maximum alert. So you are not stressed at all - quite the opposite really - and you are highly alert, flowing from one thought, decision or action to another. Your focus is peaked.

Optimum Calm and Alertness

Optimum calm is not your deepest calm; it is reaching the point where, if you got any calmer, you'd be too mellow for the task at hand. The same goes for your alertness: You're optimally alert when any more excitement is too much and would leave you feeling "wired." You're at your "best" when you are balanced.

Carry Your Brain Waves in Your Pocket

This is where your favorite music comes in. You can customize your iPod, MP3 player or cell phone into a device you can use, whenever you need it, to begin optimizing your mindset throughout the day. Here's how:

1. Pay Attention to How You Are Feeling

Figure out what you feel like when your mind is not in balance - e.g. you may feel out of sorts, too jumpy or too mellow to get a certain task done.

2. Put Together a Playlist that Can Move Your Mindset Up or Down (Alert or Calm)

Start using your playlist (or any song on repeat mode) to help you into your mental best prior to specific situations and then again afterward, for 7 to 12 minutes. The goal is to use your favorite music to reset your brain to its optimum performance in and for situationally specific circumstances. Note: Staying in a less optimum mindset long enough can make that your habitual operating mindset. Here is how to begin a playlist that can balance you:

  • First, pick songs you like a lot.
  • Look for calming songs. Choose any kind of music that calms your anxiety. What's important is that you like the song, the more the better. Experiment. You can develop real precision in picking the right songs to relax you in specific situations. Sometimes, you instantly recognize what music you need at just that moment to soothe you. Select from those songs first. But then try listening to a variety of other songs you believe can more exactly relate to your specific needs at certain moments. For example, are you on your way to meet with new employees or are you headed to a meeting? Are you angry, sad or anxious? Are there songs that instill calm into you, given where you are, how you're feeling and your goal? Begin tracking how specific songs change your moods and leave you feeling in specific situations. Add these to your playlist. Title situation-specific playlists for breaking down anxiety or creating calm, such as: "Before a Public Speaking Engagement" or "Before Office Meetings."
  • Look for alertness-energizing songs.
  • Pay attention to when a certain song works and when it doesn't. Songs are not always situationally interchangeable.
  • Ingrain songs into your memory by playing them a lot.
  • Make task-oriented playlists. Train your brain with your assembled playlist before and after specific tasks.

This sends your brain the message that you want this specific state of mind in all similar situations.  Soon you will be able to call up your optimum mindset whenever you need it, whether you are actually playing the songs or not.

Music is one of life's freebees.  By merging a little science and pleasure, anyone can make a big difference in his or her daily experiences.  Remember; train your brain like you would the rest of your body in a gym-often and with lots of repetition. Eventually it will get the message that you want a certain mindset for a specific situation and it will start bringing it on, for you, all on its own. 

The most important thing is getting your playlists set up in advance. Why not start today? This way you can have what you need right there in your pocket. You should begin to see effects in about three weeks.  Make this the year you change your life with a song.

Note:  For a complete exploration with lots of sample playlists, you can check out my new book, Your Playlist Can Change Your Life: 10 Proven Ways Your Favorite Music Can Revolutionize Your Health, Memory, Organization, Alertness and More, which I co-authored with Galina Mindlin, MD, PhD and Don DuRousseau, MBA.

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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