Backed by Science: 4 Esoteric Self-Help Methods That Actually Work

We all want to thrive. We want effective methods to transform our lives. Personal growth is a major drive for people.

The information overload makes it increasingly harder to know what to trust.

Also, humans tend to make decisions based on emotions rather than facts and logic.

The self-help industry is capitalizing heavily on the growing interest in spirituality and personal transformation.

It has changed the life of countless people to the better.

Still, many people are skeptical and dismiss much of it as non-scientific nonsense. These people often cringe when they hear terms such as “crystal-healing,” “tarot cards,” and “spirit animals.”

Meditation, too, was once a weird, mystical ritual for these people.

Now, a heavy body of research supports its wide array of benefits.

The practises that are backed by science are increasing in number. Some of the most scientifically recognized of these are gratitude, meditation, visualization, and keeping a journal.

Gratitude

meditation-277889_1920When science looks at personality traits that correlate with people’s happiness, gratitude is usually among the top three [1]. Wealth and possessions are far down the list.

Our brains are wired to see more of what we already focus on. By making a conscious effort to shift your focus onto something that you’re thankful for, you’ll help the mind find more and more such things, and create good emotions.

A psychological theory called confirmation bias states that we have a tendency to search for, interpret, and favor information that confirms our pre-existing beliefs. Look for the good, and you will see more of it.

A simple and effective way to incorporate more gratitude into your daily life is by spending a minute or two to think about things that you are grateful for. It will be even more effective if you write it down.

Meditation

Contrary to what some skeptics seem to believe, meditation does not have to involve trips to India, gurus, becoming a monk, or doing psychedelic drugs. Meditation is a simple and effective way to boost mental and physical health, and it is heavily backed by science.

Meditation can restructure your brain in less than 8 weeks, and has showed great effects on helping troubled school kids.

Numerous studies have found many beneficial effects from meditation [2]. Some of these benefits are:

  • Enhanced immune functionsmeditation-884687
  • Decreased nervous system reactivity
  • Increased serotonin and dopamine – two happiness boosting brain chemicals, that you can learn to control
  • Reduced insomnia
  • Better digestion
  • Diminishes craving in substance abuse
  • Increased attention span
  • Reduces overthinking 
  • Increased emotion regulation
  • Decreased fear response
  • Decreased anxiety and depression
  • Increased empathy and compassion

Meditation is one of three practises that can raise your baseline level of happiness [3]. Incorporate meditation into your daily routine to start enjoying its amazing benefits.

Visualization

astronaut-1388582_1920There is good evidence that visualizing oneself performing an activity activates parts of the brain that are used in actually performing the activity.

It has been shown that people can get better at playing an instrument, playing golf and relaxing, just through visualization.

Natan Sharansky, who spent 9 years in prison in the USSR after being accused of spying for the US, practiced visualization by playing himself in mental chess. In 1996 he beat world champion Garry Kasparov.

One study showed that mental training induced strength gains in the little finger and the biceps, without performing physical exercises. The study concluded that mental training enhances muscle activation to increase strength [4].

Include visualization in your daily routines. Begin by establishing a highly specific goal. Imagine you already having achieved your goal. Form a mental picture with as much detail as you can. Engage all of your senses in the visualization. Who are you with? What are you wearing? How does the fabric of your clothes feel on your skin? What emotions do you feel? Is there a scent in the air? What sounds do you hear?

This is a practice, and you will strengthen your skills with regular visualization.

Combine it with affirmations when your visualization is at its most intense; in that way you can anchor the visualization to the affirmation and retrieve it more easily.

Keeping a Journal

Full disclosure of your innermost feelings through writing can change your life.

Well-functioning people adapt their concept of self to what they experience – something that can be easier to do by writing down your thoughts and emotions [5].

hands-1369316_1920

Writing can be especially useful for those who havehadtraumatic experiences.

A study [6] showed that people who spent 20 minutes a day – for four consecutive days, writing about a traumatic experience – went to the hospital or doctor fewer times the following year than a control group (who wrote about everyday topics). This only worked when people made progress and gained a deeper insight into the consequences and causes of their traumatic event.

You don’t have to have traumatic memories to benefit from keeping a journal. It can help you get to know yourself better, and clarify what your goals and desires are, making it easier to realize your dreams.

Journal keeping is the cheapest therapy you will ever get.

Putting it Into Practice – Have a Daily Routine

These methods are effective for everybody. You should definitely put all of them into practice.

The following routine is an example of how you can do all these things in around 20 minutes. Spend as much time as you want, or need, on each step (these are only suggestions on time usage).

Write down your thoughts and emotions, and events
from the day before – find three positive things that
happened.

Suggested time use: 5 minutes

Write down three things you are grateful for about
yourself, and three things you are grateful for about
life in general. Feel the grateful feelings.

Suggested time use: 5 minutes

Meditate. Sit with a straight spine and relax your body.
Take deep, conscious breaths, and focus on the air
flowing in and out of your nostrils while you allow
thoughts to come and go without engaging in them.

Suggested time use: 5 minutes

Visualize your goals as explained under “Visualization”
(set at least one specific goal if you don’t have one already).

Suggested time use: 5 minutes

Experiment with this routine and tweak it to your own liking. Do your routine daily to make it a habit.

About the author:

Vegard Paulsen is one of the two founders of Global Harmony Crew.

Global Harmony Crew helps people uncover their true selves and live a life full of meaning and happiness.

If you want to find out more about science based methods to transform your life check out their Udemy courses:
Control Your Brain Chemistry – Become Confident and Creative 
Master Your Inner Peace – Remain Positive and Unaffected

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Resources:

[1] Randy A. Sansone, MD, Lori A. Sansone,MD, 2010.Gratitude and Well Being,
The Benefits of Appreciation. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3010965/
[2] Ngô TL, 2013. Review of the effects of mindfulness meditation on mental and physical health and its mechanisms of action. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24719001
[3] Shawn Achor, 2010, “The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work”
[4] Ranganathan VK, Siemionow V, Liu JZ, Sahgal V, Yue GH., 2004. From mental power to muscle power–gaining strength by using the mind. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14998709
[5] Purcell, M. (2015). The Health Benefits of Journaling. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 6, 2016, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-health-benefits-of-journaling/
[6] Pennebaker, Jamie. Writing to Heal. https://www.utexas.edu/features/archive/2005/writing.html