How to use brain priming to improve your productivity and quality of life

spring cleaningThis simple 3 step formula will allow you to design life strategies based on your own unique neural network of associations and experiences. Brain priming, where “exposure to a stimulus influences a response to a later stimulus”, is essentially the firing of neurons that are linked in your brain. This happens automatically and below the level of conscious thought. For example, student subjects primed with words related to the elderly left the experiment walking slower than the control group.

But we can make brain priming an active, rather than just a passive, process. Self-priming before an activity and extending that stimulus throughout its duration can help us tackle difficult tasks with more energy and improved perspective by taking advantage of the brain’s existing network of linkages. And what task could be more difficult, more intimidating, more soul destroying, more ‘oh-gawd-why-me’ agonizing than… cleaning the house.

Brain Network MapStep 1: Identify the activity and hypothesis your initial linkages (concepts, associations, emotions). Try to be as honest and intuitive as you can. You can use the diagram above as a model. It shows a simplified network of what, in reality, is quite a messy bit of between-the-ears business. But I’m a sucker for symmetry, both in my men and in my visual aids.

Step 2: Identify the positive (encouraging links are in blue) and negative (paralyzing links are in red) connections/associations. The positive links are your Gateway Connections.

Step 3: Identify sensory and memory recall experiences that will stimulate these same positive attitude/energy bundles of neurons. Here’s where it gets fun! Get psyched to try a tough new recipe by Youtubing with some Anthony Bourdain… Wear a tie and watch ‘Report on Business’ TV before an economics exam… Give your partner a massage before asking them to do the dishes (maybe I should have tried that one)… Go ahead and get creative! Engage your network strategy and keep those areas lit for as long, and as intensely, as possible. In this example, cute underwear (just don’t ask about the ‘in control’) and Janis Joplin’s rockin’ blues link to my three positives about cleaning. Cleaning the bathroom Note: ‘setting the stage’ has an extra semantic bonus with Joplin. Joplin and panties also have their own web of interconnecting linkages (shown in green) to directly counteract the original red negatives, thereby overriding them.

And because any scientific strategy is best served with a completely gratuitous selfie, I offer you hard-core proof that this brain priming formula will make even the most intimidating task suddenly… dare I say… far more enticing.

6 thoughts on “How to use brain priming to improve your productivity and quality of life

  1. inspiring – i like the idea of re-imagining or remapping our usual responses to humdrum activities by adding positive connections and music to re-salivate the way to engage in the world attitude we bring to any task.

    • Thanks Lynn! I had so much fun dancing around in my underwear singing along into my microphone sponge… all in the name of science, of course.

      Reminds me of one beautiful moment (and there sure weren’t many) in grade 8. I got called out for gossipping during science class and answered back, no hesitation, with perfectly innocent, yet perfectly obnoxious, delivery… “But Miss ______, everything’s related to science.” Yep, for one brief instant in an Ottawa classroom, third desk from the front, I was officially ‘cool’.

    • I completely agree with you, Chris – which is why it’s so important to acknowledge the power of past experience and how easily we interpret the present through that same initial pattern of linkages, because it’s the brain path of least resistance. Just brainstorming here, but I figure that’s why some people are attracted to terrible partners over and over. Love gets connected to bad behaviour and thus bad behaviour triggers love the next time round.

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