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Conscious Awareness not only helps navigate stress, it’s the cornerstone for change and growth. Without it we can’t see and use the unexpected ‘gifts’ we encounter to help us reach our desired goals or extract ourselves from an uncomfortable position or situation. In fact the need for conscious awareness seems so obvious you may wonder that it’s even worthy of comment.

But it’s amazing how often we don’t see the obvious unobvious!

In this article we’ll look at 7 essential elements for change and growth discussed by clinical psychologist, Anat Baniel’s book Move Into Life. These elements work together to expand your awareness and offer practical, effective and immediate ways to tap into your brain’s enormous potential. By providing your brain these elements it becomes a brilliant problem solver, leading to breakthroughs in perception and exciting upgrades in performance.

Conscious attention ensures your brain is doing its job of creating new connections and avoiding rigidity and automaticity so you can reach new levels of physical and cognitive performance. The brain is always looking for patterns as it organises new information from the environment, the movements of your body, your thinking, your feelings and your emotions. Pattern recognition allows learned processes to become automatic habits and frees you to put your attention elsewhere. However the automation of distressing emotional reactions, thinking patterns and reactive behaviours stymies growth. When you bring attention to what you think, say and feel, the brain immediately starts building billions of new neurological connections that usher in changes, learning and transformation.

We’re all familiar with the expressions “no pain no gain” and “just try harder.” However, in order to overcome limitations and thrive, the brain needs the exact opposite – less force. Forced ‘efforting’ creates stress! For the brain to organise and use new information it needs to perceive differences. By practicing conscious awareness or observation of your thoughts, words and actions, you increase your sensitivity. With the resulting increased sensitivity you greatly enhance your brain’s ability to perceive the finest of differences. These perceptions give the brain the new information it needs to organise successful action and become more alive and vital in both body and mind.

Variation abounds everywhere in nature. It not only adds interest and spice to life, it’s essential for optimum health. Variation provides your brain with the richness of information it needs to create new possibilities in your body, feelings, thoughts and actions. It helps increase your awareness and lifts you out of the stress of rigidity and being stuck. Create new routines for your days by taking different routes to work, speaking to your lesser-known colleagues or employees, grocery shopping at different centres or exploring different localities. By introducing variation and playfulness into everything you do, you awaken all your senses. You stress is neutralised, new ideas occur and new possibilities emerge in your life.

If you insist on being stressed and rushing, you can only ever do what your brain has already learned. To learn and master new skills or to imagine new possibilities, the first thing to do is relax and slow down. Slowing down actually attracts the brain’s attention and stimulates the formation of rich new neural patterns. When you slow enough to engage your conscious awareness you more easily free yourself of the routine, automatic mode in your movements, speech, thoughts and social interactions. You will have the space to feel and experience life at a deeper, richer and more profound level.

Enthusiasm is enlivening and invigorating. It’s a do-it-yourself skill you can develop by choice, and excel at. Enthusiasm prevents the damaging effects of the chemicals of stress and encourages your brain to pay attention to what’s important to you, amplifying whatever that is. Enthusiasm transforms the most mundane situation or task, generating delight by infusing it with energy which grows more neuronal mass in that area of the brain. Enthusiasm is powerful and contagious, lifting your spirits, motivating you and inspiring others. It literally lights up your brain enabling it to grow new neural pathways and helps make the impossible possible.

Insisting a task or project can only be accomplished in a particular way can often generate stress to all involved. Freeing yourself from that belief and relinquishing your compulsion to control, reduces your stress and keeps you open-minded. With your stressful emotions held in check, your creative brain is available to recognize opportunities you might never have noticed had you been fixed too rigidly on a specific course. You cannot always know in advance the exact path that will get you to your desired outcome. However knowing what that is, and being open to embracing all the unexpected steps, mis-steps and course-corrections encountered along the way, ensures brain plasticity and growth. When you do this without loading your body with stress, those mis-steps become a rich source of valuable information for your brain to use with future tasks. Flexibility will reduce your anxiety and increase your creativity, resulting in greater success, vitality and joy.

Einstein said: “Imagination is everything. It is the preview to life’s coming attractions.” Through imagination your brain figures out new possibilities before actually having to perform. When imagining something new, the brain grows new neural connections. However don’t confuse imagination with re-runs of the past! When you allow yourself to imagine future failure by referring to your past performance or your self-doubt, your brain is really only firing existing thinking patterns.

Imagination and dreams can give you the ability to create something that has never been created or that you haven never done before transcending your current limitations and leading you to develop your authentic life path.

Mindful attention – the action of generating awareness – is to be fully present and observing of what you are doing, sensing, thinking and experiencing at any given moment. It is the opposite of automaticity and mindless compulsion. Conscious awareness can catapult you to remarkable heights, allowing you to feel fully alive and see greater possibilities for yourself. Your brain is working at its highest level, noticing subtle nuances of what is going on within and around you, revealing options and potentials, as well as greatly accelerating learning and cognition. With repeated practice you will feel greater self-confidence, more joyful, more informed of your authentic self and more and more fulfilled.

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