I was reading earlier this morning and had a lot of experiential chatter going on while reading. I paused to consider what the chatter was about and it wasn’t the normal emotional or cognitive chatter at play – it was something far more mundane.
My feet were cold.
As I’ve mentioned before, our bodies are more than the head transportation vehicles so many of us creatives and thinkey types tend to (unconsciously) consider. We forget that the activities of the prefrontal cortex – understanding, deciding, memorizing, recalling, and inhibiting – are incredibly powerful at the same time that the conditions that are necessary for peak performance of those functions can disappear in an instant with the most minor disturbances. (footnote: for more information on these critical functions, read “Your Brain at Work” by David Rock.)
Itchy socks or underwear that you notice don’t fit right are enough to keep you from operating at your best. I have a pair of pants that are a little tighter than the other ones I’ve broken in. If I’m giving a speech or going into a meeting where I’ll need peak performance, I don’t wear those pants. I don’t want to notice my clothes – I’d rather be noticing the subtle shift in energies in a crowd or how my conversant’s body language is telegraphing her emotions. It’s for this same reason that I don’t wear ties or have anything in my pockets when I speak.
The same goes for being hungry, thirsty, or under-exercised. I developed a much deeper understanding about how much the body plays a role in cognitive functioning last year after our car accident when I found myself unable to write or think because the pain I was in was so much louder than the words I needed and wanted to write. I was still able to find Flow in conversations but not on my own.
The body’s importance in moods and mental states is also the underlying reason why “21 Ways to Short-Circuit A Funk” – a post I wrote many years ago but remains ever-relevant – starts with focusing on your body.
As much as we cerebral types may not like it, a component of what makes us human is that we are physically-bound beings. If we want to perform better emotionally, mentally, and socially, the easiest route to do so is often to look at what’s going on in our body and how we’re treating it. I’m walking the talk on this one; I started working with a physical trainer earlier this year and it’s been one of the best investments in my business precisely because so much of what I do depends on peak social, emotional, and cognitive performance.
To enhance your higher functions, pay attention to and support your lower functions. (Click to tweet)
If you’d like to hear more about this, check out my interview with Kendra Kinnison.
Over to you: what shifts can you make this week to be more supportive and nourishing to the physical aspect of yourself so your social, emotional, and cognitive aspects can thrive? Let me know in the comments below.