- Let It Go and Re-Focus, Music as Meditation, Your Brain’s Negativity Bias
Let It Go and Re-Focus, Music as Meditation, Your Brain’s Negativity Bias
🤸♀️ Stretch 48
I completed my August Creative Experiment: 1 short video per day.
It’s so silly. I had this idea on my experiments-list for months but kept putting it off. It felt too difficult. Too scary.
It’s a nice feeling to surprise yourself. To do something you didn’t think you’d be able to do. (However small!)
🤸♀️ IN THIS WEEK'S STRETCH:
Let it go and re-focus. Breathwork as an inside-out tool.
This too is meditation. You don’t need to sit still for hours in a quiet room to meditate.
“I wonder what would happen if…” Don’t let your brain’s negativity bias run your life.
🎯 LET IT GO AND RE-FOCUS
I recently read the story of Dan Cnossen,a former U.S. Navy SEAL who became a six-time Paralympian medalist after he was injured in Afghanistan. He was 33 when he first joined Team USA in the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Russia.
But it didn’t go well. He couldn't break into a position higher than sixth place.
Dan recalls, “I’d over-trained. My life was out of balance. It was a big lesson learned the hard way.”
Four years later, he had another chance with the national team in South Korea. What had he done differently during those four years?
Mind-body training: meditation, visualization, breathwork.
His new mantra became: “let it go and re-focus.”
When in South Korea, during a 15km cross-country race, he was flying downhill when he lost control and tumbled down the hill, face-first, poles askew, and arms bloodied. His steely focus was gone.
He says, “I started thinking about how many people were ahead of me, how I could never make up that much time.” With roughly 35 minutes left, his mind urged him to quit and save his energy for the next race. But then he heard his coach’s voice, “You’re still in it! Let’s go!”
A switch went off in his brain, shifting his perspective to: “Wait… I’ve got 35 minutes to work my way back to the lead.”
Let it go and re-focus.
Taking a deep breath, he pushed even harder and clawed his way back to win a silver medal.
Dan credits his ability to make that switch in such a high-pressure moment to the mind-body training he’d been doing, and more specifically to breathwork.
He describes breathwork as an “inside-out tool” that could help him push past doubt, fear and discomfort.
That’s what’s so cool about breathwork for me.
It sounds silly but knowing I have my breath with me wherever I am and whatever is happening, gives me this feeling of inner power and confidence.
I can direct my breath at will—just like Cnossen did—to let go of doubt, be present and re-focus on the bigger picture.
Let go and re-focus.
Let what go?
It doesn’t need to involve blood, like it did with Dan. It can be minor things:
Missed your alarm and overslept? Let it go, and re-focus.
Received critical feedback from your manager? Let it go, and re-focus.
Computer crashes and lost your latest work? Let it go, and re-focus.
Skipped a day or two of exercise? Let it go, and re-focus.
Everyone loses focus and gets side-tracked.
In many ways, the real divide is between those who can re-focus and get back on track quickly, and those who get stuck in their emotions.
And the breath is the ideal “thing” to use as a point of re-focus.
By now I’ve written quite a bit about breathwork, so here are some resources to check out:
A simple step-by-step guide to develop breath awareness and integrating one exercise into your daily life.
My breathwork playbook: routines for the morning, afternoon, and evening.
If you’re skeptical—I hear you. Here are some misconceptions I used to have about breathwork that I’ve since reconsidered.
P.S.: Here’s a clip of Dan talking about how he created momentum in his life again, while being literally at a standstill, having just lost both his legs. He credits it all to perspective and narrowing the focus. This momentum carried him out of the hospital, into a wheelchair, all the way to the Paralympics.
🎶 THIS TOO IS MEDITATION
If you feel like you don’t have the patience to meditate or think it’s not for you, try starting with this:
Listen to a song you love from start to finish. Sit still. Close your eyes.
Focus on hearing every word and noticing every beat; every instrument.
Pay attention to how it feels in your body. Where do you feel it? Resist the urge to get up or reach for your phone.
Allocate about 80% of your attention to the song and 20% to your body.
Notice where your body touches a surface—like your feet on the floor and your back against your chair.
The moment you notice you're lost in thought, simply redirect your attention back to the song and your body.
That's it. You're meditating. And it's one of the best things you can do for your brain.
🕵️♀️ “I WONDER WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF…”
Have you ever noticed how, when you have an idea, your mind will quickly butt in with reasons why it won’t work or why now is not the right time? Or the absolute dream-killer: “What will people say?”
Yep, that’s your brain’s built-in negativity bias talking.
Thousands of years ago, our ancestors were constantly exposed to immediate threats. Being attentive to negative stimuli played a useful role in survival.
But even though our lives are pretty safe nowadays, this bias operates in much the same way.
And so the brain is always on the lookout for potential dangers or losses. It’s constantly scanning the environment, showing you only what’s potentially dangerous, priming you for avoidance.
That’s where cognitive re-framing come in.
Cognitive re-framing is a method used to adjust one's mindset to view something from a slightly different perspective—and get past the negativity bias.
One of my favorite re-framing questions is:
“I wonder what would happen if…”
The shift for me is almost instantaneous.
It’s like tricking my fearful, avoidant brain into at least considering the idea.
By asking myself this question, I’m turning my idea into a playful experiment. No pressure, no expectations.
If it fails? No worries, I was just wondering anyway.
That’s exactly what I’ve been doing with these Creative Experiments for the past 18 months.
“I wonder what it would be like to record and post a video every day…”; “I wonder what would happen if I started a weekly newsletter…”; “I wonder what would happen if I wrote a short ebook…”; etc.
And you can apply this question to SO many things:
I wonder what would happen if…
I shared my drawings online
I sent my resume to that company
I reached out to that man/woman I met the other day
I joined that local running club
I stopped drinking alcohol for a month
I took that solo trip I’ve been dreaming of for years
[Insert literally anything you’ve been thinking about, no matter how small]
Your brain will be on high alert, looking for the reasons it won’t work and the obstacles you might face. If you get 5 encouraging comments and 1 discouraging comment, the last one is the one you’ll listen to.
You have no idea what will work or what will suck. Neither does your brain. It’s not up to either of you to decide that.
Don’t let your negativity bias run your life.