Yawning is The Fastest Way to Hack Mental Stress and Focus

 Yawning is The Fastest Way to Hack Mental #Stress and #Focus

The written content of the post was authored by best-selling author and neuroscience expert, Mark Robert Waldman. It is posted with his permission.

Olympic athletes yawn before they race. Musicians and speakers yawn before they go on stage. Snipers get trained to yawn before they pull the trigger. Pack animals yawn together to establish communal empathy. This is because yawning is the ultimate stress and focus hack.

Here are 10 reasons to yawn frequently:

1. Stimulates alertness and concentration
2. Optimizes brain activity and metabolism
3. Improves cognitive function
4. Increases memory recall
5. Enhances consciousness and introspection
6. Lowers stress
7. Relaxes your upper body
8. Fine-tunes your sense of time
9. Increases empathy and social awareness
10. Enhances pleasure and sensuality

Yawning clears away the fogginess of sleep and increases cerebral blood flow. After yawning, you quickly benefit with enhanced mental efficiency and a heightened state of cognitive awareness. In fact, yawning appears to be the fastest way to lower mental stress and anxiety. 

Many neurochemicals get released during the yawning experience that are essential for motivation, memory recall, and voluntary decision-making. In fact, it’s hard to find another activity that positively impacts so many brain functions. So, If you want to maintain an optimally healthy brain, make it a habit to yawn whenever you want to relax or enhance your ability to concentrate on a task.

It has a similar effect on a person as having a cup of coffee. It helps your brain shift between the highly focused demands of decision-making and restful daydreaming states that give you access to creative problem-solving. It even regulates the time clocks in your brain, helping you to sleep better at night. Yawning helps you to wake up and stay alert during a stressful work day.


Yawning also appears to be a primitive form of empathy and is found in many mammals. There is a connection between frequent yawning and increased emotional empathy. That’s why we recommend that yawning a few times before entering a stressful business meeting or discussing a sensitive issue.

We recommend you yawn as many times a day as possible. When you wake up? Yawn. When you're confronting a difficult problem at work? Yawn. Whenever you feel anger, anxiety or stress? Yawn. 

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Yawn before giving an important talk, yawn before you take a test, and yawn whenever you feel bored. Do it mindfully, paying close attention to how it affects your mood and awareness.

Conscious yawning takes a little discipline to get past our social conditioning that it is rude. Another barrier is the “excuses” that people sometimes use: “I don’t feel like it,” “I’m not tired,” and a favorite, “I can’t.” Of course you can. All you need to do to trigger a deep yawn is to fake it four or five times. Try it right now, and you’ll see how each yawn feels more pleasant and relaxing.


A Mindful Yawning Experiment:

This exercise only takes two minutes, and works better if you are standing up. 

  1. Begin by taking a slow deep breath and then yawn. You can fake them at first, and if you make an “ahh” sound during exhalation you should be able to trigger a series of real yawns on your fourth or fifth try.
  2. As you continue to yawn, pay close attention to the sensations in your mouth, your throat, your chest and belly, and don’t be surprised if your eyes start watering. 
  3. If you feel dizzy, lightheaded, or disoriented, stop, sit down, and rest. Continue to yawn another ten or twelve times, and then pause, noticing the different body sensations you are having. Do you feel more relaxed and alert? 

If you feel tired, it probably means that you are exhausted from overwork. If you’ve been particularly stressed or anxious, you might find yourself yawning a great deal over the next half hour, or even throughout the day after you’ve tried this yawning experiment. It means that your brain needs more blood circulation to improve neural performance. Enjoy the yawns, knowing that it’s a special treat for your busy brain.

Check out Mark Waldman's free 6 Days to Enlightenment email series for information on how you can access enlightened states often and easily.

How to Find Your Passion and Purpose

How to Find Your #Passion and #Purpose
Passion exists at the intersection of three or more things you’re really curious about.
— Steven Kotler

Forbes magazine recently published an excellent article by Steven Kotler that outlines how you can to find your passion and purpose. When you chase your purpose, your neurobiology adapts to boost your efforts to transform the world.

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Here's a summary of the steps:

Step One - Make A List

Write a list of 25 things you're curious about as specifically as possible.

Step Two - Hunt for Intersections

Look for places where your curiosities intersect. Where multiple streams overlap, your brain primed for innovative pattern recognition. Your brain releases dopamine when you recognize patterns - a highly addictive neurochemical. Dopamine helps you focus, detect more patterns, and makes you feel high on life.

Step Three - Play

Once you've identified the intersections, enjoy those spaces. Feed those curiosities on a daily basis with lectures, videos, articles, books, anything. Advance slowly and persistently so that your subconscious mind can process what you're learning over time. You'll develop expertise and intuition about the topics.

Step Four - Go Public

To get to the next stage you'll need public recognition. You've developed some ideas and now it's time to add to the discourse. This exchange will fuel your passion even more.

Step Five - Turning Passion Into Purpose

Make a new list with 15 colossal problems that you want to see solved. Write problems that have as universal a scope as possible. The bigger the problem, the bigger your opportunity for fulfillment and extraordinary contribution.

Forbes: The Passion Recipe: Four Steps To Total Fulfillment
Shots of Awe: How to Find Your Passion

The above post was lovingly crafted by Josiah Hultgren, Founder of MindFullyAlive.

Mental Contrasting Makes You More Successful According to 18 New Studies

Mental Contrasting Makes You More Successful According to 18 New Studies

18 new studies show that you can increase the chances you'll reach your goals if you practice 'mental contrasting'.

To Practice Mental Contrasting 

Vividly imagine the benefits you'd experience if you attain your goal. Then, with equal intensity, visualize the obstacles that could impede this goal. If you form those mental images in that order, you'll be more likely to succeed - provided you are confident in your ability to achieve your goal.

When people face obstacles, such as anxiety, a variety of counterproductive inclinations may trigger. For example, they may avoid necessary challenges that could amplify the anxiety. 

Yet, when people practice mental contrasting, they become less likely to associate obstacles with avoidance. Instead, they associate the obstacles with activities that overcome the impediments.

A study investigated this. Participants were asked to reflect on an interpersonal concern, such as a conflict with their partner. They were to specify a positive consequence they'd experience if the concern resolved - such as feelings of warmth and harmony. Then, they were asked to specify a word that represents an obstacle to this result - such as jealousy - then a word that represents a behavior they could put in place to override this obstacle - such as distraction. Finally, they imagined the positive consequence and the obstacle as vividly as possible.

One control group was given a variation on the same instructions. They imagined the obstacle before the benefits of attaining their goal. Yet another control group was told to imagine events that were unrelated to the concern.

After this exercise, participants were tasked with deciding whether a string of characters was a legitimate word or not. Before each string appeared, another word was presented subliminally (that is, too rapidly to register). The target word was the behavior - such as 'distraction', and the prime was either the obstacle- such as 'jealousy', or another word.

Those that engaged in mental contrasting recognized the behavior more rapidly if followed by the obstacle. In other words, the obstacle was more associated with the behavior. In contrast, if participants had imagined the obstacle before they imagined the rewards of success, the effect was not observed. 

When individuals enjoy positive fantasies only, they neglect vital information. In particular, they feel motivated to overlook complications and other insights they perceive as undesirable.

Yet, with mental contrasting, ideas that epitomize challenging realities or obstacles get translated by the brain  as ideas that epitomize inspiring future possibilities. Consequently, individuals become more aware of how the challenging realities are obstacles to future possibilities. Their motivation to override these obstacles thus increases.

Read more here


Adriaanse, M. A., Oettingen, G., Gollwitzer, P. M., & Hennes, E. P. (2010). When planning is not enough: Fighting unhealthy snacking habits by mental contrasting with implementation intentions. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40, 1277-1293.

Gollwitzer, A., Oettingen, G., Kirby, T., Duckworth, A., & Mayer, D. (2011). Mental contrasting facilitates academic performance in school children. Motivation and Emotion, 35, 403-412. doi:10.1007/s11031-011-9222-0.

Kappes, A., & Oettingen, G. (2014). The emergence of goal pursuit: Mental contrasting connects future and reality. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 54, 25-39.

Kappes, A., Singmann, H., & Oettingen, G. (2012). Mental contrasting instigates goal pursuit by linking obstacles of reality with instrumental behavior. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48, 811-818. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2012.02.002

Kappes, H. B., & Oettingen, G. (2012). Wishful Information preference: Positive fantasies mimic the effects of intentions. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38, 870-881. doi: 10.1177/0146167212446163

Kawada, C., Oettingen, G., Gollwitzer, P. M., & Bargh, J. A. (2004). The projection of implicit and explicit goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 86, 545-559. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.86.4.545.

Kirk, D., Oettingen, G., & Gollwitzer, P. M. (2011). Mental contrasting promotes integrative bargaining. International Journal of Conflict Management, 22, 324-341.

Oettingen, G. (2000). Expectancy effects on behavior depend on self-regulatory thought. Social Cognition, 18, 101-129. doi:10.1521/soco.2000.18.2.101.

Oettingen, G. (2012). Future thought and behavior change. In W. Stroebe, & M. Hewstone (Eds.), European Review of Social Psychology, 23. (pp. 1-63). doi: 10.1080/10463283.2011.643698.

Oettingen, G., Honig, G., & Gollwitzer, P. M. (2000). Effective self-regulation of goal attainment. International Journal of Educational Research, 33, 705-732. doi: 10.1016/S0883-0355(00)00046-X.

Oettingen, G., Marquardt, M. K., & Gollwitzer, P. M. (2012). Mental contrasting turns positive feedback on creative potential into successful performance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 48, 990-996. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2012.03.008.

Oettingen, G., Mayer, D., & Brinkmann, B. (2010). Mental contrasting of future and reality: Managing the demands of everyday life in health care professionals. Journal of Personnel Psychology, 9, 138-144. doi:10.1027/1866-5888/a000018.

Oettingen, G., Mayer, D., Sevincer, A. T., Stephens, E. J., Pak, H., & Hagenah, M. (2009). Mental contrasting and goal commitment: The mediating role of energization. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 608-622. doi:10.1177/01461672 08330856.

Oettingen, G., Mayer, D., & Thorpe, J. S. (2010). Self-regulation of commitment to reduce cigarette consumption: Mental contrasting of future with reality. Psychology and Health, 25, 961-977. doi:10.1080/08870440903079448.

Oettingen, G., Mayer, D., Thorpe, J. S., Janetzke, H., & Lorenz, S. (2005). Turning fantasies about positive and negative futures into self-improvement goals. Motivation and Emotion, 29, 237-267. doi:10.1007/s11031-006-9016-y.

Oettingen, G., Pak, H., & Schnetter, K. (2001). Self-regulation of goal-setting: Turning free fantasies about the future into binding goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80, 736-753. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.80.5.736.

Oettingen, G., Stephens, E. J., Mayer, D., & Brinkmann, B. (2010). Mental contrasting and the self regulation of helping relations. Social Cognition, 28, 490-508. doi: 10.1521/soco.2010.28.4.490.

Sevincer, A. T., Busatta, D., & Oettingen, G. (2014). Mental contrasting and transfer of energization. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 40, 139-152. doi: 10.1177/0146167213507088