A top major league baseball mental-toughness trainer has devised a mental workout that helped his team clinch the World Series (twice!)--and it can help you build the brain power and mind-set you need to achieve your own ambitions, too. Yet it's so simple that it takes only 100 seconds per day.

The technique works on all sorts of goals, whether your dream is to lose weight or win a marathon...strengthen your muscles or strengthen your friendships...or achieve a life-altering personal or professional aspiration.

This 100-second brain workout was formulated by Jason Selk, EdD, former director of mental training for the St. Louis Cardinals and the best-selling author of Executive Toughness: The Mental-Training Program to Increase Your Leadership Performance.

Air Pollution Harms the Brain

People over age 50 who live in areas with high levels of air pollution do not score as well on tests of memory and thinking skills as people who live in areas with cleaner air. For every 10-point increase in air pollution, participants scores dropped by an average of one-third point-the equivalent of aging three years.

Self-defense: Don't exercise outdoors on high-pollution days. (For local air-quality conditions, go to www.airnow.gov.)

Study of nearly 15,000 people by researchers at Andrus Gerontology Center of the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, presented at the 65th annual meeting of the Gerontological Society of America in San Diego.

He explained that a tired, overwrought brain is vulnerable to the formation of bad habits, such as watching TV instead of exercising... or mindlessly bingeing on junk food instead of preparing a nutritious meal. A quick, daily mental workout revitalizes your mind, releasing stress and boosting mental energy and clarity, the same way that physical exercise increases your body's strength and endurance. Basically a combination of the physiological effects of controlled deep breathing plus the psychological benefits of a very specific type of visualization, the 100-second brain workout can benefit just about anyone.

Five Steps To Your Success

Once a day with your eyes closed, do Dr. Selk's 100-second daily brain workout…

Step 1: Centering breath (15 seconds). Inhale for six seconds...hold the breath for two seconds...then slowly exhale for seven seconds. This calming, controlled breathing technique helps slow your heart rate and prepares your mind for a natural and effective work pattern, Dr. Selk said.

Step 2: Identity statement (5 seconds) Think of a goal-personal, physical, professional, financial or whatever—then turn it into a statement about yourself, phrasing it as if you had already achieved that goal. Recite this statement silently to yourself. For instance, you might inwardly say, I am slim and health-conscious, and I follow a nutritious diet with ease and enjoyment...or I am a dedicated runner with the skill and determination to win a marathon...or I am a caring, compassionate person with many deep and emotionally fulfilling friendships.

Should you use the same statement every day or change it up sometimes? Dr. Selk said, "The identity statement is essentially a personal mantra that reflects who you are becoming and what you hope to achieve. Over time, as you reach or revise your goals, you may revise your identity statement as well. But the real power of the identity statement is in the repetition and imprinting of this singular vision you've created for yourself."

Step 3: Personal highlights reel (60 seconds). You can see how the name of this step comes from someone who works with athletes, since watching sports highlights is not only fun for fans, but also a valuable training tool for players. "This step boosts confidenoc, setting your brain on a positive path so you don't get bogged down with stress," Dr. Selk said.

Here's how to visualize your own "highlights in this step-first, spend 30 seconds remembering three things that you did well in the previous 24 hours...then spend 30 seconds envisioning three things you are going to do well in the next 24 hours. (You don't need to set a timerit doesn't matter whether you spend precisely 30 seconds on each portion of the exercise.) For maximum effect, visualize these accomplishments in as much detail as you can. For example, you might recall how you ordered a nutritious chopped salad for lunch, took a pass on dessert, then walked the two miles home from the restaurant. Or you might imagine yourself tomorrow morning, scheduling your overdue dental cleaning, then lifting weights at the gym, then ordering that supplement your doctor recommended.

An alternative type of personal highlights reel projects farther into the future. For the first 30 seconds, visualize yourself in five years' time, having already succeeded at your current goal…then for the next 30 seconds, visualize yourself in the day that lies before you, accomplishing tasks that will contribute to the achievement of your five-year plan.

Step 4: Repeat your identity statement seconds). This confirmation of the mantra from Step 2 reinforces your successful self-image.

Step 5: Repeat the centering breath (15 seconds), using the technique from Step 1, to further encourage calmness to take root in your brain.

Ready reminder: Visit www.bottomlinepub lications.com/downloads BrainBoost.pdf for a short version of these steps that you can save or print.

Scheduling Your Mental Push-Ups

Exactly when during each day should you do your 100-second brain workout? Don't worry too much about that-just experiment to see what suits you best. Dr. Selk said, "Some people like to do the exercise within a few minutes of waking up, when the mind is clear and uncluttered. Others prefer the start of the workday, just before things really get rolling, so that they are focused and fully ready for what lies ahead. Bedtime is a great option, since research suggests that visualizing right before sleep may influence the subject of your dreams. You may find that your dreams answer questions, solve problems and provide guidance related to your before-bed visualization." Whatever time and place you choose, reserve that spot in your electronic or paper calendar so that the mental workout becomes a daily habit.

If you miss a day here or there, there's no need to stress about it. "Just like one missed appointment with your trainer won't sink your overall physical fitness, the occasional missed mental workout won't kill your progression to

clarity and reduced stress," said Dr. Selk. Simply make the commitment to get back on track the following day.

Once you begin your mental workout, within a matter of days you should start to see improvement in your ability to achieve your goals, whatever they may be.

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