Reboot your brain and change how you think to live a better life
A renowned neuroscientist with many years of practice as a psychiatrist under the National Health Service in the UK, Dr Tara Swart is author of The Source, a book on how to train your brain to attract happiness and success. In her mid-30s, Swart had a meltdown caused by exhaustion from work and a collapsed marriage. She experienced extreme despair and loss, and struggled with her sense of self-worth.
After reading many books on positive thinking and visualisation, she decided to approach the exercises herself. To battle her sense of hopelessness, she studied the science of brain optimisation — a way to harness the power of the brain to realise the life we want. Having been brought up in a traditional Indian immigrant family where alternative sources of healing, such as meditation, a vegetarian diet and yoga, were daily practices, she combined these spiritual exercises in her healing process.
With her years of study of neuro science and psychiatry, and a heightened interest in spirituality, Swart was able to appreciate mental practices that could yield successful outcomes through positive manifestations and visualisation. According to her, it is all about developing the power of the subconscious mind, how we integrate what we think with how we feel, and then changing what we do to achieve our desired results — to create a powerful “whole brain” state. Her book presents a four-step plan that is easy to follow.
Swart says the brain needs to be challenged in order for it to become more receptive to new ideas. And that we must exit the “autopilot state of mind” that we often fall into because it is easy to just do and think the same way. Being open to change gives your brain a workout that rewires pathways and energises us to act and achieve our dreams. We must visualise what we want through daily affirmations. Furthermore, we must also manage the “ghosts that haunt us”. Manage fear and oust negativity — the noise in our head that hinders optimism and keeps us awake at night. By maintaining a gratitude list, the brain is able to recall achievements and remind us to stop thinking negatively.
Quite similar to the other bestseller The Secret, which emphasises the higher powers of the law of attraction in the universe, Swart’s The Source supports the theory with scientific evidence, which makes the read technical and logical. It speaks like a “Happy Life Brain Toolbox”, unlike other self-help books.
The Source even gives us tips on how to look after the brain — through a healthy diet, good gut care, eliminating toxins by sleeping at least seven hours a day (and on our left side) and rejuvenating the brain through daily exercise and staying hydrated. Swart also highlights the importance of a decluttered home for good qi and mindfulness.
As a great believer in visualisation, I particularly enjoyed the exercises in this area as well as the chapter about honing your intuition to improve your life. Not something to dismiss, our inner sense is an equally important element of our intellect that strengthens our insight and ability to decipher truth. It is a great skill for those in business. Swart also advocates having an action board with a collage of pictures depicting our goals as that trains and reminds the brain daily about our innermost desires, whe ther personal or professional.
From being a cynic to a believer, I highly recommend this book if you are out to achieve your maximum potential. The key to success in this whole mind exercise is to keep motivated in the pursuit of success as it does not happen overnight. We must also have the strength and resilience to look at problems openly.
Dr Tara Swart studied at both King’s College London and Oxford University and is currently a leading executive coach for senior directors. Happily remarried, she is also a professor at MIT Sloan School of Management. A new life path through brain optimisation has given her balance as well as passion for her work
Anita Moorjani’s book, Dying to be Me, is a story about her neardeath experience. After a long battle fighting end-stage lymphoma, her exhausted body finally succumbed to the disease — her organs began to shut down and she felt herself leaving the world. Moorjani entered a new realm as her mind slipped into a state of unconsciousness.
She relates her surreal and dreamlike, extraordinary experience in this unknown domain through metaphors, analogies and the thoughts that she had while crossing this realm. For Moorjani, it was a positive sensation filled with much openness and love — one where she could reconnect with her deceased father and close friend. She saw every part of her life flash before her eyes — family, friends and events. The experience allowed Moorjani to disconnect her mind from her sick body.
Here, in this domain, she learnt what she needed to do to heal herself. Despite having a difficult childhood where she never truly understood her strict father, she discovered how much he loved her. He told her that it was not her time to die. She was to return to the realm of the living and live her life fearlessly. And it is here, “on the other side” that she discovered that in order to heal, she needed to love herself unconditionally.
In this miraculous story, whether you believe it or not, we also learn about her childhood, living within a Hindu family setting in modern Hong Kong. The pressures of being different from her school peers in terms of religion and culture, the restrictions imposed by her old-fashioned parents and her lack of self-confidence might have caused emotional strain and triggered her illness.
As she lay in a coma on the hospital bed, lingering between two worlds, she heard her loving husband’s pleas and felt her mother’s anguish. It was up to her to decide where she wanted to be and she chose to be with her husband, Daniel. When she finally regained consciousness, the cancer in her body had begun to clear up, much to the amazement of the medical fraternity.
A few weeks later, Moorjani left the hospital without symptoms of the illness. This neardeath was the catalyst to her healing. It gave her the clarity to heal herself internally through positive awareness and self-love. Today, Moorjani lives free of the disease. She speaks and writes about her phenomenal experience with a desire to empower others to live their best lives and understand the other aspects of healing not covered by conventional medicine. Her story is not about death, but the importance of realising your inherent worth.
Dying to be Me tells us how important the pursuit of happiness is to our health. This book could have been better if it was more concise and supported with medical opinions from Moorjani’s doctors. However, the overall effect is uplifting.
Suridah Jalaluddin is a contributor to The Edge Malaysia