When it comes to working on overcoming social anxiety and growing our quiet confidence, it can be easy for us to think that the only things we need to be doing are working on changing our thoughts and to focus on situations that directly relate, on the surface, to what we’re working on. Which in this case means, focusing solely on situations that involves social interaction or being with others.
And whilst these 2 components certainly have their place and are significant elements within this process, by focusing only on them, we can easily miss working on restructuring the foundation upon which they sit on.
So in this post, I’m going to share with you 3 additional ways to train your brain into confidence – and the great thing about these 3 techniques, is that you can do them all independently, so they can be amazing first steps, if you are just starting out on your journey from socially anxious, to quietly confident.
3 Techniques to Train the Brain:
Yes, drawing! I’ve been reading this fascinating book recently called ‘Drawing On The Right Side of The Brain’ by Betty Edwards. On the surface, it’s a book to learn how to draw, but at it’s core, it’s actually a book on training your brain to cognitively shift from limited perspective, to unlimited perception!
Betty has been teaching the fundamental components of learning how to draw since the late 1970s, and since this time has continued to work with scientists to ensure the research and practises within this book have remained up-to-date with the emerging discoveries within neuroscience – which also informs the principles of NLP, a model of coaching we use here at Quiet Connections.
What Betty highlights is that the skill behind drawing, is not the drawing itself, but it’s training ourselves how to see differently.
“… it is certainly not about Art with a capital A. The true subject is perception…. The larger underlying purpose was always to bring right hemisphere functions into focus and to teach readers how to see in new ways, with hopes that they would discover how to transfer perceptual skills to thinking and problem solving.”
“…the five skills, I realised, were not drawing skills in the usual sense; they were rock-bottom, fundamental seeing skills: how to perceive edges, spaces, relationships, lights and shadows, and the gestalt.” (Note: gestalt being the whole and its parts).
Even simply laying those 5 skills out in this manner, we can begin to see how they might start connecting to increasing our sense of confidence if we applied them metaphorically to our interaction with ourselves and with others (and if you can’t see that just yet, sit tight, I’m going to explain in just a moment).
Through the drawing exercises in this book, it teaches you how to intentionally distract and disengage the rationale, critical parts of the brain – which can limit how we take in and interpret the world through filters of labelling and jumping to assumptions – and instead, elicit the immense powers of our more observant, intuitive and insightful parts that see through the lens of accepting ‘what is’ as ‘it is’ – a key aspect of mindfulness!
But wait, how does perceptual training help?
So how does this actually help with social anxiety, I hear you asking?
It helps because, when we experience anxiety in situations that involve some form of visibility, interaction or performance with others, the filters through which we perceive those situations are distorted by past conditioning, experiences, potential trauma, and ultimately, feelings of fear. We may see threat, even if it’s not there.
None of us are truly taking in the world at a conscious level for how it actually is, because we simply cannot process that amount of information at one time – which we go into in more detail here . Our perceptual awareness is directly linked to our senses, and our interpretation of the information that our senses are taking in are coloured by our filters. The rational brain can quickly jump in and start naming what we think we are experiencing, without taking much time to question whether it’s accurate. In our minds, we might be seeing a dragon, when we’re actually in the presence of a unicorn. Sneaky right?!
So learning the fundamentals of seeing, and learning these through drawing, can be a fulfilling way to not only train your brain into adopting it’s more naturally calm and curious state, it also offers you the gift of seeing a more enriched, connected and confident view of the world and your place within it.
I often speak of using art based tools to help bypass the logical mind so that we can more easily work with the subconscious – our deep inner world that functions beautifully through imagery, symbols, colour, vibrations, sounds and metaphors, and precedes our learning of words to place meaning onto things – and this book has offered some wonderful insights into more about this process!
But it’s certainly not the only way (and I mentioned 3 techniques right!), so let’s quickly explore 2 further ways that also exercise our brains in Perceptual Awareness…
As I’ve already mentioned, perceptual awareness is directly linked to our senses. As drawing can help with training how we externally see the world – through our sense of vision – Movement can help with the ease through which we move through the world – with the sense of kinaesthesia.
Where the 5 senses of Sight, Sound, Touch, Smell & Taste deal with our perception of the external world around us. Kinaesthesia deals with our ability to sense our internal world within us.
Movement is a wonderful way to release stored emotions, complete stress cycles, and safely feel into the sensations of our feelings with mindful awareness. Dropping back down into the body and focusing your attention onto how it feels to roll your shoulders back, or to feel into the flutter in your stomach when something unexpected happens, again helps to quiet the critical thinking mind, and opens you up to much deeper insight and awareness into what you’re truly experiencing without judgement or rationalising.
Additionally, because our thoughts, feelings and behaviours are all intrinsically linked too, we can also influence our bodies responses to situations through intentionally moving our bodies into different positions. Find out more about this powerful technique here.
So why not offer yourself permission to take a quiet walk, or have a cheeky dance in the kitchen, and every time you do, spend a brief moment or 2 practising focusing all your attention onto the sensations of the movement itself.
Out of the team here at QC, I am certainly not the nature expert! But I can confidently say that I have personally experienced the tremendous amounts of benefits that nature offers our overall wellbeing, along with helping to calm the nervous system and nurture strong foundations of personal value and connectedness, which all contribute to healing social anxiety.
When looking at the benefits of nature through this lens of perceptual training, it is truly a gold mine! Simply sitting in nature and paying attention can exercise all your senses; looking at the subtle tones of the sky, hearing the sounds of the birds, touching the textures of the grass, smelling the flowers in the air, noticing the sensations of how you move or feel within this environment – tasting may require a snack though!
It’s All About Paying Attention
You may have noticed that there is a key theme running between these 3 activities, and that is, that it really boils down to paying more attention.
Believe it or not, but the rational brain gets bored very quickly when it has nothing to fixate meaning onto – by learning how to disengage those parts more easily, we allow ourselves more space to dive into experiencing the world purely through our senses, and with expanded perception!
From here, you may be surprised at how differently you view yourself, others, and the situations you experience!
If you’re interested in exploring bringing all these elements together and having a go for yourself at training your brain into a more confident state, then why not check out our Photography for Mindfulness & Communication Course, run by Nature Nerd and Wildlife Photographer, Ellie Smart.