Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning
Entrepreneur, Civilian Astronaut, and Extreme Adventurer Nik Halik on “Overcoming Adversity to Create an Epic Life!”

Entrepreneur, Civilian Astronaut, and Extreme Adventurer Nik Halik on “Overcoming Adversity to Create an Epic Life!”

December 10, 2019

Welcome to EPISODE #31, this is Andrea Samadi, a former educator who has been fascinated with understanding the science behind high performance strategies in schools, sports and the workplace for the past 20 years. Today we have a flashback interview from 2016. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be sharing some of our high-level interviews that are hosted in our online learning portal for schools and the workplace. These interviews are eye-opening with some of the most powerful insights from world leaders, and high achievers from around the globe. This interview was audio only, but there are some visuals on YouTube of Nik's work.

Today I want to introduce you to The Thrillionaire® Entrepreneurial Alchemist, Civilian Astronaut, Extreme Adventurer, and Keynote Speaker. Nik Halik is the founder and CEO of Lifestyle Revolution and 5 Day Weekend®. He became a multi-millionaire and amassed great wealth through savvy investments in property, business and the financial markets. Nik’s group of companies have financially educated and life coached over 1 Million clients in over 57 countries.

Nik has trekked to over 157 countries, dived to the wreck of the Titanic to have lunch on the bow, been active as a mountaineer on some of the world's highest peaks, performed a HALO skydive above the summit of Mt Everest in the Himalayas, climbed into the crater of an exploding erupting volcano [1,700 Degrees Fahrenheit] for an overnight sleepover and just recently, entering the hermit kingdom of North Korea to expose a sweat shop factory operating illegally for an American conglomerate. To learn more about Nik Halik visit www.nikhalik.com or find him on Twitter @nikhalik or Facebook Nik Halik. He was the back-up Astronaut for the NASA / Russian Soyuz TMA-13 flight to the International Space Station in 2008. He currently remains in mission allocation status for a future flight to Earth's only manned outpost in orbit– the International Space Station with the Russian Federation.

Question 1: I’ve never seen anyone who has set and achieved such high goals for themselves. What was the situation that ignited your passion to live life to its fullest? 

Question 2: How did you heal your body so you could go out into the world and accomplish your goals? 

Question 3: Nik, you make everything look so simple. Was what you have done difficult? How do you approach the obstacles you have faced?

Question 4: Do you still count down each day in your life so you live each day to it’s fullest? NOTE: The ticker website is no longer working, but the concept or idea is valuable. 

Question 5: What do you do in your down time? Do you watch tv and if so, what are you watching/learning from these days?

 

Neuroscience Researcher Mark Robert Waldman on “12 Brain-Based Experiential Learning and Living Principles”

Neuroscience Researcher Mark Robert Waldman on “12 Brain-Based Experiential Learning and Living Principles”

December 2, 2019

This is episode #30 with Mark Robert Waldman, one of the world’s leading neuroscience researchers on consciousness, communication, and spirituality, and his discoveries have been published in journals throughout the world. You can listen to the podcast here, or watch the interview and presentation on YouTube.

Welcome to the “Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning” podcast, my name is Andrea Samadi, a former educator who has been fascinated with understanding the science behind high performance strategies in schools, sports and the workplace for the past 20 years. Today we have one of the leading neuroscience researchers in the country who I was blessed to be mentored by 5 years ago when I needed to add the most current brain research to my programs. Mark has an international practice as a NeuroCoach, training students and business leaders how to use the latest discoveries in neuroscience to enhance personal and professional development.  I can say that if I was able to learn this information, well enough to teach it to others, that anyone can. Mark took his time and was patient as I learned the basics of neuroscience and he taught me in such a way that I never once felt that the information was too difficult to grasp though it did take effort and focus to learn these new concepts.

Mark has authored 14 books, including the bestseller How God Changes Your Brain, an Oprah pick in 2012. His new book called NeuroWisdom: The New Brain Science of Money, Happiness, and Success contains 100 evidence-based strategies, with guided audios and videos, showing you how to manipulate and balance the major networks of consciousness, awareness, and imagination.  These tools are now used in schools, health centers, and businesses throughout the world.  He teaches at Loyola Marymount University and his work has been featured in Time Magazine, the Washington Post, the New York Times, Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Oprah Magazine. He has been on hundreds of radio and television programs including PBS and NPR. For more information, go to www.MarkRobertWaldman.com.  You can find Mark on Twitter @MarkRWaldman, LinkedIn or Facebook.

Welcome Mark! It’s always fun to speak with you. I’m so grateful for all that you’ve taught me.

I know you have a presentation planned and will share your screen with us. Before we dive into your lesson:

  1. Can you explain what exactly “Neurowisdom”[i] is (the title of your most recent book) and how we can discover this new voice to guide us towards a greater sense of awareness?

Questions Mark will uncover during presentation:

  1. Can you explain the new research that shows “you can consciously teach your brain to lower neural activity that generates negativity and fear and increase neural activity that generates confidence and positive decision-making?”[ii]
  2. Why is mind-wandering essential for problem-solving and decision-making? “If you don’t allow your brain to enter this highly imaginative state of mental activity before a challenging task, your memory, performance and mental health will be compromised.”[iii] Last summer, I watched the baseball player Wilson Ramos[iv], from the NY Mets, sit and meditate before his game while the other players were warming up. His performance in this game was phenomenal with a homerun and focused play and I did wonder about the science behind his focused mind before the game.
  3. What exactly do you mean when you say that “Daydreaming and mind wandering give you direct access to creative talents that are unique to human beings?”[v] Is this our intuition? What talents do we have? When we get flashes of insight how do we know what they mean? Can we misinterpret what we see? How can we best use this talent/skill?
  4. How do you teach mindfulness to your Executive MBA students, so they learn to “remain calm, relaxed, and highly focused on achieving more goals with little stress?” [vi]
  5. Can you explain what happens when your values are not aligned with your work and why this causes “increased neural stress, happiness fades away, and burnout is more likely to occur?”[vii]
  6. Why do we experience deeper levels of happiness and satisfaction with “self-awareness and social awareness?”[viii]

  You Will Learn:

  • What is Brain-based Experiential Learning and Living
  • How to use your Intuition
  • Brain-Network Theory
  • New Brain Science for Overcoming Anxiety
  • How the Brain Learns
  1. Discover how your brain likes to learn (it will surprise you and has nothing to do with what you’ve experienced the classroom)
    2. Find out why mind-wandering and daydreaming are essential for psychological health. Right in line with Srinivasan Pillay’s book “Tinker, Dabble, Doodle, Try” that talks about the default network in the brain and the power of “unfocusing” your brain. Mark’s book “Neurowisdom” was the first book to talk about the default network mode and provides many practical examples for using your brain to improve finances, happiness and success.
    3. Learn how Brain Network Theory is changing the world of neuroscience…and your health!
    4. See what living neurons and networks actually look like.

RESOURCES:

Mindfulness Bell App (search in the app store)

[i] Mark Robert Waldman and Chris Manning Neurowisdom: The New Brain Science of Money, Happiness and Success (Jan 31, 2017)  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N9BLBDH/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

[ii] Mark Robert Waldman and Chris Manning Neurowisdom: The New Brain Science of Money, Happiness and Success (Jan 31, 2017)  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N9BLBDH/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1     Page 23

[iii] Mark Robert Waldman and Chris Manning Neurowisdom: The New Brain Science of Money, Happiness and Success (Jan 31, 2017)  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N9BLBDH/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1     Page 24

[iv] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilson_Ramos

[v] Mark Robert Waldman and Chris Manning Neurowisdom: The New Brain Science of Money, Happiness and Success (Jan 31, 2017)  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N9BLBDH/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1     Page 24

[vi] Mark Robert Waldman and Chris Manning Neurowisdom: The New Brain Science of Money, Happiness and Success (Jan 31, 2017)  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N9BLBDH/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1     Page 27

[vii] Mark Robert Waldman and Chris Manning Neurowisdom: The New Brain Science of Money, Happiness and Success (Jan 31, 2017)  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N9BLBDH/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1     Page 28

[viii] Mark Robert Waldman and Chris Manning Neurowisdom: The New Brain Science of Money, Happiness and Success (Jan 31, 2017)  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N9BLBDH/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1     Page 82

 

How to Re-Wire Your Brain for Happiness and Well-Being to Optimize Learning

How to Re-Wire Your Brain for Happiness and Well-Being to Optimize Learning

November 25, 2019

Welcome to the “Neuroscience Meets SEL” podcast EPISODE #29, my name is Andrea Samadi, a former educator who has been fascinated with understanding the science behind high performance strategies in schools, sports and the workplace for the past 20 years. Let’s dive right into this topic on “How to Re-Wire Your Brain for Happiness and Well-Being to Optimize Learning.” You can watch this episode on YouTube for the visual effects for more impact and learning.  

I’m sure most of us are aware that stress is the number one cause behind anxiety, depression, low energy, work burn-out, and cardiovascular disease[i], but do you know how stress impacts our brain? Did you know that:

  • Chronic stress and depression causes measurable brain shrinkage?[ii]
  • “51% of us will have a mental health issue (post-traumatic stress, obsessive-compulsive, personality, anxiety, addiction, or an eating disorder to name a few) at some point in their life”[iii] and
  • that 1/5 students struggle with depression, while ¼ struggle with anxiety which means we have reached epidemic levels with today’s youth.

And these shocking statistics impacts society with:

  • Work burn-out
  • Anxiety and Depression
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Neurological Disorders and eventually leading to
  • Death

Also Impacting our Students:

  • A recent study[iv] shows that if the educator is stressed, the student will also be stressed
  • Stress is impacting our ability to learn
  • Student behavior was also impacted, contributing to more stress for educators

Dr. Daniel Amen, a psychiatrist and brain disorder specialist of the Amen Clinics[v] and the father of Chloe Amen from podcast #25 with “Strategies to Change Your Brain to Change Your Grades”[vi] explains that “if you struggle with attention, focus, sadness, anxiety, worry, flexibility, stubbornness, or impulsivity, welcome to the club—this is normal.”[vii] These days it is more normal to have a problem, than not have a problem. Most of us will have a mental health issue in our lifetime—and when it happens, we think that we are the only one and that no one else understands. Dr. Amen has a book coming out in March 3, 2020 called “The End of Mental Illness: How Neuroscience is Transforming Psychiatry and Helping Prevent or Reverse Mood and Anxiety Disorders, ADHD, Addictions, PTSD, Psychosis, Personality Disorders and More.”[viii] If left untreated, these brain disorders can have “serious personal, interpersonal, occupational and social consequences.”[ix] 

In this podcast episode, we are going to look at the neuroscience of happiness, anxiety, stress, learning and retention with some ideas and strategies to naturally improve each area, so that we can get a handle on life’s largest challenges with an understanding of our brain chemistry. Our goal is to intentionally set ourselves up for success with this new level of awareness.

We will cover:

  • A reminder of the recipe for peak performance (fun, fear, focus) from episode #27.
  • What’s the neuroscience of happiness—and how to boost our serotonin levels to generate more happiness.
  • What’s the neuroscience of anxiety (our body’s natural response to stress that can become a mental disorder when someone regularly feels unusually high levels of anxiety) and stress (which is our body’s response to a challenge or demand) with strategies to calm our limbic, emotional brain.
  • What’s the neuroscience of learning and how can we be sure that our brain is primed to learn?

All of the answers to these questions can be found within the chemistry of our brain and with how active or hard certain parts of the brain are working. The best course I have taken to understand how my own brain is working is Dr. Amen’s Thrive by 25 Online Course[x] where he outlines some of the most common problems he sees within the brain with natural solutions to overcome each challenge. The most interesting fact I found was that diet and exercise were solutions to the most common brain problems he spoke about, (anxiety/depression/emotional issues) so if you are eating healthy, getting enough sleep, taking supplements and exercising, you are on the right track for preventing the most common brain problems.  

Have you ever thought about your brain with regards to your work, learning, success or productivity? What about your happiness, personal life or relationships? “Your brain controls everything that you do, so when it works right, you work right.”[xi] It’s only been the past five years for me, where I’ve been learning about the importance of my brain and its health and I’m not surprised that the recent advances in neuroscience have led to an emerging field of educational neuroscience—bringing together researchers in cognitive neuroscience, educational psychology, and technology to create new programs for the classroom. Why not look at the application of these ideas for the workplace and our personal lives as well?

Mental health is something that society still doesn’t talk openly about. When I look at my personal family situation, with my 2 parents and 2 sisters and myself—my parents and both of my sisters struggled with depression at one point. You can add me to statistics as I didn’t figure out healthy eating habits until my late 20s when a doctor[xii] recommended I cut sugar out of my diet, (I’m talking about all sugar, including high glycemic fruits) and it completely transformed my life, cleaning up every health issue I had. Although our family didn’t talk about the importance of our mental health growing up, or the importance of diet and exercise (I remember begging my Dad to let me go running in an ice storm because exercise has always been my solution to improve well-being) my Mom  taught us about the importance of using our mind to attain our goals.  I’m sure no one was surprised when I decided to take move from Toronto (where half the year we dealt with dark, gloomy days and freezing weather) to the sunny, bright and warm climate in Arizona, with year round sunshine and vast mountains for daily exercise, --what research shows combats the most common brain problems.  The environment you live in impacts your happiness, but if you don’t have the ability to pick up and move somewhere else, there are many other strategies you can incorporate to boost your mood, which is turn will boost your results. As a kid, I also wondered if helping my parents more with tidying the house would help offset some of their stress, but I know now, that there was much more involved with what was happening to them than just needing help with housework. Understanding the chemistry of our brain, and what brain type[xiii] we have is important, and then we can look for strategies to help promote our brain and body health for optimal results in our life.

NOTE: Look up and take Dr. Amen’s Brain Type Assessment[xiv] to get an idea of what type of brain you have. You will receive an email with a video explaining your brain type, characteristics of this type of brain, dietary suggestions for your specific brain type and a full report with your brain fit score. My Brain Fit Score was 82/100 and Brain Type 1 and I’m fully aware of the areas I can improve on. The dietary suggestions were also right on the mark for me. Awareness is the key so that we can take action for these improvements to occur. Try it out!

Remember the Neuroscience of Success: Dopamine, Noradrenaline, Acetyl Choline (Fun, Fear, and Focus)

In our podcast #27 with Friederike Fabritius, we covered the DNA of success or peak performance[xv] which is that brain state where we lose the presence of time and are the most productive. She mentioned the importance of having fun with your work, releasing the neurotransmitter dopamine, having just enough fear or a challenge to release the neurotransmitter noradrenaline and that with these two factors, focus will occur, and the neurotransmitter acetyl choline will be released. These three factors must be in place for peak performance to occur and when we hit this level of performance, it’s important that we are able to manage our distractions so that we can stay here for as long as possible for those higher levels of productivity.

Throughout the episodes on this podcast, I’ve been focused on finding those leaders who are doing important work in the field of social emotional learning and neuroscience—to show how these two emerging fields can impact our cognitive abilities. It’s clear that people are drawn to this work, not just in schools, but this understanding has implications in different areas of society like economics, law and security.[xvi] It’s interesting to see how understanding how our minds and brains work in addition to self-awareness is spreading around the world as more and more people are looking for solutions to life’s challenges from within. I also noticed that listeners to this podcast are increasing rapidly as we now are in over 42 countries. I do appreciate the feedback and support for these ideas, and it does help me to hear what you think as we move ahead.  Each of these episodes are currently being transcribed and will be released as my next book.

What is the Neuroscience of Happiness? Increase Serotonin with that 5:1 Ratio of Positives to Negatives

We all want to experience happiness, and there is a neuroscience to happiness. Dr. Rick Hanson, a neuropsychologist and New York Times Best Selling author, is one of the leading experts in the neuroscience of happiness. In the 2019 Mindful Peace Summit, he opened his session by explaining that he got into the work of mindfulness and began searching for answers to the neuroscience of happiness because in his youth he “wondered why people were so unhappy, including himself. He wanted to be less lonely, and more proud of himself”[xvii] and recalled that most of his childhood consisted of feeling “less than” others so he grew up lacking confidence in himself. If we don’t get the acceptance we needed growing up, that will translate into an emptiness that lingers in your mindset and will impact our future performance. Dr. Hanson explains that if you want to be more confident, you must “embrace experiences that bring out your confidence.”[xviii] We see many young people, like the successful podcaster Lewis Howes,[xix] (Who does The School of Greatness Podcast)[xx] who were bullied as a kid, turn to boxing or wrestling as a way to fight back and gain this confidence back.

Dr. Hanson noticed in college that when he ignored how he was feeling, he just kept feeling bad about himself, but when he had a positive experience, and stayed with it, over time he was able to build more positive experiences than negative, building up his confidence. He explains that “neurons that fire together, wire together” and he was actually rewiring his brain from being insecure and negative, to confident and positive.  We also know that you can “name it to tame it”[xxi] and when you are able to express what you are feeling, these feelings and emotions become manageable. There is also the negativity bias to be aware of where the brain must have at least a ratio of 5:1 positive to negative interactions so that the negative interaction won’t cause an impact. As parents, teachers, coaches and co-workers we must remember that when giving someone feedback, we must have at least five positive things to say to every one negative thing since “good experiences bounce off the brain like Teflon and bad experiences stick to the brain, like Velcro.”[xxii] Be sure to consciously focus on the positive experiences so you won’t let that one negative experience stick around, or it will impact your mindset and future results.

Remember: The brain has mood chemicals called neurotransmitters that are “chemical messengers sent into the synapse (of a neuron) by an electrical charge in the axon, released at the synaptic gap to communicate with dendrites of another neuron, impacted heavily by exercise, and nutrition. Levels of the different neurotransmitters have a profound effect on emotion, perception, memory, alertness, and energy.”[xxiii] If you are someone who enjoys intense exercise, you will notice the benefits of endorphins that are released in the brain and reduce our perception of pain.  Researchers are still not sure what causes us to have chemical imbalances in the brain, when we don’t feel right, there are some things we can do to change the chemistry of our brain. 

 STRATEGIES TO INCREASE HAPPINESS and NATURUALLY INCREASE YOUR SEROTININ LEVELS

  1. Embrace experiences that bring out your confidence. Do you know what makes you happy? This takes self-awareness. Do you know what makes other people happy? Do you ask them? Learn more about other by saying “Hey, how’s it going today?” and listen to what they say. Taking this extra step will strengthen your relationship with your co-workers, friends or relationship.
  2. Remember the 5:1 negativity bias and say at least five positives to every one negative piece of feedback since good experiences bounce off the brain like Teflon and bad experiences stick to the brain like Velcro.

Remember that “neurons that fire together wire together,”[xxiv] so stay with the positive feelings more and eventually the negative ones will fade away since neurons that are out of psych, fail to link.

  1. Think of news ways to “generate”[xxv] happiness and start practices that make you feel happier and better about yourself. It really is our responsibility to generate our own happiness. No one can do this for you.
  2. Diet and nutrition, supplements and exercise are also important to boost serotonin levels, increasing happiness naturally. You can take “saffron supplements, 5 HTP, exercise, eat low glycemic, healthy carbs (hummus/berries), and keep your gut healthy with probiotics.” [xxvi]

 

The Neuroscience of Anxiety: Calming the Basal Ganglia

Within our Limbic System, our emotional brain, is the Basal Ganglia that when revved high, makes us feel anxious. Do you know the difference between anxiety (our body’s natural response to stress that can become a mental disorder when someone regularly feels unusually high levels of anxiety) or stress (which is our body’s response to a challenge or demand)? Some anxiety is normal, and the same goes for stress.

We know there are 3 levels of stress response.

  1. POSITIVE: Brief increase in heart rate, mild elevations in stress hormone levels (what happens when we need to speak in front of a crowd, play a sport, take a test, or that nervous energy we feel before a job interview).
  2. TOLERABLE: Serious, temporary stress responses, buffered by supportive relationships. The key is to have support systems in place for this type of stress.
  3. TOXIC: Prolonged activation of stress response systems in the absence of protective relationships. This is the one we are most concerned about as this type of stress causes the most damage.

We must have strategies in place to help us to reduce anxiety and stress so that they don’t interfere with our day to day life.

STRAEGIES TO REDUCE ANXIETY AND STRESS

  1. Exercise, meditation and deep belly breathing to increase oxygen to the brain.
  2. Go for a walk outside-research shows that different brain regions are activated when you’re outside. Getting out into the sunshine increases the production of Vitamin D and serotonin—plus it just feels good. If you can’t go outside, look out a window.
  3. Zone out-let yourself do nothing for a while and just let your mind wander. Research shows that “creative incubation” happens during mind-wandering. You are more likely to problem-solve successfully if you let your mind wander and then come back to the challenge. Dr. Sriny Pillay writes about the power of the unfocused mind in his most recent book “Tinker, Dabble, Doodle, Try” where you sharpen your ability to think and get things done using your ability to make your mind wander. Flashes of insight and solutions to problems often show up at this time, but we must be willing to allow these breaks.
  4. Unplug from technology—silence is good for the brain.
  5. Mental imagery—warming images (like a cup of hot chocolate) if you are feeling stressed, or a place that makes you happy (the beach).
  6. Dietary supplements like fish oil, magnesium, l theanine (in green tea) and gabba supplements are known to help calm the brain.

The Neuroscience of Learning: Acetyl Choline, Dopamine, Serotonin, Noradrenaline

As far as learning, think about this: 

  • Why is it that I can forget some words I used to know in French (but haven’t practiced in a few years) but that I will never forget my 6th grade teacher, Mr. Walker, teaching me to play basketball, or doing math equations.
  • Why is it easier for me to learn a second language at age 5 versus age 55?
  • Why do I learn better after a good night’s sleep?
  • Why is my creativity enhanced when I run up and down a mountain before I sit at my desk?

If there is a formula for peak performance, (Fun, Fear, Focus), a neuroscience to happiness and anxiety, then there must also be one for learning. Bruce McCandliss, professor in Stanford’s Graduate School of Education and the director of the Stanford Center for Mind, Brain and Computation, believes that brain-imaging technology is revolutionizing the study of educational experiences and their effect on the brain. These brain images are showing new insights in how children are learning to read. He talks about the fact that “when you focus your mind, you actually amplify the circuits in your brain that lead to learning and amplify information processing.”[xxvii]   This is something we spoke to Dr. Daniel Siegel[xxviii] about (episode #28) with his “Wheel of Awareness” Meditation. When we are focusing intentionally on something (whether it’s our health, relationships, business or learning) we amplify the information processing and change the structure of the brain in this area. We actually re-wire the brain with the activity we are doing. Remember: Neurons that fire together, wire together and neurons that are out of psych, fail to link. Dr. Siegel mentioned that the research was there to show that this practice improves health in addition to many other benefits.

Let’s see if we can take our understanding to the next level with how neuroscience impacts the learning process so we can create more impactful lessons as an educator, thoughtful skill-building drills as a coach, or connect our employees to new ideas and information in an engaging and enjoyable manner.

STRATEGIES TO INCREASE LEARNING:

USE EMOTION AND FREQUENCY OF USE: To help memories stick and “motivation, cues, context and frequency of use can all affect how accurately you remember something.” [xxix] It’s the reason I remember my 6th grade teacher, and frequency of use is the reason I have forgotten most of the French words I used to know.  When learning a new skill, how will you make it memorable?

FIND YOUR FOCUS: If you are a teacher who can creatively get your students to somehow “focus” on their work, you will be re-wiring their brain which will lead to learning.  Whether it’s putting their finger under each word they read or using a pointer on their finger as they read, however you can get a student to focus on what they are learning, is where the magic happens.  If you look at some of the most successful modern workplaces, you will find they have meditation and exercise rooms, dream walls to record vision and goals, plenty of relaxation areas, and of course, a place to grab a cup of tea, water or coffee. Think about starting meetings with a clear intention for the meeting to stay on track and focused on the outcome.

MORE HAPPINESS, JOY, LAUGHTER: The brain thrives with happiness, joy and laughter. The more we can create fun with our learning, we have seen with peak performance and flow states, we will be encouraging learning in a way that time will be lost.  Remember that the recipe for peak performance includes fun! 

Major Neurotransmitters that Impact Learning:

  • Acetyl Choline - plays an important role in learning and memory.
  • Dopamine - involved in conscious and emotional response and basis of the brain's natural reward system, associated with positivity.
  • Serotonin – brain balancer, involved in arousal, temperature regulation, sensory perception, regulates melatonin, involved in relaxing, mood, emotions, learning and memory, affected by exercise, eggs, lean meat contains L-tryptophan which helps make serotonin.
  • Norepinephrine/noradrenaline – arousal, involved in fight or flight stress response, metabolic rate, blood pressure, and mood.[xxx]

On our next episode with Mark Waldman, we will uncover new brain research documented in Mark’s new book Neurowisdom[xxxi] showing that relaxation, creativity, imagination and intuition are essential for learning and problem solving.

  1. Discover how your brain likes to learn (it will surprise you and has nothing to do with what you’ve experienced the classroom)
    2. Find out why mind-wandering and daydreaming are essential for psychological health. Right in line with Srinivasan Pillay’s book “Tinker, Dabble, Doodle, Try” that talks about the default network in the brain and the power of “unfocusing” your brain. Mark’s book “Neurowisdom” was the first book to talk about the default network mode and provides many practical examples for using your brain to improve finances, happiness and success.
    3. Learn how Brain Network Theory is changing the world of neuroscience…and your health!
    4. See what living neurons and networks actually look like.

If we can intentionally practice strategies that reduce our stress and anxiety, while increasing our happiness, we will be well on our way to retaining what we are learning. See you next week!

ADDITIONAL HELP SUGGESTIONS:

These suggestions have been compiled as I am researching these areas to offers ideas, strategies and suggestions to bring more awareness to the topics. Please do know that the ideas and strategies I’m sharing with you should not replace seeking professional help[xxxii] if needed.

[i] Chronic stress disrupts neural coherence between cortico-limbic structures João Filipe Oliveira, Nuno Sérgio Dias, Mariana Correia, Filipa Gama-Pereira, Vanessa Morais Sardinha, Ana Lima, Ana Filipa Oliveira, Luís Ricardo Jacinto, Daniela Silva Ferreira, Ana Maria Silva, Joana Santos Reis, João José Cerqueira, Nuno Sousa Front Neural Circuits. 2013; 7: 10. Published online 2013 Feb 6.

[ii] 72 Amazing Brain Facts (Deane Alban, January 2018). https://bebrainfit.com/human-brain-facts/?fbclid=IwAR0amQTdwOEAlsh_7gQ34RhvJDZefHiZFVYGG7O__hGyOwD_j7lJM0qYxDA

[iii] Brain Thrive by 25 Online Course by Dr. Daniel Amen https://www.amenclinics.com/blog/tag/brain-thrive-by-25/

[iv] “Social and Emotional Learning, Teacher Well-Being, and Student Success: What Do We Know? And Where do We Go From Here?” Webinar June 5th 2018 with Dr. Mark Greenber, Penn State and Dr. Kimberly A. Schonert-Reichl https://vimeo.com/275147739

[v] https://www.amenclinics.com/

[vi] 15-year-old Chloe Amen Reveals Strategies on how to "Change Your Brain, Change Your Grades" https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/15-year-old-chloe-amen-reveals-strategies-on-how-to/id1469683141?i=1000446233385

[vii] ibid

[viii]Dr. Daniel Amen, March 3, 2020 The End of Mental Illness: How Neuroscience is Transforming Psychiatry and Helping Prevent or Reverse Mood and Anxiety Disorders, ADHD, Addictions, PTSD, Psychosis, Personality Disorders and More. https://www.amazon.com/End-Mental-Illness-Neuroscience-Transforming-ebook/dp/B07T6C3CWH/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1574362380&sr=8-3

[ix] https://www.amenclinics.com/spect-gallery/anxiety-depression/

[x] Brain Thrive by 25 Online Course by Dr. Daniel Amen https://www.amenclinics.com/blog/tag/brain-thrive-by-25/

[xi] Brain Thrive by 25 Online Course by Dr. Daniel Amen https://www.amenclinics.com/blog/tag/brain-thrive-by-25/

[xii] Dr. Richard Jacoby and Raquel Baldelomar “Sugar Crush” (Harper Wave, 2nd Edition April 2015) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KPVB4OA/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

[xiii] What’s Your Brain Type Quiz by Dr. Daniel Amen https://brainhealthassessment.com/

[xiv] What’s Your Brain Type Quiz by Dr. Daniel Amen https://brainhealthassessment.com/

[xv] Friederike Fabritius: "Fun, Fear, and Focus: The Neurochemical Recipe for Achieving Peak Performance" | Talks at Google Published Jan.15, 2019  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWi-oCySuFA

[xvi] Educational Neuroscience Michael Thomas Published July 5, 2018  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2uK3d9hL-IQ

[xvii] 2019 Mindful Kids Peace Summit https://www.mindfulkidspeacesummit.com/first-page

[xviii] Rick Hanson “Hardwiring Happiness” YouTube Published Nov. 7, 2013 TEDx Marin 2013 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpuDyGgIeh0

[xix] https://lewishowes.com/

[xx]Lewis Howes School of Greatness Podcast  https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-school-of-greatness/id596047499

[xxi] Dr. Dan Siegel “Name it to Tame it” YouTube Published Dec. 8th, 2014  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZcDLzppD4Jc

[xxii] Rick Hanson “Hardwiring Happiness” YouTube Published Nov. 7, 2013 TEDx Marin 2013 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jpuDyGgIeh0

[xxiii] Neurotransmitters and Learning by Joseph Georgic April 22, 2015  https://www.hastac.org/blogs/joegeorgic/2015/04/22/neurotransmitters-and-learning

[xxiv] “Neurons that Fire Together, Wire Together, So Simple” by Andrea Samadi on LinkedIn published Nov. 17, 2016 https://achieveit360.com/neurons-that-fire-together-wire-together/

[xxv] Brendon Burchard “The Secret to Happiness” https://brendon.com/blog/the-secret-to-happiness/

[xxvi] Brain Thrive by 25 Online Course by Dr. Daniel Amen https://www.amenclinics.com/blog/tag/brain-thrive-by-25/  (Lesson 4 Cingulate and Cognitive Flexibility).

[xxvii] Bruce McCandliss “The Neuroscience of Learning: Thinking Big About Learning” YouTube Published Nov. 3, 2015 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_6fezBz9IA

[xxviii] Dr. Daniel Siegel on “Mindsight: The Basis for Social and Emotional Intelligence” https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/clinical-professor-psychiatry-at-ucla-school-medicine/id1469683141?i=1000456048761

[xxix] 72 Amazing Brain Facts by Deane Alban https://bebrainfit.com/human-brain-facts/

[xxx] Lizzy Brown Learning on the Move: Brain Parts and Neurotransmitters https://www.learningonthemove.org/brain-parts--neurotransmitters.html

[xxxi] Neurowisdom: The New Brain Science of Money, Happiness and Success by Mark Robert Waldman and Chris Manning PhD. (Jan.31, 2017).  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N9BLBDH/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

[xxxii] https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/find-help/index.shtml

Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, Dr. Daniel Siegel on “Mindsight: The Basis for Social and Emotional Intelligence”

Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, Dr. Daniel Siegel on “Mindsight: The Basis for Social and Emotional Intelligence”

November 5, 2019

Welcome to the “Neuroscience Meets SEL” podcast, my name is Andrea Samadi, a former educator who has been fascinated with understanding the science behind high performance strategies in schools, sports and the workplace for the past 20 years. This episode is available on YouTube and we highly recommend watching the visuals that go along with this interview for a more immersive experience.

This is episode #28 with Dr. Dan Siegel, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and executive director of the Mindsight Institute where you can find his courses, workshops, books and tools to help anyone understand and apply what can sometimes be complicated scientific concepts and make them easy to understand and applicable to our daily lives. He has dozen books the last time I counted with his most recent parenting book with Dr. Tina Payne called The Power of Showing Up: How Parental Presence Shapes Who our Kids Become and How Their Brains Get Wired[i] coming out Jan. 7th, 2020. Be sure to pre-order your copy as it has already hit the top 20 books in cognitive neuroscience, child development and neuropsychology. Also, he is working on the 3rd edition of his book The Developing Mind.

Welcome Dan!

Dr. Siegel, I can personally say that I’m a more mindful[ii] parent, more aware[iii] of myself and others, have learned some no-drama discipline[iv] strategies, feel prepared for when my 2 girls reach their teenage years[v], with the reassurance that I don’t have to be perfect, and that I can repair relationships when my buttons have been pushed—all from reading your books the past few years. It’s such an honor to have you here—your influence is significant with the thousands of people around the globe you’ve been helping with your books, mnemonics to remember your strategies, and tools like your Wheel of Awareness Meditation.  Thank you for being so accessible so we can take a deeper dive into some of the important concepts of your work.

Q1: Dr. Siegel, before I get into the questions I have for you, I wanted to ask what led you to write all of these books and create tools to help our next generation become more aware and connected to each other?

Q2: I know we can’t train the next generation of students for the old world; we must do things differently. On our podcast we have been speaking to leaders about the emergence of social and emotional learning skills in our schools and emotional intelligence training programs in the workplace (with people like Casel’s Clark McKown on measuring SEL to Marc Brackett and the importance of Emotional Intelligence and recognizing and naming our feelings.  I know you have been working with the Blue School[vi] in New York City. What skills do you think have been missing in our schools and how do we bring these missing skills back for our next generation of students so that we can prepare them for success in the workplace? (3Rs and what else is missing?)

Q3: When I was in my late 20s I started to study the mind with a motivational speaker and learned some strategies that really helped me as an adult related to thinking positively, having a good attitude, awareness, you know those skills we used to call “soft skills” but 20 years ago, there just wasn’t the research behind SEL and mindfulness. Then I heard you mention that when you began surveying mental health professionals around the world who should know about the mind that “95% of them had never even been given a lecture on the mind, and probably couldn’t even tell you what the definition of the mind was”[vii] ) so you wondered how can we expect to develop it, without this understanding and explore the concept of the mind in your book, Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation[viii] where you prove that you can define what a healthy mind is, not just describe it.

In your book Mindsight, you say that “Mindsight is the potent skill that is the basis for both emotional and social intelligence.” What is Mindsight?  What does the research tell us about our ability to change the structure and function of our brain by using this “Mindsight” and how can this potent skill can set up our next generation for success? How are you using “Mindsight” at the Blue School[ix] is NYC? What are some other ways that Mindsight could be used in schools, homes the workplace or any examples you’ve seen in the field of medicine/health?

Q4: In preparation for this interview, I did a podcast (episode #23) on “Understanding the Difference Between the Mind and the Brain”[x]  and this episode rose to the top of our episodes, showing me that listeners are really interested in this topic. Can we look at your definition of mind as “an embodied and relational process—since it’s in the body and it’s in our relationships with one another—that regulates the flow of energy and information”[xi]  and can you explain why relationships are so important for our well-being health, and an integrated brain as you describe it?

Once we know what the mind is, then how does the mind differ from the brain and what about the fact we have a brain in our gut, not just our head? 

Q5: We know that in order to have well students in our classrooms, we need well teachers, just as to have well children in our homes, the parent’s mindset matters. We are coming to grips here with what “the mind” is but we still have a society that struggles with health. Can you explain the best way that we as adults can stay on top of our health and well-being so that we can avoid burn-out and also keeping in mind the research you said has come out of Harvard and McGill University with Martin Teitcher[xii] and Michael Meaney[xiii] on epigenetics and how the stress felt by our grandparents can be passed on and impact our lives? How can we take this new research and use it in such a way that we prevent more stress in our lives and our children’s lives and our student’s lives to create an integrated brain versus a non-integrated brain of chaos or rigidity?

Q6: I have been practicing your Wheel of Awareness meditation[xiv] for the past 2 months while I have been preparing to speak with you. I actually downloaded it from your website in 2015 but didn’t make this a part of my daily routine until recently. I’ve noticed a huge difference in my own thinking process since incorporating this practice. Can you explain why this reflective meditation is different from using let’s say a relaxation app like Calm.com or just listening to peaceful music? What is happening to our brain as we focus inwardly on the four parts of this wheel? What are the outcomes are you seeing of this practice on society?

Q7: Is there anything important that you think I have missed with my questions today to give listeners some tips on how they can be more aware, practice using Mindsight and find a deeper meaning and connection and purpose in this world? 

Thank you so much Dr. Siegel for coming on the show to dive deeper into your work. I really could talk to you all day, but know I’ve got to let you go. For those who would like to learn more about Dr. Siegel you can go to www.drdansiegel.com (where he has a ton of tools, books and resources that you can use immediately like the Wheel of Awareness Meditation) or find you on Linkedin (Daniel Siegel), Twitter @DrDanSiegel Instagram @drdansiegel and Facebook. He has a new book coming out The Power of Showing Up[xv] in Jan 2020 with Dr. Tina Bryson that I mentioned in the beginning that is already hitting the TOP 20 books before its release! Thank you again for all you are doing to promote well-being and health in the world. You are a true difference maker and it’s been such a pleasure to have this opportunity to speak with you. 

BIO: Daniel J. Siegel received his medical degree from Harvard University and completed his postgraduate medical education at UCLA with training in pediatrics and child, adolescent and adult psychiatry.  He served as a National Institute of Mental Health Research Fellow at UCLA, studying family interactions with an emphasis on how attachment experiences influence emotions and behavior. An award-winning educator, he is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association and recipient of several honorary fellowships. Dr. Siegel is also the Executive Director of the Mindsight Institute, an educational organization, which offers online learning and in-person seminars that focus on how the development of mindsight in individuals, families and communities can be enhanced by examining the interface of human relationships and basic biological processes. His psychotherapy practice includes children, adolescents, adults, couples, and families. He serves as the Medical Director of the LifeSpan Learning Institute and on the Advisory Board of the Blue School in New York City, which has built its curriculum around Dr. Siegel’s Mindsight approach.

Dr. Siegel's unique ability to make complicated scientific concepts exciting and accessible has led him to be invited to address diverse local, national and international groups including mental health professionals, neuroscientists, corporate leaders, educators, parents, public administrators, healthcare providers, policymakers, mediators, judges, and clergy. I was referred to Dr. Siegel’s work when a neuroscience researcher was helping me to add brain-based concepts to my work and I quickly learned the 3 parts of the brain and their functions and was able to teach others using his “Hand Model of the Brain.” [xvi]

WHEEL OF AWARENESS RESOURCE:

https://www.drdansiegel.com/resources/wheel_of_awareness/

REFERENCES:

[i] The Power of Showing Up by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson (Ballantine Books, January 7, 2020) https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1524797715/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i6

[ii] Mind: A Journey to the Heart of Being Human by Daniel J Siegel October 18, 2016 (W.W Norton and Company) https://www.amazon.com/Mind-Journey-Norton-Interpersonal-Neurobiology-ebook/dp/B01CKZM39I/ref=pd_sim_351_2/144-0582078-3016428?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B01CKZM39I&pd_rd_r=524a4609-ef8e-4405-b86e-826c0dfe4756&pd_rd_w=lkyDh&pd_rd_wg=Wj12A&pf_rd_p=5abf8658-0b5f-405c-b880-a6d1b558d4ea&pf_rd_r=GC135MTVN7YQ2YKQA8S0&psc=1&refRID=GC135MTVN7YQ2YKQA8S0

[iii] Aware: The Science and Practice of Presence by Daniel J Siegel August 21, 2018 (Penguin Group, USA) https://www.amazon.com/Aware-Presence-Groundbreaking-Awareness-Meditation/dp/B07FDGTCRM/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=aware+dan+siegel&qid=1572802485&sr=8-1

[iv] No-Drama Discipline: The Whole Brain Way to Calm the Chaos and Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind https://www.amazon.com/No-Drama-Discipline-Whole-Brain-Nurture-Developing-ebook/dp/B00JCS4NMC/ref=pd_sim_351_49?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B00JCS4NMC&pd_rd_r=083bcdfa-8b36-4f44-8b03-ba1253cda3f2&pd_rd_w=MHy7B&pd_rd_wg=mO3Nq&pf_rd_p=5abf8658-0b5f-405c-b880-a6d1b558d4ea&pf_rd_r=8MRRV2G8KZTD8VCED844&psc=1&refRID=8MRRV2G8KZTD8VCED844

[v] Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain Daniel J Siegel January 7, 2014 (Penguin Group, USA) https://www.amazon.com/Brainstorm-Power-Purpose-Teenage-Brain-ebook/dp/B00C5R8378/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=brainstorm&qid=1572803186&s=digital-text&sr=1-1

[vi] https://www.blueschool.org/

[vii] Mindsight: The New Science of Transformation Dr. Dan Siegel https://www.drdansiegel.com/about/mindsight/

[viii] Mindsight: The New Science of Transformation Dr. Dan Siegel https://www.drdansiegel.com/about/mindsight/

[ix] https://www.blueschool.org/

[x] “Neuroscience Meets SEL” Podcast #23 Understanding the Difference Between Your Brain and Mind for Increased Results https://andreasamadi.podbean.com/e/understanding-your-brain-and-mind-for-increased-results/

[xi] Dr. Dan Siegel Defines The Mind Published Feb. 11, 2010 on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MEdq04xbHAs

[xii] https://www.mcleanhospital.org/profile/martin-teicher

[xiii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Meaney

[xiv] https://www.drdansiegel.com/resources/wheel_of_awareness/

[xv] The Power of Showing Up by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson (Ballantine Books, January 7, 2020) https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1524797715/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i6

[xvi] Dr. Dan Siegel’s Hand Model of the Brain Published on YouTube August 9th, 2017 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-m2YcdMdFw

Neuroleadership Pioneer, Friederike Fabritius on “Achieving Peak Performance”

Neuroleadership Pioneer, Friederike Fabritius on “Achieving Peak Performance”

October 22, 2019

This is episode #27 with a Pioneer in the field of Neuroleadership and author of the book, The Leading Brain, Friederike Fabritius,[i] all the way from Dusseldorf, Germany. You can watch the interview on YouTube here.

Welcome to the “Neuroscience Meets SEL” podcast, my name is Andrea Samadi, a former educator who has been fascinated with understanding the science behind high performance strategies in schools, sports and the workplace for the past 20 years. Today we have an inspiring speaker who I’ve been following for the past 3 years.

FRIEDERIKE FABRITIUS, MS, is a neuroscientist and pioneer in the field of neuroleadership. She trained at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and is an alumna of McKinsey & Company (helping organizations to create change).  Friederike delivers brain-based leadership programs to Fortune 500 executives and organizations around the globe to transform how they think, innovate, and navigate change. Her book The Leading Brain: Neuroscience Hacks to Work Smarter, Better, Happier has been translated into several languages and has received numerous awards. Her most recent presentation this year was at Talks at Google[ii]  where she describes the recipe for achieving peak performance.

Welcome Friederike! I am beyond excited to be speaking with you today. A warm welcome today as you join us here in Arizona, USA all the way from Germany!

I wanted to let the listeners know that I recorded an episode yesterday[iii]  “Simple Strategies for Avoiding the Pitfalls of the 3 Parts of the Brain” so that today we could dive a bit deeper with our time together.  If you are listening now and have not heard that episode, be sure to go back and listen to episode #26 as an overview for today.

Q1: I first found you on YouTube when I was searching for a way to understand how our neurotransmitters work in peak performance. I found this video where you explained neuroleadership[iv]  just beautifully to top executives in Barcelona, Spain and how we can create peak performance[v] or that flow state we all seek for those high levels of achievement.  Can you explain what we need to do to get into peak performance/flow state whether we are an employee looking for improved results in the workplace, an athlete in the field, or a student in the classroom? 

Q2: What does flow look and feel like? What can we do to stay in this flow state longer to experience that increased productivity you mention in your book where productivity increases by fivefold?[vi] What is guaranteed to throw us out of flow—so that we don’t do that?

Q3: On our podcast here “The Neuroscience of SEL” we have spoken a lot about self-awareness and understanding our self so we can make the changes needed for improved results. Can you explain why some people need to be challenged in order to perform at their very best, while others need to have less challenge and less stress to do their best work, and what do these people look like in an organization so people listening can recognize what type of person they are on that performance/stress scale?

Q4: We know that the PFC is important for executive functions (like logical thinking, decision-making, or planning) and it’s the part of our brain that determines our level of success in life and with our careers. What strategies do you personally do to strengthen this part of your brain to operate at its best for these high levels of performance?

Q5: What do you think are the next most important parts of the brain for anyone to understand specifically for those who are looking to take new actions or create new habits to achieve higher levels of performance?

Q6: What about mindfulness and meditation? In your book, you mention that “mindfulness has been shown to physically change several regions of the brain in as little as 8 weeks.” Can you explain what parts of the brain mindfulness improves and how this could help people improve their results in life and at work

Q7: In your book, you mention 2 examples of people who didn’t rely on their conscious thinking brain, but they used their unconscious brain to increase the speed, efficiency and accuracy of their performance. The first example was with Sully Sullenberger’s quick thinking with his emergency landing of that plane in the Hudson River and the other was with Wayne Gretzky, who used his unique “hockey sense” to “skate where the puck will be, not where it is.” Can you explain the parts of the brain that are responsible for this gut-instinct or “expert intuition?” and maybe the difference between expert intuition vs just our wishful thinking? 

Q8: I could ask you so many more questions but will stick to just one more. It’s about inhibition or the strategy we often use to hide or hold back our real thoughts or feelings about someone or a situation instead of just dealing with them openly with transparency. Can you explain why inhibition is a bad idea, what happens to the brain when we are doing this, what happens to our productivity and a better strategy for people to embrace and acknowledge their thoughts and feelings rather than hide or ignore them?

Q9: Is there anything that you think is important that I might have missed to help listeners implement some hacks for peak performance that will help them to work smarter, better, and happier?

Dr. Freiderike Fabritius it’s been such a pleasure getting to know you. I seriously could have asked you another 10 questions as I found your book fascinating! I love how it offers practical tips and short cuts that anyone can understand and then apply for improved results.  The end of chapter summary section was also very helpful for a review of everything covered.  For those who would like to learn more about your work they can find your book “The Leading Brain” on Amazon, or Barnes and Noble.[vii]  What’s the best way for someone to reach you?

Learn more through your website at https://www.fabulous-brain.com/ , or find you on Linkedin (with your name) and Twitter and Instagram @fabulous_brain

REFERENCES:

[i] https://www.fabulous-brain.com/

[ii] Friederike Fabritius: "Fun, Fear, and Focus: The Neurochemical Recipe for Achieving Peak Performance" | Talks at Google Published Jan.15, 2019  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWi-oCySuFA

[iii]EPISODE 26 “Strategies for Overcoming the Pitfalls of the 3 Parts of Your Brain”  https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/strategies-for-overcoming-pitfalls-3-parts-your-brain/id1469683141?i=1000454366492

[iv] Freiderike Fabritius “Neuroleadership: A New Approach” YouTube Published Dec. 11th, 2016 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2g4XhlLZ5ak

[v]Friederike Fabritius –“The Leading Brain: Neuroscience hacks to work smarter, better, happier”  Published Sept. 29, 2019 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bOK612_n2Y0

[vi] Friedrike Fabritius “The Leading Brain: Neuroscience Hacks to Work Smarter, Better, Happier” (Feb.21, 2017)  https://www.fabulous-brain.com/the-leading-brain (page 108)

[vii]Friedrike Fabritius “The Leading Brain: Neuroscience Hacks to Work Smarter, Better, Happier” (Feb.21, 2017)  https://www.fabulous-brain.com/the-leading-brain

Simple Strategies for Overcoming the Pitfalls of the 3 Parts of Your Brain

Simple Strategies for Overcoming the Pitfalls of the 3 Parts of Your Brain

October 21, 2019

This episode focuses on understanding the three main parts of your brain and I had to write this lesson and record this prior to the next podcast tomorrow with Dr. Friederike Fabritius as many of my questions to her will rely on the understanding of these three parts of the brain so I thought it was important to record this first.  Let’s take a closer look at the human brain, so that the insights Dr. Fabritus will share tomorrow, will have more of an impact.

The human brain is the most complex organ in the body. Parts of the brain communicate with each other and enable us to enjoy food, communicate, and feel emotions; the brain shapes our entire world and all of our experiences. Understanding how to harness the power that exists within your own body is the key to unlocking the code that controls your results and future. What this future looks like is up to you. 

Once you have an understanding of how your brain works, and you have some strategies to overcome the pitfalls associated with the three main parts of your brain, you can set yourself up for a razor’s edge advantage over someone else who might not be paying attention to the largest and most complex organ in the human body.  To be honest, I was not paying attention to this part of the body until just a few years ago. No one had ever asked me what I was doing for my brain health—not until I started researching in the area of neuroscience did I know these strategies existed. So, don’t worry if this is new to you. We all start at this place.

There are three parts of the brain that I think everyone should understand, whether you are five years old, or 55 years old, we can all understand the basics of how our brain operates for improved results.

Understanding the Reptilian Brain: The Ancient Instinctual Brain also known as The Hindbrain 

The brain stem (imagine this part at the top of your spine on the back of your neck) is the oldest part of the brain and is often referred to as the reptilian brain.[i] This is where vital body functions such as heartbeat, respiration, body temperature, and digestion are all monitored and controlled. The brain stem also holds the reticular activating system (RAS), which is responsible for the brain’s alertness—regardless of whether we’re asleep or awake.

This part of the brain functions to keep us alive and safe and works closely with the entire body as well as the limbic system to create our emotional state of mind. The brain stem does not work alone. It is linked to the limbic system above it (in the middle of the brain) to assist, for example, in creating both our fighting states when we feel anger and our fleeing states when we feel fear.[ii] 

This Ancient Instinctual Brain Controls Our-

  • Sensory motor functions (how our body runs)

 

  • Survival instinct of fight, flight, freeze, faint[iii]

When we understand that we can't help the fact that when we feel fear with something, consciously or unconsciously, our Reptilian Brain reacts on its own with the urge to fight, flight, or freeze.

  • FIGHT- is when we react instead of responding to a situation (those times when we let our emotions take control)
  • FLIGHT- is when we run away
  • FREEZE- is when we stay frozen and don't even try

To overcome the pitfalls of the Reptilian Brain, we just need to learn strategies for overcoming our fears that are natural, and instinctual, coming from the part of our brain that was designed to keep us alive. Those who are longtime meditators speak of the ability to take the time to respond to a situation rather than reacting but if you are looking for a quick fix, try these simple strategies.[iv]

S-STOP whatever you are doing

T-TAKE deep belly breaths to bring more oxygen to your brain

O-OBSERVE and think “how am I feeling right now in the moment?” Can you name the emotion? When you can name the emotion, science has proven that soothing neurotransmitters are released to calm you down.[v]

P- PROCEED with whatever you are doing with a new awareness. 

Our next guest Dr. Friederike Fabritius,[vi] talks about this strategy in her book, The Leading Brain: Neuroscience Hacks to Work Smarter, Better, Happier.[vii]

She also dives into the importance of adding a sense of fun and fear to your work since fun will add the neurotransmitter dopamine that will help you to retain information better and boost your performance, while just the right amount of fear when you try new things, and push your boundaries will release noradrenaline, a positive hormone that’s released when you have a challenge. Adding fun and fear will prevent boredom and drive you towards focus where the brain will release acetyl choline during this time of focused attention to help us to achieve flow or these high levels of peak performance that we all seek.[viii]

Understanding the Second Part of the Brain: The Limbic System

Above the brain stem and below the cerebellum (in the midbrain imagine this part of the brain in the middle) is a collection of structures about the size of a lemon, referred to as the limbic system and sometimes called the mammalian brain or Midbrain. Most of the structures in the limbic system are duplicated in each hemisphere. This area is also responsible for “regulating internal chemical order .”[ix] 

The Limbic Brain or The Emotional Brain Controls Our-

  • Feelings/emotions

 

  • Motivations

 

  • The brain’s reward circuit

 

  • Memory, and our

 

  • Immune system

This part of the brain responds really well with motivation and rewards and since it’s the seat of our emotions, this part of the brain will take over ALL the other parts of the brain because our emotional Limbic Brain always wins.[x]

In this part of our brain we all have a REWARD and a THREAT system. Most of us work well when we can see the reward for what we are working on. Our brain will release dopamine as we check off our to-do list items and make progress towards our goals. When we are working in a reward state, we will be happy, in a good mood, high performing and achieving our goals. This state is where we should all aim to spend our time as we will be the most productive.

But when we are in a threat system, our brain will release cortisol and our prefrontal cortex will shut down, making us unable to work as we go into the fight, flight, freeze state.  Some people do work well with an element of threat to motivate them, (like when you have a deadline for something you are working on)  but too much threat can cause too much stress and lead to eventual burn-out.[xi]

To overcome the pitfalls of the Emotional Limbic System:

  1. Find ways to make the work you do fun so that dopamine (the neurotransmitter that helps us to feel pleasure and satisfaction) will be released and will help you to see rewards and will motivate you to move towards them.
  2. Laugh more because dopamine (this pleasure and satisfaction chemical) is released with laughter. Always keep that funny person on your team who makes everyone laugh. They will help boost the dopamine of your entire team, making everyone motivated towards their goals.
  3. Find ways to keep things new since the brain loves novelty. Remember—we don’t pay attention to boring things.[xii]
  4. Always push your boundaries and challenge yourself to prevent boredom. The brain will release the positive neurotransmitter noradrenaline that will increase alertness and energy.

 

OTHER IMPORTANT PARTS OF THE LIMBIC SYSTEM that I think are important to know about.

The thalamus is the first part of the brain to receive sensory information (except smell) coming from the outside world.

The hippocampus plays a crucial role in converting short-term memory to long-term memory. 

The amygdala plays an important role with emotions, especially fear.

The anterior cingulate connects attention, emotion, social function, and pain perception.[xiii]

The Basal Ganglia is an important part of the brain connected to the cortex, thalamus and brainstem and is connected to procedural learning, habit learning, cognition and emotion. Stay tuned for the next episode to understand the power associated with this part of your brain.

Finally, Understanding the Third Part of the Brain:

The Neocortex/The Decision-Making Brain also called our Forebrain where our Prefrontal Cortex Lives.

The neocortex is the “outer bark of the brain”[xiv]  that consists of folded gray matter and resembles a walnut. (Imagine this part of the brain as being folded over the midbrain and connecting all parts together). It is divided into areas that control specific functions that “ultimately are about making maps of various things—from perceptions of the outside world to ideas about the brain and well-being .”[xv]

The Genius, Decision-Making part of the brain is the newest part of the brain (think of it this way—the brain develops from back to front—the oldest part with our brain stem and the newest is the front of our brain) and it tells us to be LOGICAL and REASONABLE with everyone. This part of the brain controls our

  • Thinking and reflecting

 

  • Perceiving and remembering

 

  • Reasoning and planning

 

  • Language development

 

  • Multiple intelligences, and our

 

  • Awareness and self-awareness

 

This is the part of our brain that determines the level of success we will see in our careers. It’s also the part of our brain that reacts when we are tired, or when someone pushes our buttons, we can lose control of the Decision-Making Brain and do or say things are not in our normal character.

It is reassuring to know why we lose control, and how to repair our relationships with those around us when this occurs by addressing it, and stepping back, and then taking some time out before coming back to regain composure.

To overcome the pitfalls of the Decision-Making Brain we can:

  1. Get plenty of sleep and exercise so that we keep our prefrontal cortex operating at its best.
  2. Remember that when we drink alcohol, it will interfere with our decision-making brain and too much alcohol can lead to poor judgment, and even impair your memory.[xvi]
  3. You can take brain supplements to help you to achieve more focus and alertness.[xvii] I follow Dr. Daniel Amen’s[xviii] work and have learned what my brain type is so that I can be sure to be taking the right supplements for my brain type[xix] and follow the best nutritional plan for brain health.

When we can find strategies to keep our brain working at its best, we will perform at our best. I hope these strategies and an understanding of the 3 parts of your brain help you to achieve higher levels of achievement. I’m excited to speak with Dr. Friederike Fabritius tomorrow morning and will dive deeper into the neuroscience of leadership and high performance. See you next tomorrow.

RESOURCES:

Andrea Samadi Level Up: A Brain-Based Strategy to Skyrocket Student Success and Achievement (2015 Wheatmark, Tucson, AZ).

(Lesson 2: Use Your Brain Wisely)

REFERENCES

[i] David D’Sousa, How the Brain Learns, 3rd Ed. Page 18 (Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks, CA, 2006).

[ii] Dr . Daniel J . Siegel, “Brain Insights and Well-Being,” Inspire to Rewire, Psychology Today,  January 7, 2015  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/inspire-rewire/201501/brain-insights-and-well-being

[iii] ibid

[iv] Friederike Fabritius, “Take Charge of our Emotions” Published Dec. 10, 2016 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=liu3cbEB3H8&t=1759s

[v] Dan Siegel “Name it to Tame it” YouTube Published Dec. 8th, 2014  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZcDLzppD4Jc

[vi]Friederike Fabritius: "Fun, Fear, and Focus: The Neurochemical Recipe for Achieving Peak Performance" | Talks at Google Published Jan.15, 2019  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pWi-oCySuFA

[vii] The Leading Brain by Friederike Fabritius (TarcherPerigee; Reprint edition February 20, 2018).

 https://www.amazon.com/Leading-Brain-Neuroscience-Smarter-Happier/dp/0143129368/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+leading+brain&qid=1571680862&sr=8-1

[viii] Friederike Fabritius: Dopamine, Acetylcholine, and Focused Attention https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T0C93OcfzGk

[ix] Dr . Joe Dispenza, “TedTalks with Dr . Joe Dispenza,” TED video, 17:50 posted        February  8, 2013       https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W81CHn4l4AM&t=105s

[x] Friederike Fabritius “Why the Limbic System Always Wins” YouTube Published   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bb5UITosUUI

[xi] Friederike Fabritius Prefrontal Cortex, Limbic System and Performance YouTube PublishedOct. 26, 2016   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xDuQM94RT9M

[xii] John Medina, Brain Rule #4 http://www.brainrules.net/attention

[xiii] Dr . Daniel J . Siegel, “Brain Insights and Well-Being,” Inspire to Rewire, Psychology Today,  January 7, 2015  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/inspire-rewire/201501/brain-insights-and-well-being

[xiv] ibid

[xv] ibid

[xvi]Alcohol Memory Blackouts and the Brain https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh27-2/186-196.htm

[xvii]12 Prescriptions for Creating a Healthy Brain and Life by Dr. Daniel Amen Jan. 15, 2018  https://www.amenclinics.com/blog/12-prescriptions-for-creating-a-brain-healthy-life-part-1/

[xviii] http://danielamenmd.com/

[xix] https://brainhealthassessment.com/

Mindfulness and Meditation Expert, Mick Neustadt on “How Meditation and Mindfulness Changes Your Life.”

Mindfulness and Meditation Expert, Mick Neustadt on “How Meditation and Mindfulness Changes Your Life.”

October 17, 2019

Welcome back to the "Neuroscience Meets SEL" Podcast episode #25 this is Andrea Samadi. This interview will also be available on YouTube. Today we have Mick Neustadt, a retreat teacher at Inward Bound Mindfulness Education,[i] a company that holds in depth mindfulness programs for teens, young adults and parents. Their programs that teach the skills we have been talking about on this podcast like self-awareness, compassion, ethical decision-making, hold retreats across the US, Canada and United Kingdom.

Mick is a long-time mindfulness and meditation practitioner and clinical social worker. As a result of 20 years of personal practice Mick has experienced the profound benefits of mindfulness. He realizes that we have a great capacity to connect deeply with our full selves and others. Through dedicated practice we can transform the way that we relate to ourselves, those closest to us, and the world. With his rich background as a therapist, former schoolteacher and coach, Mick brings a wide range of skills and dedication to helping young people on their journey of self-exploration. Since 2011 he has formally taught mindfulness to teens in schools, on retreats and weekly groups.

Welcome Mick, thank you for taking the time out of your day to share more about mindfulness, meditation and the philopophy of iBme.

Q1: Can you define what “mindfulness” is since this term is used so often these days. Everyone seems to have an idea or thought about what mindfulness programs are.

Q2: Can you explain why mindfulness is so important for young people (and adults) to develop especially these days where anxiety and depression are at an all-time high?

Q3: How does your retreat work compared to someone using an app like Calm or a guided meditation? Can you explain a bit about your process? (I can see a calendar on your website.)[ii] Can you explain how your retreats work?

Q4: Can you explain what the research[iii] says about mindfulness programs? What are the long-term effects of the retreat practice of meditation and mindfulness? 3 months after the retreat, what did the participants notice? And also, would someone receive similar benefits if they just started their own mindfulness practice at home?

Q5: I have heard Jon Kabat Zinn who I know has worked with your organization mention that “the real meditation is with how we live our lives.”[iv] –meaning how we change from being stressed, rushed, to being calmer and more present. What parting thoughts would you like to leave us with about how to get started with a meditation program in our daily lives (perhaps from a parent point of view, student, or someone in the workplace) so anyone can learn how to go from knowing to doing, and reap of the benefits of a mindfulness program.

Thank you so much Mick for sharing your extensive knowledge in this field. If anyone wants to learn more about you and the programs at iBMe, they can go to ibme.com. What’s the best way for them to reach you?

[i] www.ibme.com

[ii] https://ibme.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/iBme_Sample-Daily-Schedule.pdf

[iii] https://ibme.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Galla-Research-on-I mpacts-of-iBme-Research.pdf

[iv] Jon Kabat Zinn “From Doing to Being” YouTube published Feb. 16, 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-2QoTYujNg

Former Superintendent, Dr. Jeff Rose, of Fulton Co Schools (GA) on Leadership, Innovation and the Future

Former Superintendent, Dr. Jeff Rose, of Fulton Co Schools (GA) on Leadership, Innovation and the Future

October 10, 2019

Welcome back to the “Neuroscience Meets SEL Podcast” episode #24 this is Andrea Samadi. This interview will also be available on YouTube.

Our very special guest today, Dr. Jeff Rose, is the founder of Leading Ed Solutions[i], a community of school superintendents and leaders providing solutions, strategy and support so that no one has to lead alone. His successful podcast, Leading Education[ii] focuses on innovative conversations surrounding the most important topics that our modern schools face that are relevant to anyone who wants to lead in education and beyond. The topics he tackles are applicable to any leadership position, providing the most up to date ideas and strategies around these enormous concepts that require new ways of thinking for improvement and change. 

Jeff has a proven track record of innovation and an unrelenting focus on student achievement. He’s the former Superintendent of Fulton County Schools (which is Atlanta, Georgia’s 4th largest school district) responsible for the leadership, administration and management of over 96,000 students, 105 schools, 14,000 employees and a $1.1 billion general fund budget. During his 23 years in education, he has served as a classroom teacher, principal and a director of school improvement.  

Welcome Jeff. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast today to share what you are doing to support educational leadership.

Jeff, I love your work and your podcast inspired me to get moving on mine over the summer. I want to dive into some questions to hear your perspective on a few of the topics that I thought were the most relevant in our schools and communities today.

Q1:  I’ve heard you describe education as “the perfect mess” because when you are working, you will have challenges, and everyone has an opinion about these challenges. I’ve also heard this as it relates to business. When you are taking action, things will go wrong and it can all feel like a mess. When you are doing nothing, you won’t have problems to solve, but also won’t have any impact for change. What led you to launch your company, Leading Ed solutions and tackle some of the most challenging problems education has seen in the past few decades to impact change and when did you first think about starting this idea?

Q2: There are so many important concepts that you speak about—I love hearing your point of view— but one concept stuck out to me from the earlier episodes when you spoke about how lonely leadership is, when you first felt being lonely at the top and how you got used to this feeling. Unless someone is walking in the shoes of a school superintendent, administrator, or District leader, (or even equate this to those who lead in the corporate world) I know it could be easy to make up what others think your job entails and say things like “Oh, it must be nice….with their xyz assumption.” Hearing your perspective on what leadership is like for those who are given this responsibility is important for anyone who must learn to lead themselves. (We all have heard that to be a good leader is to be a good follower).[iii] Was this why you launched your podcast to give more insight to bridge this gap that exists between school leadership, schools and the community and shed some light with what this leadership role really entails?

Q3: You mention that one of the biggest concerns you hear from parents and the community is the rise in student anxiety these days (episode 4)[iv] and I’m seeing it here in my local community in Chandler, Arizona, USA where this time last year we hit 31child/teen suicides in 15 months.[v] This issue is a huge concern and goes on past the pressure to perform academically in the K-12 system to higher education. (I just heard another podcast by Jay Shetty where he interviewed Laurie Santos[vi] who created the most popular course at Yale to combat this issue when she saw how stressed her students were to perform academically at the beginning of their University career.) Your interview with David Smith and Cathy Murphy from The Summit Counselling Center[vii]  really opened my eyes to the fact that we do need to involve the community to bring more awareness and discussion around mental health issues for today’s students.

What do you think is a good call to action for parents to begin this dialogue to support their child’s mental health in addition to their own?

What about our schools? It still feels like this is a topic is not easy for some people to speak openly about. When I first heard of this rise in suicides in my area I had posters created (inspired by a teen in one of my presentations, who was shocked at the statistics in the US compared to Canada—this was a HS student in Toronto—he stood up and said “how is it that we know what to do when we are on fire—we stop, drop and roll, but we don’t know what to do when someone is struggling mentally or emotionally—at all?” The whole room full of District leaders gasped at his observation.)[viii] So we created posters with a call to action for how to recognize the signs and symptoms of a young person struggling with anxiety, and what number to call if they need additional help—but I still felt the awkwardness around the topic as if schools would be happy to not talk about it at all. How can we change this?

How do you see community and faith-based organizations forming stronger relationships with our schools? I know you cover this extensively with a 2-part episode,[ix] but what would be some first steps for a successful school/community partnership?

Q4: You covered the widely discussed topic of School Safety and Social Media on episode 19[x] from the end of August. I have always felt that social media and the advancements of technology are where all of the problems begin for our students—because we just didn’t have these problems when we were growing up because we didn’t have the internet—and these challenges create stress for our teachers and parents and make me question about should I or shouldn’t I buy a phone for my kids? Then I listened to this episode and it made me shift my thinking when I heard your guest from www.bark.us talk about their company’s technology and how they have created an algorithm that has avoided 16 credible school shooting threats. I have heard of similar alerts with credit monitoring, but never thought about this technology moving into the schools. Can you share how you came across this technology and how you see this system supporting our schools in the future?  How can we shift people’s perspective to show that technology can solve some of these problems we are seeing with social media, rather than just be the cause of them?

Q5: What would be some parting thoughts with your experience in the past few decades leading in education to impact long-lasting and sustainable change in today’s schools? What is your vision for Leading Ed Solutions?

Jeff is holding an event for Superintendents in Scottsdale, AZ next month. Here are more details. https://www.leadingedsolutions.com/event-az If anyone is interested in learning more, please contact him directly jeff@leadingedsolutions.com

Learn more here https://vimeo.com/334815600

Thank you so much for your time, thoughts and ideas today Jeff and for being so accessible for this conversation. If there are school superintendents listening, what criteria are you looking for to join your inner circle?  If anyone is interested in contacting you, is the best way through your website leadingedsolutions.com? They can also find you on LinkedIn and @DrJeffRose on Twitter.  Thank you.

REFERENCES:

[i] https://www.leadingedsolutions.com/

[ii] Leading Education with Jeff Rose Podcast on iTunes https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/leading-education-with-jeff-rose/id1456969336

[iii] Research: To be a good leader, start by being a good follower by Kim Peters August 6, 2018 https://hbr.org/2018/08/research-to-be-a-good-leader-start-by-being-a-good-follower

[iv] https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/student-anxiety-and-social-emotional-challenges/id1456969336?i=1000434241155

[v] http://www.eastvalleytribune.com/news/teen-suicides-in-months-fuels-alarm-in-ev/article_7038d252-cf64-11e8-8765-abf84bf9e713.html

[vi] https://jayshetty.me/laurie-santos/

[vii] http://summitcounseling.org/our-leaders/

[viii] https://achieveit360.com/product-category/posters/

[ix] https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-line-that-unites-us-part-1/id1456969336?i=1000448861382

[x] https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/student-safety-social-media/id1456969336?i=1000448036071

Understanding the Difference Between Your Mind and Brain

Understanding the Difference Between Your Mind and Brain

October 2, 2019

If I were to ask you what are the qualities that you most want for your children, students, employees, or even for yourself so that you can reach those optimal levels of health, well-being and happiness, (no matter what part of the world you are listening from),  the answer would probably sound something like this.  “I want to them to develop a healthy mind, to pursue excellence, to have the skills needed to excel independently, to have compassion and empathy for others, to acquire the skills needed in this ever-changing world, or to adopt the mindset of lifelong learning that’s needed to thrive not just survive in this world” –something along those lines that focuses on developing the minds of our next generation with social and emotional skills.

In order to bridge this gap between knowing and actually implementing these skills, we must first of all have a clear understanding of what they are. If social and emotional skills are skills that we could say are of the developed mind, and we are moving into cognitive skills of the brain, it leads us to question what is the difference between the mind and the brain before we continue further? Once we have a clear definition of each of these, it’s much easier to continue to develop and implement these strategies needed for improved results. Have you ever thought about what your mind is? What about your brain? And how are they different?

Dr. Dan Siegel, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and the founding co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA, (who I’m so excited to share will be coming on the podcast later next month) has spent a considerable amount of time defining the mind.[i] He was shocked when he first started to study the mind and began surveying mental health professionals around the world who should know about the mind that “95% of them had never even been given a lecture on the mind, and probably couldn’t even tell you what the definition of the mind was”[ii] so he wondered how can we expect  to develop it, without this understanding? He explores the concept of the mind in his book, Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation[iii] where he proves that you can define what a healthy mind is, not just describe it. His book allows that Mindsight “is the potent skill that is the basis for both emotional and social intelligence.”[iv] He explains that psychology means the study of the mind and behavior and elaborates that “when a parent senses the inner mental life of their child, (their mind) their child does really well in life. This ability to see the mind actually changes the structure of their brain. It’s called neural integration.”[v] Siegel further explains that when we can adopt this practice of “seeing the inner-life” or the minds of our students, children, friends or family members, it makes a considerable difference in the results and well-being that they achieve. Even developing our own practice of being more mindfully present of our own inner mind can “change the ends of the chromosomes in your cells”[vi] proving that what you do with your mind, makes a difference for the health of your body and your relationships.

Dan Siegel explains that a neuroscientist would define the mind “as the activity of the brain”[vii] but he could not settle on this definition as a therapist since this would mean our brain would control everything that we do. He came up with a definition in the mid-1990s that made the most sense  to him and his colleagues and it was that the mind “is an embodied and relational process—since it’s in the body and it’s in our relationships with one another—that regulates the flow of energy and information.”[viii]  This definition really got me thinking. I probably listened to it for a good week.

It got me thinking about the flow of energy and information and how it comes into our body through our senses, and what we do with this information to cause the results in our life. One of my first mentors studied the mind intensively and came up with a picture diagram that he called the stickperson[ix] that originated from the work of the late Dr. Thurman Fleet from San Antonio, Texas, who was the founder of Concept Therapy. Dr. Fleet’s diagram of the mind included the conscious mind that included how we perceive the outside world with our five senses, our (sight, touch, taste, hearing and smell) which is how we take in information from the outside world, along with the six higher faculties of our mind, our (perception, reasoning, will, memory, imagination and intuition) that give us a deeper perspective of the information we receive. The diagram also shows the sub-conscious (or non-conscious mind as it is more commonly called today) where information comes in automatically, and the fact that what we think about with our mind, shows up with our thoughts, feelings and actions, and causes the results in our life as our conditions, circumstances and environment change based on the actions that we take.[x]  Dr. Fleet’s diagram shows how important it is that we understand how our mind operates in order to reach our highest levels of potential.

In our last interview with the Founding Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and author of the book Permission to Feel,[xi] Marc Brackett reminded us that “people don’t lose their jobs because of a lack of ability in the cognitive areas, it’s usually because of social skills—someone who just doesn’t fit into the organization for some reason, or who can’t seem to get along with the team.”[xii]  Developing these social skills of the mind is what we all want. These are the universal skills that we want for ourselves and for others and it’s interesting that it’s taken so long for our schools to put an emphasis on developing the minds of our next generation of students.

The benefits of learning these skills does take time to be seen, but the research is evident.  Casel (the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning) has clear research that proves that implementing these SEL skills will improve students’ academic abilities. Casel’s meta-analysis of 213 studies involving 270,000+ students showed that “SEL interventions that address CASEL’s five core competencies (that we have covered in our social and emotional track) increased students’ academic performance by 11 percentile points, compared to students who did not participate in such SEL programs. Students also showed improved classroom behavior, an increased ability to manage stress and depression, and better attitudes about themselves, others, and school.[xiii]   

The research also showed that we as parents, educators, coaches and counselors must first of all practice these concepts ourselves, before we teach others because if we haven’t developed a practice ourselves, our students will pick up on the lack of authenticity and won’t take the concept seriously either.

Marc Brackett also shared with us that the social and emotional competencies were harder to learn and implement than the cognitive strategies. He reminded us in episode 22 that “we can’t be sure that once we have learned a strategy (for example like one for improving our mindset) that we will then be able to implement that strategy while under stress whereas memorization of our times tables, a cognitive skill, is much easier to learn, use and remember.”[xiv] It’s a lifelong commitment to understanding ourselves, our emotions and continuing to apply the strategies to regulate us. We should refer back to the strategies in the social and emotional lessons to be sure that we are continuing to “sharpen the saw”[xv] and implementing these ideas for continual improved results. 

Once we have a solid practice for developing our social and emotional mindset, (understanding ourselves and our emotions) it makes sense to move onto the cognitive strategies which are the processes of thinking and include the ability to focus and pay attention, set goals, plan and organize, persevere and problem solve.[xvi] 

If cognition is the realm of thinking, then metacognition involves thinking about our thinking, reflecting on your own thinking process and the ability to monitor and manage your learning. This is where we must begin to create a plan to improve what we would like to learn.  It is possible to learn anything with the right study habits, the ability to practice and refine the skills needed, with a positive growth mindset, we can create those “Aha Moments” of learning that come when we persist through something we are working on.

What Slows Down Our Learning?

Stress and anxiety make it difficult for learning to occur. When you feel threatened or anxious, the brain releases chemicals like adrenaline and cortisol. These chemicals quickly alter the way that you think, feel and behave and shut down the oldest part of the brain that are designed to keep us safe when we feel stress. It’s smart to learn quick and simple relaxation strategies that you can use immediately when you feel stressed or anxious. Taking some deep, long breaths can fuel your brain for focused attention and learning and prevent your emotions from taking control. If you are looking for a longer term solution, research does show that those who consistently practice mindfulness and mediation strategies, decrease the size of the amygdala, (the part of the brain that highjacks our emotions) and improves our ability to handle stressful situations so that we possess more equanimity, a mental calmness, composure and evenness of temper, especially during difficult situations.

What Strengthens Our Brain and Cognition?

When you are curious and interested, you will be ready to put in the effort needed to work hard and concentrate on new information. You must also be happy and relaxed in order to consolidate this new information. In his book Words Can Change Your Brain[xvii], Mark Robert Waldman outlines his brain-scan research suggesting that “the strategies incorporated in mindfulness could strengthen the neural circuits associated with empathy, compassion and moral decision making .”[xviii] This demonstrates just how powerful it can be to stop and think . Incorporating mindfulness into your daily routine can enable you to be more observant, creative, and ready to see the opportunity within your daily obstacles and challenges.

Here are Three Tips to Strengthen Your Brain and Cognition That You Can Implement Immediately:

  1. Take brief relaxation breaks to maintain focus and improve your ability to problem solve. We must find a way to relax our brain and body. It’s during these “resting states” that remarkable activity takes place, allowing the brain to creatively solve problems. Dr. Srini Pillay, an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, wrote a book about the importance of this resting period in his book, Tinker, Dabble, Doodle, Try: Unlock the Power of the Unfocused Mind.[xix] In this book Pillay explains that too much focus depletes your brain of glucose and depletes you. Be mindful of ways to eliminate decision fatigue and allow those times for your mind to become unfocused. He shared that Einstein discovered his Theory of Relativity by using his intuition, and then used logic to explain it. Unfocused time can take you to places and insights where focus cannot.
  2. Improve the circuits of your brain by learning to look within for answers. In his book, “Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation” Dr . Siegel shares that teachers introduced to “mindsight or the ability to focus on the inner life of their student or child” teach with the brain in mind and are reaching students in deeper and more lasting ways .”[xx] The research shows that developing the ability to make sense of your own life and past experiences, translates into the development of your students and children. Dr. Siegel is an expert on Attachment Research and discusses the fact that having Mindsight ourselves, will help develop securely attached children who will learn resilience.
  3. Create a plan for persistence. If your first plan does not succeed, what will you try next. Map out strategies for your plan b and be ready to pivot or try something new if the first plan fails. Those who fail, often attribute their failure to lack of inspiration, ability, talent or lack of time, but most often it’s due to insufficient application of strategies towards a goal and lack of persistence.

 

I hope you have found these tips and further study of the mind vs the brain to be helpful as we move into the cognitive track and dive deeper into how we can use our brain to facilitate and improve our ability to learn and create lasting results. I’m excited to speak with Dr. Siegel the start of November. His work has inspired a lot of my early research into the brain and there’s no one like him who can explain such complex concepts in a way that anyone can understand them.  I look forward to bringing in new experts to inspire new ways of thinking around the power and purpose of our brain in our cognitive track.  See you next time. 

RESOURCES:

Integrating Social, Emotional and Academic Development (SEAD) March 2019 The Aspen Institute https://www.aspeninstitute.org/publications/integrating-social-emotional-and-academic-development-sead-an-action-guide-for-school-leadership-teams/

“How to Reach the Aha Moment of Learning” Diagram adapted by Andrea Samadi with permission https://www.dropbox.com/s/lktxwm2u130vllr/18-Metacognition.jpg?dl=0

REFERENCES:

[i] Dr. Dan Siegel Defines The Mind Published Feb. 11, 2010 on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MEdq04xbHAs

[ii] TEDx Sunset Park Dr. Dan Siegel “What is the Mind?” YouTube Published July 4, 2012 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ak5GCyBFY4E

[iii] Mindsight: The New Science of Transformation Dr. Dan Siegel https://www.drdansiegel.com/about/mindsight/

[iv] Mindsight: The New Science of Transformation Dr. Dan Siegel https://www.drdansiegel.com/about/mindsight/

[v] TEDx Sunset Park Dr. Dan Siegel “What is the Mind?” YouTube Published July 4, 2012 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ak5GCyBFY4E

[vi] TEDx Sunset Park Dr. Dan Siegel “What is the Mind?” YouTube Published July 4, 2012 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ak5GCyBFY4E

[vii] Dr. Dan Siegel Defines The Mind Published Feb. 11, 2010 on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MEdq04xbHAs

[viii] Dr. Dan Siegel Defines The Mind Published Feb. 11, 2010 on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MEdq04xbHAs

[ix] How Your Mind Works Proctor Gallagher Institute, idea originally from Dr. Thurman Fleet  https://www.proctorgallagherinstitute.com/25593/how-your-mind-works

[x] How Your Mind Works Proctor Gallagher Institute, idea originally from Dr. Thurman Fleet  https://www.proctorgallagherinstitute.com/25593/how-your-mind-works

[xi] Marc Brackett “Permission to Feel” https://www.marcbrackett.com/

[xii] Marc Brackett on the Importance of Emotional Intelligence https://www.pbs.org/wnet/amanpour-and-company/video/marc-brackett-on-the-importance-of-emotional-intelligence/

[xiii] The Impact of SEL https://casel.org/impact/

[xiv] EPISODE #22 Interview with Marc Brackett, Founding Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/founding-director-yale-center-for-emotional-intelligence/id1469683141?i=1000450933434

[xv] Sharpen the Saw 7th Habit of Highly Effective People Stephen Covey https://www.franklincovey.com/the-7-habits/habit-7.html

[xvi] Integrating Social, Emotional and Academic Development (SEAD) March 2019 The Aspen Institute https://www.aspeninstitute.org/publications/integrating-social-emotional-and-academic-development-sead-an-action-guide-for-school-leadership-teams/

[xvii] Andrew Newburg M .D . and Mark Robert Waldman, “Words Can Change Your Brain,” (The Penguin Group, New York, New York) Page 12

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0074VTHMA/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

[xviii] Andrew Newburg M .D . and Mark Robert Waldman, “Words Can Change Your Brain,” (The Penguin Group, New York, New York) Page 12

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0074VTHMA/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

[xix] Dr. Srini Pillay Tinker, Dabble, Doodle, Try: Unlok the Power of the Unfocused Mind https://www.amazon.com/Tinker-Dabble-Doodle-Try-Unfocused-ebook/dp/B01JWDZ7SK/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=pillay+tinker&qid=1570042219&s=digital-text&sr=1-1

[xx] Dan Siegel, Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation, (New York: Bantam, 2010) Kindle Edition Location 133 https://www.amazon.com/Mindsight-New-Science-Personal-Transformation-ebook/dp/B002XHNONS/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=mindsight&qid=1570042869&s=digital-text&sr=1-1

 

Founding Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence on his new book “Permission to Feel”

Founding Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence on his new book “Permission to Feel”

September 23, 2019

Watch this interview on YouTube here.

Marc Brackett, Ph.D., [i]is the Founder and Director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence [ii]and a Professor in the Child Study Center of Yale University. He is the lead developer of the RULER approach,[iii] (the 5 skills of emotional intelligence). RULER is an evidence-based approach to social and emotional learning that has been adopted by nearly 2,000 pre-K through high schools across the United States and in other countries and the approach is seeing huge success.[iv] He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (known as CASEL)[v]. Marc’s new book, Permission to Feel (Celadon/Macmillan) inspires a new mindset around the power of emotions to transform our lives. Instead of the idea that our “emotions get in the way of our success, they are actually the key to it.”[vi] Using science, passion, and lively storytelling, this book serves as a guide for understanding our own and others’ emotions, as well as provides innovative strategies for developing emotional intelligence in adults and children so that emotions help, rather than hinder, our success and well-being. I haven’t been able to put his book down because it captivated me! 

Welcome Marc!

Q1: I am thrilled, excited, motivated, and inspired to be speaking with you—all of those yellow (high energy and pleasant feelings) on your Mood Meter Chart—that tool you developed to help people become aware of their feelings—that’s in the first few pages of your book. I actually watched your Talk at Google[vii] and learned so much—before I had started to read “Permission to Feel” I thought I would introduce this concept of “how do you feel” to my girls (ages 10 and 8) and that it would be just like how we added Growth Mindset into our homework slot. But I had an eye-opening situation that showed me we are not as emotionally literate as I had thought in my household. Can I tell you the story of what happened to get your point of view on the situation? So, a couple of weekends ago we went to see the movie, Lion King, and my two girls were the only kids in the theatre bawling their eyes out when Musafa, the Dad, dies. I thought, let me see if I can give them “Permission to Feel” and implement Marc’s book —so I say, “Why are you crying?” expecting they would say “because the Dad died and I don’t want my Dad to die” and we would start a conversation about that but my oldest just grunted and pushed me away, and the youngest was crying too hard to say anything at all. I realized that we could be doing a better job with talking about emotions in our home. Marc, what happens when we deny the “Permission to Feel” and where would you suggest anyone begin when implementing your RULER approach, whether we are a parent, teacher or employee in the workplace?

Q2: Now that I know this approach—and know that knowledge and application are poles apart, can you explain what are the biggest things we should avoid, and what should we watch for to be sure we are properly implementing the RULER approach?  

Q3: When I first opened your book “Permission to Feel” and saw the Mood Meter Chart I went straight to where I hang out most of the time. (Upbeat, cheerful, lively, focused, and joyful) that’s me—but to get here—takes daily work (meditation and exercise) that has taken some time to figure out what I must do to be my best self. Then I thought about some other people in my world working in high stress careers who hang out in stressed, anxious, frustrated, and worried with different work responsibilities and priorities. What are some strategies you suggest helping people who might be hanging out in the red quadrant who are pressed for time to create this work/life balance?

Q4: Can you give a quick background for why this book is so important and timely with such a rise in mental health issues these days? We all know the shocking statistics for our nation’s youth with the current suicide epidemic, and depression and anxiety being common in kids at young ages these days. How did we arrive at this place where we still struggle to talk about how we feel—how even the most educated in this field could use some help, especially with the first 3 strategies of recognizing, understanding and labelling our own and other people’s emotions?

Q5: Self-regulation is always the most requested topic I hear when I’m working with a school. I heard you mention how important this skill is even for those in the workplace. In one of your most recent interviews, you mentioned that “people don’t lose their jobs because of their abilities in the cognitive areas, it’s usually because of their inability to regulate.”[viii] What does the research tell us about the parts of our life that emotions drive so we can improve these life skills and increase our performance? How can we learn the language and strategies to better manage our emotions?

Q6: What is your vision for “Permission to Feel” and the work you are doing with the Yale Center of Emotional Intelligence and anything important that you would like to add that we might have missed?

Thank you so much Marc for writing this book the way that you did, sharing your true self, to show the importance of feeling the emotions in our lives, so that we can truly reach those higher levels of achievement. If anyone wants to reach you, what is the best way? To buy the book you can go to http://www.marcbrackett.com/  I also saw that you are starting a new blog to help people to become emotion scientists. Where can we find more about this? I will be sure to follow the blog and keep you posted on our results as we implement the RULER approach in our home. Thank you Marc!

[i] https://www.marcbrackett.com/

[ii] http://ei.yale.edu/

[iii] https://www.rulerapproach.org/

[iv] https://www.gettingsmart.com/2019/09/permission-to-feel-the-link-between-emotional-intelligence-and-academic-success/

[v] https://casel.org/

[vi] https://www.gettingsmart.com/2019/09/permission-to-feel-the-link-between-emotional-intelligence-and-academic-success/

[vii] Marc Brackett Emotional Intelligence as a Superpower Published July 31, 2017 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JcFefehMpZ0

[viii] https://www.pbs.org/wnet/amanpour-and-company/video/marc-brackett-on-the-importance-of-emotional-intelligence/