Welcome back to the Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast episode #106. This episode is a deep dive into Dr. Carolyn Leaf's NEW book that is coming out March 2, 2021 and App "Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess." Stay tuned for the interview that will be released on March 1, 2021.
My name is Andrea Samadi, and if you are new here, I’m a former educator who created this podcast to bring the most current neuroscience research, along with high performing experts who have risen to the top of their field, with specific strategies or ideas that you can implement immediately, whether you are an educator, or in the corporate space, to take your results to the next level. If we want to improve our social, emotional and cognitive abilities, it all starts with an understanding of our brain.
This week we are going to take a deep dive into the work of Dr. Carolyn Leaf[i], as we did record a bonus interview with her this week, but this episode will be released on March 1st, one day before the release of her new book, Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess: 5 Simple, Scientifically Proven Steps to Reduce Anxiety, Stress and Toxic Thinking.[ii]
This book is timely and important, backed by clinical research and illustrated with compelling case studies, where Dr. Leaf provides a scientifically proven five-step plan to find and eliminate the root of anxiety, depression, and intrusive thoughts in your life so you can experience dramatically improved mental and physical health. This 5 step plan will build a healthy new and automated neural network in 63 days, the length of time to properly build a new habit.
Dr. Leaf told me “I truly believe that mental mess is something we all experience often and that it isn’t something we should be ashamed of. She mentions that “this is my profession, and I still have to clean up my mind daily. The events and circumstances of life aren’t going anywhere; people make a lot of decisions every day that affect us all, suffering of some sort for you and your loved ones is inevitable. That said, I wholeheartedly believe that although the events and circumstances can’t be controlled, we can control our reactions to these events and circumstances. This is mind-management in action!” Which to me is exactly what self-regulation is all about.
Dr. Leaf leverages the strategies she has developed working with patients over the last 38 years (which to me is shocking since she doesn’t look a day over 35, but she was doing research in the 1980s that complements the work that Dr. Daniel Amen was doing back then) and she’s taken her years of research to teach her readers how to foster and cultivate the power of their own thinking and direct their own brain changes. Mind-management, when done correctly, helps facilitate talk between the conscious, the subconscious, and the nonconscious mind. This, in turn, gets brainwaves flowing in a healthy way, optimizing brain function. This is done by implementing the Neurocycle, a simple, clinically researched mind-management tool for personal use to address anxiety, depression, toxic thinking, inability to concentrate, irritability, exhaustion and burnout before they take over your mind.
Last week I was speaking with my good friend Nancy, who asked me what book I was currently reading, and I shared with her that I was reading Dr. Leaf’s book to prepare for her interview, and that her book was coming out on March 2nd so it wasn’t out just yet. My friend went over to Amazon, read the title description, and told me “I need this book NOW” so I decided to release a deep dive into Dr. Leaf’s work so we can all prepare for the release of this important book, become familiar with her research and get a head start at Cleaning Up our Mental Mess.
I’ll share the back story to how I came across Dr. Leaf’s work when I release her bonus episode next month, but I will share that I don’t believe in accidents, or that things happen by chance or luck. I believe that we are all faced with multiple opportunities to learn and grow, that we can easily miss it if we are not aware. I first heard Dr. Leaf speak on Dr. Daniel and Tana Amen’s Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast where she shares the story of her work and research that began 38 years ago in her home country, South Africa. Most of her work in her early days was focused on the mind-brain connection, the nature of mental health and the formation of memory. During her early years in clinical practice, she worked with thousands of underprivileged teachers and students in South Africa, and the US, where she developed a theory of how we think, build memory and learn, helping to transform the lives of thousands of individuals with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Learning Disabilities (ADD, ADHD) autism, dementia and mental ill-health issues like anxiety and depression. She has helped thousands of students and adults learn how to detox and grown their brain to succeed in all areas of their lives, including school, university and the workplace.
To get our brains thinking, over the next month, I ask that you if you haven’t learned about Dr. Leaf, that you begin taking a look at her work, and start to implement her 5-step process to clean up you mental mess. I have just started this process and have downloaded her SWITCH app[iii] where you can begin to unpack your own worries in a simple 5 step process, where Dr. Leaf guides you through each step. I grabbed a journal for this process to keep my notes in one place.
I started with a 21-day program:
STEP 1: Gather Awareness (of what’s bothering you). We’ve all heard of the importance of knowing our emotions, or when we name what’s bothering us, we can tame it[iv]. What about those worries that we name, and they don’t go away? I’ve had the same worry on my mind since 2016. Each year I write it out, acknowledge it’s there, and work on strategies for solving it, but it’s now 2021 and this particular worry has not budged. It’s even getting worse as the years go on! I’m only on day 3 of using this app, but can already see how this process is more helpful than anything else I have ever tried in the past to eliminate fears and worries. With this case, acknowledging this fear, knowing what it is, and moving forward despite it being there, hasn’t helped me. It’s always there is the back of my mind. I’m sure you will know what I mean if there’s something that you’ve been worrying about.
STEP 2: Reflect and Analyze: Answer, Ask and Discuss Some Questions to Find the Root Cause of Your Emotions or What’s Bothering You.
This is how we pull thoughts from our non-conscious mind to our conscious mind, where it becomes weaker. It’s no longer suppressed but acknowledged. Use your mind to ask yourself questions, and it will be interesting to see what comes up. This process takes time, reflection and daily effort. Our emotions are unique signals to learn how to cope with challenges, but over time, they will damage our brain with consistent worry.
STEP 3: Write out what you discover from step 2. Begin to capture what’s bothering you and see if you can come up with root causes, or why you think this worry is on your mind. Learn to write in pictures, add color, shapes. Learn how to write in a metacog formula.[v]
STEP 4: Recheck and Edit What You Have Written Down. Re-read what you have written and see what comes up. Can you add more to your answer to help make more sense of it? Dig deeper, look for patterns, triggers and keep looking for the root cause of the problem.
STEP 5: Practice and Apply Through Active Reach. Look at what you have written and see if you can come up with an action statement to practice what you have learned from your introspection. You will read out your daily Aha Moment 7x a day to remind yourself what you are re-shaping.
Example: I am worrying about xyz because I am afraid of xyz…but this hasn’t happened, and most likely will not happen, so this worry is wasting my time. If it happens one day, I will deal with this problem then, but not wasting the mental energy worrying about something that I cannot control. I can control my reaction to my worry.
Already, after just 3 days of working with my top worry in the SWITCH app (that will have a name change soon to match the book) I can see how this 5-step process is taking me closer to solving something I have been worrying about for years. I started by writing out all the things I was worrying about, and these days there’s a lot of them. Dr. Leaf says that your worries are like branches on a tree, with emotions attached to them, and that these worries can kill you. We go into detail on the damage that our worries can do to our brain, life and results in our interview. So in my journal, I wrote out my worries like branches on a tree, and the trunk she says is the perspective of the thought. I begin to look at my worries from a different angle or perspective. Right here you should notice a shift in energy about the problem. I started to see mine differently here looking at it from a distance. Then the roots of the tree are the origin story, or root of why I am worrying about this problem, which is what we want to uncover. This activity will give you an incredible amount of self-awareness.
If you have something like this on your mind, I highly suggest taking the time to upload the app on your phone, grab a journal and begin the work to eliminate and clean up your mental mess.
Next, to prepare for the release of Dr. Leaf’s book, and learn more, I suggest:
Listen to Dr. Leaf on Dr. Amen and Tana Amen’s Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast[vi] to learn more about her work, research and beginning story.
How the 5 steps can help reduce anxiety and depression by up to 81% according to clinical studies
Why mind-management is the solution to cleaning up your mental mess
How the science can help us transition from being aware of toxic thoughts, to catching and managing them in their early stages
How our thoughts physically affect ourselves and others
How to capitalize on directed neuroplasticity using the Neurocycle
To apply mind-management to unwire toxic habits and trauma
How to leverage the lessons in the book for their daily lifestyle, including connection, brain-building, sleep, diet, exercise, people-pleasing, toxic perfectionism, overthinking, toxic emails and texts
Why mindfulness is not enough and how strategic mind-management through the 5 steps can take a reader beyond mindfulness
I hope you have found this overview of Dr. Leaf’s work helpful as a starting point. Her interview will be released on March 2nd and you will have access to the book and can keep working on a deeper level, but at least you will have had a head start.
Have a wonderful weekend and see you next week!
REMEMBER: The interview with Dr. Leaf will be released on March 1st, 2021.