Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning

World renowned Neuroscientist Dr. Caroline Leaf on “Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess: 5 Simple, Scientifically Proven Steps to Reduce Anxiety and Toxic Thinking.”

February 28, 2021

Today we have a special BONUS episode on the Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast with a very insightful backstory for how we came to meet our next guest. But first,  if you are new here, my name is Andrea Samadi, and 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. 

You can watch this interview on YouTube here. 


I first heard our next guest on Dr. Daniel and Tana Amen’s Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast[i] right at the start of the Pandemic last May 2020 where I learned about a “Step 5 Process to Managing Trauma.” At the time of this interview, many people around me were just beginning to feel the stressors and pressure that this global pandemic was having on the world, and I began to pay attention to what this speaker was saying. I usually listen to my podcasts early morning and takes notes on my phone, and I began quickly writing what I was learning on this podcast.

This speaker caught my attention because she mentioned that she had spent 25 years in the in South Africa in the worst areas—working with local schools, and community centers where she would teach them about their brain and their mind, and her work had such an incredible impact on those around her, they would fill these rooms, with standing room only. I know what it takes to fill a room, coming from my work in the speaking industry, working closely with Bob Proctor Seminars, so I knew she had to be doing something outstanding to draw this much interest. This podcast episode ended and I went back to my usual work life and interviewing new speakers. At that time, I was referred to a publisher and was working with many of authors connected to this polisher (Corwin Press), and my interview schedule filled up through the summer, and I wasn’t looking for new guests, I was just trying to keep up with the demand to interview the ones I had in cue.

Then I had an email from one of my LinkedIn contacts, John Prucha[ii], from Atlanta, GA, who I heard from occasionally as he was enjoying the podcast episodes and often would send me his thoughts and feedback. One day he sent me a private message asking if I had considered reaching out to Dr. Carolyn Leaf[iii] for the podcast. At the time he sent me the message, I was swamped with the line-up of guests, but I do take all referrals seriously, and wrote down Dr. Leaf’s name on my desk.  And went back to work as usual.

A couple of weeks later I was working on a Character Book that I am creating, and this time, I am doing the interior design of the book, instead of sending it to a publisher, and I was looking for some headings to go along with the lessons I was creating. For each Character Trait, like Attentiveness, I have created ways to learn this attribute, and had the heading THINK (with some tips on what to think about before studying how to become more attentive), LEARN (the actual lesson on attentiveness), TAKE ACTION (with an activity to implement attentiveness into your daily life) and I was searching for the last heading. What happens to people after they learn a new skill? When I don’t know the answer to something, I usually type it into Google and see what comes up. I typed in THINK, LEARN, and the FIRST thing to come up was a book called Think, Learn, Succeed: Understanding and Using Your Mind to Thrive at School, the Workplace and Life[iv] by Dr. Caroline Leaf!  If you had been in my office, you would have seen me glance at the note on my desk as my brain processed, “Hey, wasn’t that the same person who John Prucha from LinkedIn asked me to contact?” Then I typed Dr. Leaf’s name into my notes, and there she was, on the Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast, so I put down what I was doing, and emailed her offices to request her as a guest on the podcast. I don’t believe in accidents, or that things happen by chance or luck. I believe that when there is an opportunity that we can easily miss it if we are not aware. I really should have reached out to Dr. Leaf the minute I knew of her background with education and the brain, which is the whole entire theme of this podcast, for those who have been following us.  I did hear back from her offices, from someone named Jessica, who let me know that Dr. Leaf was currently swamped, but for me to reach back to her in January. Of course I put a note up on my calendar on my wall to contact Dr. Leaf then, and circled it so I wouldn’t forget.

And went on with my work and life, until I was contacted by Podbean, who hosts this podcast, to see if I could be interested in moderating an event that was coming up in November of 2020, called Wellness Week. I wrote back that I would love to do this and asked to learn more about the session I would be moderating. I received an email back that I would be running the session about Neuroscience, Mental Health and Coaching with John Kim, and….Dr. Caroline Leaf!

Of course I did a deep dive into Dr. Leaf’s work prior to that session, and loved every minute of speaking with her, learning more, taking more notes, and knowing that it would be so much fun to one day interview her face to face on The Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast.

And today is that day.

World-renowned neuroscientist and best-selling author Dr. Caroline Leaf, is a communication pathologist and cognitive neuroscientist with a Masters and PhD in Communication Pathology and a BSc Logopaedics, specializing in cognitive and metacognitive neuropsychology. Since the early 1980s she has researched the mind-brain connection, the nature of mental health, and the formation of memory. She was one of the first in her field to study how the brain can change (neuroplasticity) with directed mind input. 

During her years in clinical practice and her work with thousands of underprivileged teachers and students in her home country of South Africa and in the USA, she developed her theory (called the Geodesic Information Processing theory) of how we think, build memory, and learn, into tools and processes that have transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of individuals with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), learning disabilities (ADD, ADHD), autism, dementias and mental ill-health issues like anxiety and depression. She has helped hundreds of thousands of students and adults learn how to use their mind to detox and grow their brain to succeed in every area of their lives, including school, university, and the workplace.

Dr. Leaf is about to release her NEW book, Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess: 5 Simple Scientifically Proven Steps to Reduce Anxiety, Stress and Toxic Thinking (March 2, 2021) where the solution is offered in five action-oriented steps called the Neurocycle, where she shares practical application and strategies for readers. Backed by clinical research and illustrated with compelling case studies, Dr. Leaf provides a scientifically supported plan to find and eliminate the root of anxiety, depression, and intrusive thoughts in reader’s lives so they can build a healthy new and automated neural network in 63 days, the length of time to properly build a new habit.

“I truly believe that mental mess is something we all experience often,” writes Dr. Leaf, “and that it isn’t something we should be ashamed of. 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!”

Dr. Leaf leverages the strategies she has developed working with patients over the last 38 years to teach 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 and ameliorate such warning signals as anxiety, depression, toxic thinking, inability to concentrate, irritability, exhaustion and burnout before they take over someone’s mind.


  • What happens when we don’t use our minds properly
  • Mind-management and why we need it
  • 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

You can order your copy of Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess[v] starting March 2nd (and pre-order your copy if you are listening to this podcast on March 1st).

Welcome Dr. Leaf, it’s such a pleasure to meet you face to face after working with you during Podbean’s Wellness Week for our session back in November last year.


Dr. Leaf, before we get to the questions I have for you, I wanted to ask if you could give us a quick history of how you came to study the brain and how did you come to believe that if “we direct our mind, we can change our brain.” How did you set out to prove those 2 professors wrong who told you this concept was ridiculous?

My Thoughts: I first heard about the importance of studying the mind with Bob Proctor, who I worked for through his seminars for 6 years. I learned about the mind, the importance of positive thinking, and how we could change our conditions, circumstances, environment and results with the power of our thoughts. Schools/educators were not ready for this, so when I began working with schools, I had to change the word “mind” to “brain” to make what I was saying science based. Like you, I believe that with the right strategy, we can learn anything.

PART 1 of the BOOK “The Why and the How”

Q1: When we release this podcast episode, it will be the day before you NEW book, Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess: 5 Simple Scientifically Proven Steps to Reduce Anxiety, Stress and Toxic Thinking comes out. This book takes the research you have done over the past 38 years and teaches us exactly how we can make the most of our mind and brain, taking us to new heights. Can you explain what our mind is, and what happens to it if we don’t keep our thoughts clean? What is the interconnected mind? What’s the difference between the mind and  brain? Can we measure or see what “mind” is?

My Thoughts: On episode 23[vi], we take a close look at “Understanding the Difference Between the Mind and the Brain” with Dr. Daniel Siegel’s definition of the mind and brain. It’s a topic I’ve been interested in learning more about since learning of the importance of positive thinking from Bob Proctor in the late 1990s.  I know that our thoughts control our conditions, circumstances, environment and results. I just never had the science to prove it, other than one person I met, Dr. Joesph Guan (Clinical Director at the Brain Enhancement Center in Singapore) who studied with Dr. Bruce Lipton[vii] said he saw machines (called SQUID machines) that could measure a positive and/or negative thought and prove how negative thinking caused poor results.

Q2: I know I heard you mention on your podcast with Dr. Amen that if we are anxious while eating, that our pancreas will not secrete the peptides needed to digest our food, just like the importance of our thinking on our telomeres/aging. What happens when we don’t use our minds correctly and have doubts and worries occupying our mind, like most of us do on a daily basis?

Q3: Listeners of this podcast all know of the importance of self-regulation with regards to our results, but these days, we seem to get hit with something new every week that makes positive thinking really difficult. Can you explain what your research suggests to be the best way to manage our minds during stressful times?

PART 2 of the Book, The Practical Application of the Neurocycle

Q4: I heard you speaking about this concept of using your brain to change negative thinking a few times before I really understood it. I heard it first on the Brain Warrior Way Podcast, then again on Ed Mylett’s podcast, and you went into detail about this strategy during our session on Wellness Week and I was furiously writing notes to understand this concept.  I will link all of these episodes in the show notes for people to find, so you don’t have to go into detail, but can you explain the metaphor that you use of how our worries are like branches on  a tree, with the goal of identifying FIRST what we are worrying about, pick one worry to fix, get a new perspective of this worry, and then actually get to the root cause or origin of our worry to eliminate it?

My thoughts: I downloaded the SWITCH app after watching the Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast again and have just started to work on one thing I worry about.  After just one day, I am learning so much about why I think I worry about this one thing, and even just thinking/analyzing it, has helped. (Name it to tame it idea).

Q5: It seems that every day we have a new challenge to overcome and many of us our experiencing some sort of anxiety that can lead to depression which is completely normal.

How can we use neurocycling to build mental toughness, resiliency, or even emotional toughness to overcome how difficult times are these days?

Q6: How can we use these 5 steps to break bad habits and build good lifestyle habits?

Q7: How can we use these steps to detox from trauma or memories that we habitually play over in our minds—those Automatic Negative Thoughts?

Thank you very much Dr. Leaf for the years of research you have done in this field, for the books and resources you have created, and your Switch app where anyone can go and begin to immediately implement these ideas. For people who want to learn more about your work, is the best place 

If someone wants to purchase your book, out March 2nd 2021, I will put the links in the show notes. 

Also, you have an incredible podcast, Cleaning Up the Mental Mess[viii] where you go into detail on using the neurocycle in specific areas of your life (most recently for reclaiming the loss of self and your identity).

Other than the NEW book, your APP, website and podcast, have I missed anything that people should see?

Thank you!


Neuroscience Meets SEL Episode #106 with Andrea Samadi "Review of Dr. Leaf's Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess Book and App" 

What is Qeeg Brain Mapping


[i] The 5-Step Process to Managing Trauma with Dr. Caroline Leaf on The Brain Warrior’s Way Podcast Published on YouTube May 22, 2020

[ii] John Prucha, Graduate Student from Liberty University


[iv]Think, Learn, Succeed: Understanding and Using Your Mind to Thrive at School, the Workplace and Life by Dr. Caroline Leaf (August 7, 2018)

[v] Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess by Dr. Caroline Leaf (March 2, 2021)

[vi] Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Episode #14 “Understanding the Difference Between the Mind and the Brain”

[vii] Dr. Bruce Lipton

[viii] Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess Podcast with Dr. Leaf

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