Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning
The Science and Benefits Behind a Meditation Practice with Dr. Dan Siegel’s Wheel of Awareness.

The Science and Benefits Behind a Meditation Practice with Dr. Dan Siegel’s Wheel of Awareness.

May 13, 2020

This is episode #60 on The Science Behind a Meditation Practice with a Deep Dive into Dr. Dan Siegel’s Wheel of Awareness. 

Welcome to the Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning podcast, my name is Andrea Samadi, I’m a former educator whose been fascinated with understanding the science behind high performance strategies in schools, sports and the workplace and 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 a teacher in the classroom, a parent trying to figure out homeschooling and working from home,  or someone working in the corporate world, to take your results to the next level.  After watching Dr. Daniel Siegel the past few weeks on his “Pep Me Up Talks”[i]  where he shares with an audience around the world about his books, tools and resources like the “Wheel of Awareness Meditation”[ii] that I’ve been using every day since preparing for his interview last year, I thought it was important to cover a deep dive into this topic to bring in the science behind meditation, to increase belief and credibility behind these practices that are now commonly seen in our schools, homes and workplaces.  We did cover the topic of meditation for beginners with Mindfulness and Meditation Expert Mick Neustadt in episode #25 with “How Meditation and Mindfulness Changes Your Life”[iii] if you want to review that episode. 

I have been following Dr. Dan Siegel since 2015, reading his books, and learning from his resources, and on the interview I had with him for episode #28 on “Mindsight: The Basis for Social and Emotional Intelligence”[iv] (close to the end of the interview) we talk about what I have been learning from doing the meditation tool that he created. At the time—in October 2019, I had been doing his meditation every morning for 2 months. You can see this part of the interview here at (42:52)[v] where he asks me what I have learned from this practice, and although I downloaded this activity, and explored the Wheel in 2015, I didn’t start doing it daily until I was preparing for his interview, because I knew he would ask me what I had learned from this practice, and when I first tried it, and in the beginning, I honestly found it a bit advanced and confusing and didn’t want to tell him that so I put in some extra effort to understand it. If you have not yet tried “The Wheel of Awareness”[vi] Meditation, please do go to the link and download it, so you can see the image of the wheel, and try it out. This episode might make more sense once you do that and if you feel like I did in the beginning, don’t worry, it’s now been 8 months of practicing this daily and I’m just starting to figure out how to explain it now, so just try it and see what benefits you notice.


I wanted to share Dan’s findings of asking thousands of people around the world, over the years first.  If you have ever heard him talking about the Wheel of Awareness, you will know that the idea came to him when he bought a custom-made round table for his office so that his patients didn’t have to sit at a regular table. His mediation has evolved over the years as he has shared it with experts, and those who hold scientific evidence of the benefits of incorporating a daily meditation into your routine and life. If you are listening to this podcast, you will want to look at the image of the wheel in the show notes so you can physically see each of the segments I’m going to describe. In his book, Aware: The Science and Practice of Presence, Dr. Siegel explains that there are research-based elements of mind training that should include 3 pillars: focused attention, open awareness and kind intentions towards others.[vii] This practice involves all 3 of these pillars and profound changes happen with the body when you do mind training. He also explains that a 3-pillar meditation practice (like his Wheel) changes the structure and function of the brain in these fascinating ways:

  1. There’s an integration of structure and function of the brain (integration means well-being).
  2. There’s a reduction of the stress hormone cortisol.
  3. There’s an enhancement of immune function.
  4. Improvement in cardiovascular risk factors.
  5. Reduction in inflammation via epigenetic changes.
  6. An optimization of telomerase—which is fascinating as it repairs and maintains the ends of chromosomes and slows aging.

Who wouldn’t want these benefits? The science is clear and proves that implementing a daily meditation practice improves your physical and mental health with many more benefits we will explore further.


Here's How Dr. Dan Siegel Breaks Down Each Segment of The Wheel of Awareness


Segment 1: The 5 Senses: Dan explains that we must send the “spoke of awareness” which is just another way of saying to focus on one of the senses at a time, to each of the 5 senses of hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch. With each sense, we move the spoke, so we are actively thinking and feeling about the data we are bringing from the outside world into our awareness, with each sense.

Segment 2: The 6th Sense/Bodily Sensations/Neuroception/Interoception: With this part, Dan takes us from head to toe, giving us access to the wisdom from within our body. This part helps us to become more aware of our organs, bones and muscles, and are probably parts of our body that we have rarely ever put our focused attention towards.

Segment 3: The 7th Sense or our Mental Activities

I’ve divided this segment into 3 parts to make this easier to understand.

PART A: This is where Dan asks us to bring any thought or memory into our awareness and see what happens. He reassures us that many things may come, or nothing at all. For me, this segment took some time, and when a thought finally did come, I just used this part of the meditation to solve problems I might be having, to see what kinds of solutions I might be able to think of on my own.

PART B: Now Dan asks us to examine the thought that comes in and pay attention to how it presents itself. Was it sudden? Did it vibrate or slide in? And how does this thought leave our awareness? Is it replaced by another mental activity or thought, and if not, what does the space feel like? To me, this part was really deep, and I could think of a thought, and strong thoughts would vibrate, but I don’t think I’m advanced enough yet to describe this any further.

PART C: Now he asks us to bend the spoke in the hub and just rest in pure awareness. This is where we feel fully alive, present and focused. I never really understood why he was asking us to bend the spoke, until I heard him explain it another way recently.[viii] If you have access to the show notes, look at the 3-P Diagram of State of Mind and see the shaded area under the x axis with a new axis called the z-axis. This shaded area represents awareness and it made more sense to me imagining the bended spoke, to create this shaded area. This part of the meditation many people talk about a feeling of peace, calmness and energy. This is where Dan explains that physics comes in to explain that “energy is movement from possibility to actuality” (the definition he got from asking quantum physicists what exactly energy is).  So, when we are in this part of the meditation, we can gain access to energy, peace, calmness, ideas and possibility.  This is what I have heard many people say is the reason why they meditate in the first place.

Segment 4: Our sense of connection to others. This is the final segment of the meditation where Dan asks us to focus on those who are physically close to us, friends or family, those in our community, city, state, country and around the world. This part of the practice allows us to feel a connection to others as we sent wishes of well-being towards other people in the world. This part is powerful as it really does help us to focus outside of ourselves and put some energy towards others. It’s just like sending prayers to everyone in the world you can think of.

I had some thoughts about this practice, specifically with the first segment where we strengthen our five senses. It made me think of the work I learned in the late 1990s through the speaker Bob Proctor, who taught me to live beyond my 5 senses, using the Higher Faculties of the Mind which are the will, intuition, reason, perception, memory and our imagination. This would be an episode on its own, but as we are strengthening parts of our mind, I think it’s important to include these higher faculties.

Andrea's Findings From the Wheel of Awareness Meditation

So, here’s what I learned after just 2 months of actively listening to this 30-minute meditation. I’m going on 8 months now of doing this practice daily, and the findings are more noticeable now than when he first asked me and I’m sure that another year from now, I will have a deeper understanding. I noticed:

  1. An Increase of Focused Attention with the 5 Senses: and that my awareness expanded with an increase in focused attention (which really helped to focus while working from home). Where your focus goes, energy flows, and what we are putting our attention on, grows, so you can imagine that doing this every day will increase awareness, and sensations within our 5 senses of hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch.
  2. An Increase of Awareness and Sensations Within the Body: I noticed with the focus on bodily sensations that I was developing or improving this 6th sense that I’ve mentioned in prior episodes that Dr. Stephen Porges calls “neuroception”[ix] where he suggests we must get better at sensing what’s happening within the body. When you get to this part of the meditation, Dan takes you through each body part, (starting with the face and going throughout the entire body) and it reminded me of an activity that my Mom told me she did that she believes helped her to beat Uterine Cancer in the late 1990s. She told me that during her treatment, she would go through each body part with her mind and pretend to chop up each cancer cell she saw with an axe--it sounds crazy, but she did this daily during her chemotherapy treatments and she was the only one in her group who recovered 100%. Her surgeons were so amazed at her results that they asked her to come in and speak to other patients while they were going through treatment with an explanation of what she did. As you focus on each part of the body, (just like we focused on our senses) you’ll notice with time that your awareness of the sensations you feel within your body, will increase as well, there will be insights that you can learn from these sensations like your “gut feelings” become clearer and easier to read.
  3. An Increase in Connection to People Around the World: With this part of the meditation, Dan asks you to send kind intentions to those close to you, and other people in your community, city, state, country, continent, and world. I noticed an immediate connection to others all around the world when I was thinking of them, and it had to be sincere, sending thoughts of kindness and well-being towards them. The attention was taken off me and what I want in this world, and directed towards other people, which really is a powerful experience. It made me see that even though I’m working alone, in an office, in Arizona, USA, that I am a part of a larger whole around the world and Dan believes that these words when said out loud, can make an impact on our body and the world.


There is much more that we can say on this topic, and I know that with time, practice and as my own awareness increases, I will have a deeper understanding the 4 segments of the Wheel of Awareness.

I would love to know what you think. What insights do you see at each segment?

I look forward to your thoughts and will see you on episode 61.


[i] Dr. Dan Seigel “Pep Me Up Talks”




[iii] Neuroscience Meets SEL Podcast #25 with Mindfulness and Meditation Expert Mick Neustadt on “How Meditation and Mindfulness Changes Your Life”


[iv] Neuroscience Meets SEL Podcast #28 with Dr. Daniel Siegel on “Mindsight: The Basis for Social and Emotional Intelligence”


[v] YouTube interview of Andrea Samadi with Dr. Dan Siegel on The Wheel of Awareness Meditation Findings (42:52)



[vii] Aware: The Science and Practice of Presence by Daniel J Siegel, MD Published August 21, 2018 Tarcher Perigee


[viii] Dr. Dan Seigel “Pep Me Up Talks”


[ix] Neuroscience Meets SEL Podcast EPISODE #59 with Suzanne Gundersen on “Putting The Polyvagal Theory into Practice”


Suzanne Gundersen on “Putting The Polyvagal Theory into Practice”

Suzanne Gundersen on “Putting The Polyvagal Theory into Practice”

May 6, 2020

This is episode #59 with Suzanne Gundersen. You can watch the interview with graphics here on YouTube. 

Thanks for tuning into the podcast today! I’m always excited about the guests we bring on here, as each person has achieved high levels of success in their field and I know they can help others by sharing their knowledge. Our next guest is an expert in a topic that has been on my reading list the past year. When I was speaking with Suzanne Gundersen and she mentioned her life’s work has been based on putting Dr. Stephen Porges’[i], Polyvagal Theory into practice, I stopped what I was doing and asked if she could tell me more about this.  

For the past year, I’ve been watching trainings from Deb Dana[ii] (whose mentor was Dr. Porges) and just bought her book The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy[iii] and had written down that I wanted to interview an expert on the Polyvagal Theory. Plus, I have heard Dr. Lori Desautels mention Dr. Porges’ work the past year, and so  I wasn’t surprised when an expert showed up. If you are new this work, like me, you would know why I would be looking for an expert to explain this theory. Someone who could in simple terms explain what we must all understand about our Central Nervous System when it comes to managing our stress response. These days this understanding is more important than ever before and this is exactly what Suzanne does with two tracks, first is stress education (the science of stress) and secondly, she speaks about nervous system with regulation techniques.

Welcome Suzanne, thank you so much for coming on the podcast today to share your knowledge, and programs on such an important topic. Like we spoke about, there are many layers to this theory, and at first glance of all the notes I have taken on it, I still can’t explain it very well. Thanks for helping us break down this theory so we can think about how it can apply for our teachers in the classroom, for us as parents working from home, as well as for those who want to apply this idea in the workplace.

Q1: What is “Polyvagal?" and why is this theory so important for us to understand these days?  Answer is that it's the science of safety and connection, a map for living our most modern survival strategy, social engagement.  Porges theory shows how our evolution has delivered us to human form where our unique communication abilities offers us possibilities for secure and deeply meaningful connections to survive and thrive. 

Q2: I actually have 2 version of the polyvagal chart (one you sent to me) and what we must know to remap our nervous system as dysregulation occurs. I got the first chart from Dr. Lori Desautels last October when I attended one of her live trainings. Can you give an overview of the Polyvagal chart and what’s happening at each level with the Ventral Vegal (safety), Sympathetic (danger) and Dorsal Vegal (Life Threat) stages so we can recognize these stages in ourselves and others? 

Crash course on neuroscience three branches most modern VV, then SNS, then PNS, and in order to understand it we have to go way back to when we were fish, strategy to freeze, then amphibians with legs to fight/flight, then humans to communicate.   We automatically respond to stress, hierarchically, start with most modern first then use more ancient strategies to keep us alive.  When we sense threat, our first reaction is to is to look to another for safe connection to help us know we are safe, we look for facial cues, tone of voice, regulated heart beat, if we don’t receive what we need to know safety and connection, we revert to SNS (mobilization), if doesn’t satisfy, then to PNS freeze.  Each stage has a co-relating stress symptoms and body system status (SNS- charged system- increase heart, breath, blood to limbs), SNS- systems release/go limp (drop bowls). 


Q3: We have been talking on past episodes on the responsibility we have as parents and professionals to keep ourselves regulated (or in the green zone of your chart) but how do we do this? What are some suggestions/strategies that you offer when day to day stress hits us—strategies we could do at work, home or in the classroom? – get ourselves regulated, to be able to offer /hold presence space for children to be in their moment.  Vagal toning…. Quick inhale/long exhale, hold breath, hum, ommm, squeeze/release, shake and twist body, pound thymus, drum.== what really doing is restoring natural rhythm to vagus nerve.  When we’re stressed ,it’s like a hiccup to the body systems, these techniques restore rhythm.


Q4: I heard the term “neuroception” from Stefanie Faye[iv], who did EPISODE #39 with us on “Using Neuroscience to Improve Mindset, Self-Regulation and Self-Awareness.” She explained this term means that we must get better at sensing what’s happening in the body, the environment and between two people in relationship with each other. Can you explain how neuroception can help us to understand ourselves and others better with the polyvagal theory in mind?

Neuroception is a word Porges made up to deepen the word ‘perception’ to include more of an intuitive sensing component to it.  Our ANS responds automatically and if responded through perception could infer a mental awareness, when our response is faster than our mind.  So, neuroception is about our intuitive sensing of our surroundings so we know if we need to react to threat or if we can be immobile without fear.  To understand this let’s chat about animals.  Animals attack each other for food or control.  As humans, we too are animals and while some humans fight each other for blood our dominant evolution is to connect. Neuroception helps us know/intuit who is safe to connect and be immobile without fear.  And that if we’re threatened, to use language to communicate to resolve threat.  It’s our evolution potential ,however you can imagine we’re still working on it.  

Q5: What are some of the healing modalities that you have seen used to help with stress relief? Top down (talk therapy) vs bottom up (integrating the mind and body). What popular strategies are you seeing today?

Traditionally we’ve been so focused on the mind, talk therapy, mindset work, as the western way of managing stress.  While that top down approaches are still valid, so many are opening up to whole mind/body solutions. 

Let’s visual a brain…. Stem – instinct (body) , then limbic- memory, emotions then pre-frontal cortext – thinking mind.  Top down would be to start with the pre-frontal cortex, like CBT, Talk Therapy, Mindfulness, Mindset, Hypnosis, Meditation.  Bottom up would be to start with the body/NS patterns – TRE, myofascial release, yoga, breath work, SE.    Then there are some that meet in the Limbic middle, Tapping, EMDR.  Every modality works, however some need to start with more body work / brain stem & NS to be regulated enough to relate within the limbic system and then rationally access the reasoning of the pre-frontal cortex thinking mind.  This is why some people can’t meditate, they just aren’t regulated enough to sit with their dysregulated systems and distracting emotional habits to be present and calm.  

STORY: When I was preparing my questions for you, I did see that you mention Energy Tapping as one of your bottom up models for stress reduction. I have to tell a quick story, because I learned energy tapping back in 2001 when I met a doctor from Singapore (Dr Joseph Guan)[v] who came to the US and was doing some teaching on what they were doing Internationally. Of course, I attended his seminar, and learned all about the meridian points, and how it worked, and began using it right away--mostly to build up my resilience and mental strength. This doctor was well-known, respected and at the time was working with Dr. Bruce Lipton[vi], an American developmental biologist who is well-known in this field today. So here’s my story-back when I worked in the corporate world, in educational publishing, a sales manager heard about energy tapping from a TV show and she approached me to see what I thought. She wanted to know “Did I know what it was, could this concept help the sales team, was I using this idea myself, and could I present this idea to the sales team in our next weekly meeting?” All of the answers were yes. Of course, if there was a strange, new productivity strategy, people would ask me first if I had heard about it.

So, here I am, in the front of my sales team (a mix of males and females) and introducing the success strategy of the week as energy tapping, and I will never forget the look on their faces. They seriously were not ready for a strategy like this. I knew they all thought I was crazy, and they did. It really didn’t matter if the strategy was making the news, would improve their results in sales and increase the company’s revenue, the sales team wouldn’t do it. That was definitely one of many ideas that I tried to introduce to the corporate world that I would say I was ahead of the time for. How have things changed as you see it? How does the Corporate World now embrace these new stress reduction modalities like energy tapping? I know this modality has received criticism and some people have felt it lacked scientific evidence, but there are clearly many studies now showing its effectiveness[vii]

Great story, I can relate.  When I started sharing Tapping with others around that time, they thought I was crazy, however I think the collective consciousness is waking up, physically, emotionally and mentally and realizing they want to move from coping to thriving which is opening the door more and more to tapping.  More common these days for companies to have wellness programs that include mindbody programs full of yoga, breathwork/meditation.  Tapping is slowly making its way in the US, thanks to Ortner’s great marketing work on the technique however many still don’t understand it or how to easily put it to use.  My ACE system solves that problem and I’ve been sharing it with my corporate peers who are open minded and willing.  

Q6: Can you provide some other example of bottom up models for stress relief?

There are many traditional and holistic modalities out there and they all work, the question is to find what will work for you.   I like to start with the body because it makes sense in terms of the brain’s evolution.  Massage, Yoga, Vagal Toning exercises or practitioner led TRE, SE to discharge the tension and overwhelm.  It’s not a one size fits all, but start trying them and see what fits and once you found it, work it with persistency. 

Q7: Is there anything else that you think is important that we might have missed?

We’re living in very transformative times, with the world as we know it dismantling in front of us, threatening our ‘normal’ lives.  That threat has us living in stress, which is to live in survival energy.  The evolution of our mind has taken it away from the body and we are dis-integrated.    Our integrated evolution has been stunted and why the Earth has hit a reset button for us to come back to the body, back to basics.  We need to retrain our nervous system from the value we put on busyness to the value of restoration.  We have a huge opportunity now to deeply connect within to know ourselves and share that authentic version with the village we choose to surround ourselves, that makes us feel safe and that we belong, for who we truly are.  Polyvagal Theory helps us understand our evolution and our potential for living with genuine aliveness.



If someone wants to learn more about Suzanne’s programs and services, go to to learn more and gain access to a FREE 30 minute consultation.




[ii] Deb Dana


[iii] The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy by Deb Dana Foreword by Stephen Porges (Norton and Company, 2018)


[iv] Neuroscience Meets SEL Podcast EPISODE #39 with Stefanie Faye on “Using Neuroscience to Improve Mindset, Self-Regulation and Self-Awareness”








“The Wise Emotional Fitness Program” Delivered via Virtual Reality with James MacDiarmid and Natasha Davis

“The Wise Emotional Fitness Program” Delivered via Virtual Reality with James MacDiarmid and Natasha Davis

May 4, 2020

This is episode #58 with James MacDiarmid and Natasha Davis. Thanks for tuning into the podcast today! I’m always excited about the guests we bring on here, as each person has achieved high levels of success in their field and I know they can help others by sharing their knowledge. Our guests today hit a chord with me when I saw their work because their vision, and my vision are 100% aligned. You can watch the interview on YouTube here. 

A few years ago, I couldn’t stop thinking about a thought I had of teaching social and emotional learning skills via virtual reality.  I had some prominent virtual reality companies that I had been following and put up on my wall, with the vision that maybe someday, we would see students learning SEL via these new modes of learning that were highly engaging.  I had an image of what the lessons would look like (I could see a forest with students choosing different paths and learning new skills with each pathway that they took). For example, if they made a life decision, it would give them the opportunity to see the effects of this decision and see the reality of “if I do this, this will happen” showing them the consequences of their actions. After my interview with David Adams[i], (episode #54) I received a message on LinkedIn from James MacDiarmid (who had heard David’s podcast) about a potential next guest for the show with a video link for me to learn more about what our next guest had created. When I finally had a chance to watch the video, I have to say, I was blown away. This was the vision I had for SEL brought to life. I watched a walkthrough of a virtual reality lesson from the Wise: Emotional Fitness program and there was even a forest in the video. I wrote back to James with tears in my eyes, that yes, I want to learn more and before I know it, I’m speaking with James from Curiious[ii] - that’s with two ii’s- in Australia via video conference about the Wise program. 

And here we are today.  Let me give you more background on James and Natasha.

James has extensive experience in education, learning design and consultancy, with a passion for new technologies and enacting transformational change across whole-school systems.

He is a published author, contributing writer for TEDx and was a co-creator for PlayFutures, with the LEGO Foundation[iii] where they focus on bringing learning through play to children around the world. After a few minutes of speaking with James, his passion for building authentic learning opportunities and inspiring future generations came through loud and clear.

Natasha[iv], who James explained was the heart and sole of the program, is a clinical psychologist with over 15 years experience designing, researching and implementing emotion regulation and relationship building programs for adolescents and adults. She is the Director of a community-based clinic and has held many leadership positions in private and non-profit sectors. Natasha was the lead subject-matter expert during the development of this truly innovative program.

Welcome James and Natasha.  

Thank you so much for being here, and sharing what you have created, all the way from Australia where it’s already Monday morning over there for you. 

I wanted to learn more about the Wise Program and have some questions for you.

Q1: The first question is for Natasha. First of all, congratulations on what you have created. I think it is purely brilliant. Can you explain where this vision began for you?

Q2: What is the methodology behind this program?

'Designed for impact, Wise uses an Inside-Out methodology which equips participants with the practical skills to build strong connections from themselves (Inside) to others and the world around them (Outside). This is enhanced by the blended learning context whereby learning within virtual reality (Inside) is reinforced through the verbal and written self-reflective process, and teaching others the techniques (Outside).

By using the principles of behavior change, and reinforcing the development of self- awareness and the empowerment to make change within ourselves, we are then guided to be able to change how we interact with others and the world around us. 

With our emotions being like the engine of the car, individuals are shown how to adjust and “steer” their reactions by understanding how to “tune into” their emotions, better understand the “mechanics” of their emotional system and know how to “rev up” or “slow down” their emotional responses where needed, or even “brake” if they are about to do something dangerous or damaging. These skills are practiced and reinforced to build confidence in managing more complex emotional and relational situations. 

Students are further supported through the Wise adult programs and resources which provide skills and resources to the adults in their lives. Educators, coaches, mentors, parents, guardians or other caring adults can learn skills and strategies through the program. Educators have additional training through professional development programs which assist them to learn the skills and facilitate student learning. Adults can take these skills and strategies into the home, workplace and broader community activities. 

This whole system approach ensures that each individual’s learning is supported by and contributes to the systems that they live in. This is the Wise Learning Ecosystem.'

Q3: James, I know you are the educational advisor to the program, can you give some background of all that you are doing to ensure that Wise is evidence-based, aligned to’s SEL competencies, and universal curriculum requirements?

Q4: Who are some of the influencers of this program that you have spoken with? How have they influenced your work?

Q5: What has been the feedback you are receiving from educators/students using the program?

Research with FM Labs at ICA. Preliminary results/study with students during the initial development phase have indicated that there is a great amount that can be taken from this not just this approach but also the material covered throughout the program itself.

Q6: What is your vision for the Wise program?

All kids, parents, teachers, coaches have access to these emotional regulation skills to improve the emotional fitness of each individual and those who support them.  Whole school systemic change. 

Q7: Can you give us some more background on the company Curiious? If someone wants to learn more, what’s the best way?

'Curiious is a creative communication company. For more than 20 years, we have used creativity & technology to solve problems, grow businesses and challenge traditional methods of communication. With offices in Sydney, Hong Kong, Los Angeles and New York, we create story-driven immersive experiences, backed by the latest technology, innovative design and strategic thinking to captivate, inspire and educate audiences.'

To contact James you can email him at and Natasha is

Thank you both so much for taking the time to speak with me today, and for creating such an innovative program to help young people develop into the responsible citizens that we all hope for our next generation. We do look forward to following your progress and hope this interview will lead as an introduction to connect you with schools and educators who want to learn more about this innovative VR emotional fitness program. Thanks so much.



The Wise SEL/ Emotional Fitness Program Walk-Through 


[i] Neuroscience Meets SEL Podcast EPISODE #54 David Adams on “A New Vision of Education: Living Up to the Values We Want for Our Next Generation”








“Taking Initiative, Your Brain and Change, and Your Mentors”

“Taking Initiative, Your Brain and Change, and Your Mentors”

April 28, 2020

This is episode #57 on “Taking Initiative, Your Brain and Change and Leveraging Mentors”

Welcome back to the Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning podcast, my name is Andrea Samadi, I’m a former educator whose been fascinated with understanding the science behind high performance strategies in schools, sports and the workplace for the past 20 years. Since you are listening to this podcast, I’m sure you are like me, and love to learn, grow, challenge yourself and always are looking for that competitive edge, these days more so than usual, I’m sure. This weekend I had a phone call from Marissa Leinert from Parent Led Academy[i] an organization helping parents to improve their skills at being better parents using social and emotional learning resources. She contacted me via LinkedIn and asked if she could brainstorm some ideas with me on the direction of her business, since she is just starting out this field. I told her to call me and sent her my number because when people take the initiative to reach out, asking for help, I think it’s important to lend a hand, share ideas, contacts and resources if you have them, and collaborate.

When we finally connected, we chatted about where she was with her company and I thought back to 20 years ago when I first wrote down the idea that turned into Achieveit360’s programs and services for schools and the workplace, and eventually this podcast. I remembered all of the people who helped me to get to where I am today and thought of a quote by Robin Sharma who said that “Everything is created twice, first in the mind and then in reality.”  

If you are like Marissa, and have been thinking about an idea that you want to pursue, maybe a new direction for your career, a new product that you want to create, or something and you just aren’t sure of even where to begin, this episode is for you.  This episode will focus on some key starting points so you can follow the steps and get moving with something new. Whatever idea you have, that you might be thinking about, start with writing it out, and then expand on your vision by writing down some ideas and see where you can begin to take action. I was lucky enough to have met some of the top leaders in the country who shared their secrets with me over 20 years ago when I first started and I felt that since I had this opportunity, that I had an obligation to take action with the strategies and tips they shared with me. Now that I am being asked more often, how did you get started with this idea, I thought I would share with you the process that I used and hope you find these ideas helpful.

Step 1: “Know Your Why” Which Also Can Be Seen as “Know Your Values”

Simon Sinek[ii] built his career from this idea and before starting anything new, I always suggest revisiting Simon’s “Golden Circle”[iii] where he talks about the importance of knowing your “Why, Your Purpose, What You Believe.” If everyone in your organization knows this for themselves, then it will be easy to motivate each person towards the common organizational goal.  Before any pivot you make, go back and look at your purpose and make sure the new direction aligns to this your why, purpose or values.  The “How” or your process will come easy once you’ve identified your “Why” and the “What” you do, or end result will naturally follow. 

What you believe can also be seen as your values. Once you know the values that are important to you and your organization, everything else becomes crystal clear.

For me, I know that we believe that well-being equals achievement and productivity, (with physical and mental health being my #1 value).  Everything we create/market/sell/produce must help improve well-being that will lead to an increase of productivity, achievement and results.  What are your highest values? Go back and listen to episode 2 “Self-Awareness: Know Thyself”[iv] where we dive deeper into uncovering your values or what’s important in your personal and professional life to ensure happiness.  

Remember: To “know thyself” is the most substantial achievement we can have in our lifetime.” Jim Rohn, an American author, speaker and entrepreneur reminds us that “The major value in life is not what you get. It’s what you become.” 

Step 2: Recognize the “Change Barrier” and the Need for Safety in Your Brain

This topic is something that we aren’t taught in school so many of us when faced with trying something new, or pivoting to a new direction, are hit with what I write about in the Level Up[v] book (lesson 7) called “The Change Barrier.” It’s the fear that hits us from a subconscious level when we begin a new idea. Whenever there is a major shift in your life, you will find yourself face-to-face with this “Change Barrier” that’s like a brick wall and wants to keep you safe, in your old world. When you are making a decision and you start to feel that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, recognize this as hitting the “Change Barrier.” Your entire central nervous system goes off as you think about the new thought or idea in your conscious mind, that challenges you to do something you have never done before.  You might have some automatic negative thoughts that cross your mind that say things like “who are you to try something new, don’t waste your time, this idea didn’t work the last time you tried it” or something like that. You will need to have strategies in place to help you to move past this stage in the direction of your goals, instead of quitting, that will happen if you don’t properly prepare.

Remember that the panic you feel is real. What’s actually happening, is the amygdala (in your limbic/emotional brain) begins to fire when it’s recognizing that something is an actual or perceived threat. The amygdala acts like a thermostat and fires as stress and anxiety rise. High levels of stress hormone cortisol flood your body and it tries to get you to stop taking the actions that are causing the anxiety and go back to safety or your old world.  You can either keep going and move beyond the fear or go back to safety and comfort. That feeling doesn’t go away until with time and practice we have infused the new idea into our brain, creating the new neural pathway of this new idea, and we finally get to that place of freedom, where we no longer feel uncomfortable with the new idea. We have bypassed fear and anxiety and stepped forward, to growth.

This one takes some self-awareness as well, as years into your new role, it is common to have doubts and fears around this new position. I remember speaking to a very successful CEO of a large company, and he shared with me that there are many days he sits at his desk and marvels at how someone with his background could have reached the heights of success that he was living on a daily basis. It’s important to remember to integrate your success into your new life. Celebrate your small and large wins, so that they sink in at the non-conscious level in your brain. On those few days that you experience self-doubt, take a break and do something that you enjoy. Be kind to yourself and remember that you do deserve everything that you have earned.

Step 3: Find Your Mentors

I was lucky enough to have crossed paths with some powerful thinkers in my late 20s who got me started on this journey of creating, developing and launching new ideas.  Speaking with Marissa this weekend, reminded me that at this point in many of our lives, we are thinking of new ways of conducting business. If we were used to doing live trainings in the past, many of us have adapted to online training.  If we have never done this before, we will want to look for mentors to help us to gain the confidence we need with our new business models. With confidence, we build competence with our new skills and eventually they become second nature.

If you say “well, I don’t know any powerful leaders to ask for their advice” don’t quit just yet. Keep looking and as you might have heard before, “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

Stay 4: Keep an Open Mind In 2014 when I was looking to take my programs and services online, like many people are doing now, I found a mentor to show me everything I needed to know and he was unlike anyone I had ever worked with in the past. His name is Austin Walsh[vi], and at the time, he was a high school student living in Chicago. I had to wait for him to finish classes to return my calls, as he worked with me over Skype on creating the membership area of my website where all of our content is hosted. He had worked with some of the speakers I knew (Les Brown and Mark Victor Hansen from the Chicken Soup for the Soul books) so he came highly recommended and I’m still amazed at how this then-16-year-old knew so much about the online world. I learned so much from him and would still say he’s one of my most memorable mentors.

Step 5: Manage Your Relationships In my late 20s, I was fortunate to have met many world leaders when I worked in the motivational speaking industry. Always stay in contact with people you meet as you never know who will continue to impact you in your future.

One powerful influencer I met in 2001 was Greg Link, who partnered with Stephen Covey to form and co-author “Smart Trust: The Defining Skill That Transforms Managers into Leaders.”[vii] He saw my interest in youth development while he was very busy building the Covey empire and taking the “7 Habits of Highly Effective People[viii]” book to impact millions of people worldwide, but I kept in touch with him over the years. He always was there with ideas, business model suggestions for my programs for the school market, and just plain inspiration to keep going. It’s been a few years since I have seen Greg, but as I was writing the outline for this episode this past weekend, I heard from Greg via Linkedin and it made me realize the importance of keeping in touch with your connections and then helping others (like Marissa) who need your help. See Greg’s testimonial of our work 7 years ago.[ix]

Step 6: Be Open to Ongoing Learning When you surround yourself with others who put value on learning/growth, you will inherit new ideas that you can implement for your own business growth. There is always someone who has done what you are looking to do, and with success, so keep learning, attending conferences (when they are back up and running) and networking with those people you see leading in your field.

Before I launched the Level Up [x]program for the school market, I attended a class called the “Make, Market and Launch It[xi]” based on the book by Pam Hendrickson and Mike Koenigs.  If you are looking to launch a product, I highly recommend this book that you can get right away on Amazon. You will learn the 7 most important steps to making or creating your product, and then launching it to the market of your choice.

Always think about the problem that you are looking to solve which is Shark Tank’s Robert Herjavec’s #1 tip for entrepreneurs.[xii] He suggests that the best businesses are ones that “find a problem and then solve it.”

Once you have created your product (whether it’s a book, online course) or whatever it might be, then get feedback from your audience. Don’t ask your sister or your Mom for their feedback—they will lie. Be prepared for someone to tell you it’s awful, ugly, the worst idea ever, and listen to what they say. Take that feedback to improve what you have created 

I hope you have found these 6 tips useful. I would love to hear what you think. Send me a message through LinkedIn, or Twitter, and I look forward to seeing you on the next episode with an exciting new guest from Australia. See you soon.


[i] Parent Led Academy an SEL  Resource to Help Parents Improve Their Skills

[ii] Simon Sinek


[iv] Neuroscience Meets SEL Podcast EPISODE #2 “Self-Awareness: Know Thyself”

[v] Level Up: A Brain-Based Strategy to Skyrocket Student Success and Achievement by Andrea Samadi (Wheatmark, 2015)

[vi] Austin William Walsh

[vii] Smart Trust: The Defining Skill That Transforms Managers into Leaders by Stephen Covey and Greg Link

[viii] 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

[ix] Greg Link Testimonial of Achieveit360 and Andrea Samadi

[x]  Level Up Online by Andrea Samadi

[xi] Make, Market Launch It by Pam Hendrickson and Mike Koenigs (2013)

[xii] Shark Tank’s Robert Herjavec’s Top 5 Business Tips for Entrepreneurs (May 16, 2019) by Abby Narishkin and Jack Houston


Educational Neuroscience Pioneer Dr. Lori Desautels on her NEW book About “Connections Over Compliance, Rewiring Our Perceptions of Discipline”

Educational Neuroscience Pioneer Dr. Lori Desautels on her NEW book About “Connections Over Compliance, Rewiring Our Perceptions of Discipline”

April 21, 2020

This is episode #56 with Dr. Lori Desautels, a returning guest who I know everyone loves as much as I do. If you want to hear our first interview with Lori, go back and listen to episode 16[i] with Lori and Michael McKnight on “The Future of Educational Neuroscience in our Schools and Communities.” To watch this interview on YouTube, click here. 

Welcome to the Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning podcast, my name is Andrea Samadi, I’m a former educator whose been fascinated with understanding the science behind high performance strategies in schools, sports and the workplace and 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 a teacher or student in the classroom, or working in the corporate world, to take your results to the next level.  

Thanks for tuning into the podcast today! If this is your first time here, I am so grateful that you have taken the time to listen. Today I am thrilled at the opportunity to speak with Dr. Lori Desautels for the second time.

I first found Lori from her TEDx Talk from Indianapolisi when I was searching for anything in the field on educational neuroscience back in 2014 and watched her videos to understand how parts of the brain worked, how they are interconnected and impact learning. In Lori’s Ted Talk, she mentioned that “neuroscience and education have come together” and it’s a huge connection because every day experiences change the brain structurally and functionally—and I thought, this is incredible that we can finally explain how we can accelerate learning with this understanding of the brain.  Over the years as I’ve continue my research in this field, each person I speak with points me back to Lori Desaultel as a pioneer in this field. Her work is groundbreaking as she ties the research into these practices that we must all learn to stay at the height of our productivity and achievement. 

Welcome Lori, thank you so much for coming back on as a returning guest. 

I feel like we are old friends now that I had the chance to see you speak live this past October, and with the fact you are sharing your new book with me in real time as you are writing it. I’ve been reading it as you are sending the chapters and emotions really are contagious. Before we dive into the questions, can you tell me more about why this book is so timely, and maybe a bit about the work you are doing on a day to day basis for the field of education. 

1- Your new book “Connections Over Compliance, Rewiring Our Perceptions of Discipline” begins with exploring this new perception of discipline with educator and parent brain state. I wish I knew this when I stood in front of my first class as a new teacher (in Toronto in the late 1990s) wondering why no one was listening, and watched their behavior escalate to where I started to count down the days till the school year was over. I had no idea where to even begin...and never would have thought of—with myself. Can you explain why we must “look under the hood at our own brain state” when we are teaching or relating to others?

Q2-Im so grateful that brain research is helping us to gain a deeper understanding of how to improve our results, achievement and learning and that leaders like you are spear heading the way with this understanding. How can we better understand a regulated vs dysregulated brain state? These are not terms I was taught in my teacher training classes over 20 years ago. In a perfect world, everyone would be able to recognize when they are becoming dysregulated with strategies to get themselves back on course. What work still needs to happen for this awareness? 

Q3- I learned about Dr. Bruce Perry from you, and a couple of our most recent podcasts focus on his research. You quote him in the beginning of your book when he states that “The key to the success of any educational experience is the capacity to ‘get to the cortex.’ Yet, each year, nearly one-third of all children attending U.S. public schools will have significantly impaired cortical functioning and behavioral challenges due to abuse, neglect, domestic violence, poverty, and other adversities.”2 How are teachers expected to teach if this is the case? How can we bring more awareness to your work so that teachers can better prepare themselves for these experiences, so they come in with self-regulation strategies that they use like clockwork? 

What about these strategies for parents? I can pick out a handful of times that I’ve written a lesson on self-regulation and then in seconds have become dysregulated when my own kids have pushed my buttons. I know these strategies, and with practice (meditation has helped my ability to respond instead of react) but some of these strategies have taken me years of practice. What can we do now immediately to help families in these times of increased stress to bring in the idea that we can be fully regulated, but become dysregulated quickly if we aren’t trained. 

According to Nickolas Long, “If the adult is neither trained nor prepared to accept their own counter-aggressive feelings, the adult will act on them, in effect mirroring the student’s behavior.” (Ch 2)

Q4- I was shocked when I heard Dr. Perry[ii] talking about the vulnerability in the population that can occur when we are exposed to prolonged stress response. I first learned about the impact of stress on the brain and learning from you. Dr. Perry brought in the research from families from the Katrina Disaster in 2005 and how the research shows that the offspring of those families exposed to this level of stress response had an increase of substance abuse issues. That made me stop and think of how important and timely your work is right now, not only before we had the COVID-19 outbreak, but what about AFTER this time, for those marginalized families? Can you dive deeper into why an understanding of our brain is so important right now?  Do you have thoughts or plans on how to reach families in need of these strategies?  

Thank you so much for all you have done to support us here at Achieveit360 to learn about educational neuroscience. If anyone wants to reach Dr. Lori Desautels, please do reach out to via email to and via her website at 


[i] Neuroscience Meets SEL Podcast EPISODE #16 with Dr. Lori Desautels and Michael McKnight on “The Future of Educational Neuroscience in our Schools and Communities.”


Author and Strategy Coach Torsten Nicolini on “Working Smart: How to Improve Productivity and Efficiency at Work”

Author and Strategy Coach Torsten Nicolini on “Working Smart: How to Improve Productivity and Efficiency at Work”

April 18, 2020

This is EPISODE #55 with Torsten Nicolini. You can watch this interview on YouTube here. 

Welcome to the Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning podcast, my name is Andrea Samadi, I’m a former educator whose been fascinated with understanding the science behind high performance strategies in schools, sports and the workplace and 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 a teacher or student in the classroom, or working in the corporate world, to take your results to the next level. 

Thanks for tuning into the podcast today!

If this is your first time here, I am so grateful that you have taken the time to listen. I can’t wait to introduce you to our guest today,  Torsten Nicolini[i] a Strategy Coach whose joining us today all the way from Germany. who has devoted his life to helping small business owners fulfill their greatest potential by teaching them how to become more successful at work and in life. 

I first met Torsten last summer 2019 when he contacted me to review his book called Work Smart in One Day: How to Be More Effective at Work and Get More Out of Your Life by James Barrett [ii] (Torsten's pen name) and I get asked to review a lot of books (I must be on a list somewhere because I do get at least a request each week) and I usually just delete the requests because I don’t have the time, but this time, the title caught my attention because I had launched this podcast and had been researching workplace productivity extensively for the past year. When I read Torsten’s "Work Smart in One Day" it felt like a compilation of the most effective productivity strategies, all in one place. Some history, in the late 1990s, I worked in the motivational speaking industry, and worked closely with some of the leading motivational speakers in the world.  Of course I had access to all of their books and content that I read extensively.

As I read through Torsten’s book, the great speakers of the past echoed in my head as I could see who influenced him, and the strategies in his book were spot on. He's organized them in a way that ANYONE can improve their productivity, and I can tell that he must also operate this way, with the detail of his examples.  I reviewed his book that day, and I remember exactly where I was at the time, on a family vacation at a local resort, and I refused to leave the room until I finished his book and review, it was that captivating.

A bit about Torsten:

- he is currently working "fulltime" as an engineer at an automotive supplier since 2015 (Yazaki)

- he accomplished an apprenticeship as a toolmaker in 2009, technician in 2013, Bachelor of Engineering in 2018 an currently studying "part-time" Masters of Enginering that I will finish 2021.

- he started to learn about personal development in 2017 (now age of 32) and with this "initiator" I launched a side business in marketing and webdesign, started a blog and different projects for small business owners (website re-design, marketing, etc.)

- Since 2018 I am really loving to create content, to write articles and now publishing books.

As many of us are in the middle of figuring out how to work from home,  and might be  looking for new ways to work with some key strategies for better productivity, I thought I would ask Torsten to come on the podcast to share more about his website, the books he is reading and strategies for productivity. 

Q1: What are Highly Efficient People Doing Better than the Average Person (and how do they manage tasks be increased productivity)

Q2: What are some New Habits That Go a Long Way (making you think about a morning routine, if you've not got one already)
Q3: How do you eliminate What's Pulling You Down (identify what is stealing your energy)
Q4: What are some Tips for Maintaining Your Success (so that it continues all year)

Q5: Anything else you think is important that I might have missed to help people during this time to be more productive.

If someone wants to contact you, what’s the best place? Email or through his website 








Director of SEL, David Adams on “A New Vision of Education: Living Up to The Values We Want for Our Next Generation”

Director of SEL, David Adams on “A New Vision of Education: Living Up to The Values We Want for Our Next Generation”

April 16, 2020

This is EPISODE #54 with David Adams. You can watch the interview on YouTube here

Welcome to the Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning podcast, my name is Andrea Samadi, I’m a former educator whose been fascinated with understanding the science behind high performance strategies in schools, sports and the workplace and 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 a teacher or student in the classroom, or working in the corporate world, to take your results to the next level. 

Thanks for tuning into the podcast today!

If this is your first time here, I am so grateful that you have taken the time to listen. I am so excited about our guest today. His name is David Adams, and I’ve been watching his work, seeing his posts on social media and he’s doing some ground-breaking work. I noticed when he spoke on a panel[i] with former CNN host and educational activist Campbell Brown, Founder, The Seventy Four[ii]; (a phenomenal education focused website that I love learning from)  Susan Crown, Founder of the Susan Crown Exchange[iii]; (whose mission is to help people acquire the skills needed to succeed and thrive in a rapidly changing and connected world), Marc Brackett, Director Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence[iv] (who did EPISODE #22 on his book “Permission to Feel”)[v] and Karen Niemi, (Neemi) President & CEO, CASEL[vi].  If we are truly “the sum of the five people we spend the most time with” like Jim Rohn once said, you can only guess how impressive his bio is going to be.

David is The Urban Assembly’s Director of Social and Emotional Learning,[vii] where his team builds schools' capacity to ensure that all staff and students they work with receive relevant experiences and purposeful instruction to develop the social emotional competencies that impact students’ success in school, work, and life. (Everything that we speak about on this podcast).  He is on the Board of Directors for CASEL (The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning) which is the trusted source for knowledge about high-quality, evidence-based social and emotional learning and I have to mention that he was also a Civil Affairs Officer in the United States Army, so you know that he is on a serious mission to achieve results.

David, welcome! Thank you so much for being here today.

Q1: I’ve read quite a BIO for you, and it seems that when we are dealing with education that we have a certain expectation of what we are looking for (whether it’s our students learning in the classroom, professional development for teachers, or even choosing the right assessments that measure what we are learning). What does it mean to you for a person to be educated?

Q2: With everything that you see going on in the world today, why do you think our communities are struggling so much to solve problems across differences?

Q3: In your recent article[viii] A New Vision of Education: Reimagining the Social Contract you talk about the fact that nobody is perfect, but we all have a responsibility to strive to live up to the values we want the next generation to embody.

You talked about this phenomenon where education level is negatively correlated to the accuracy of perception of people across the political spectrum. Can you explain what you mean here, and why do you think this is the case?

Q4: Tell me a little bit about the neuroscience behind this and how SEL specifically improving awareness can help us to all move forward. 

Q5: What are your final thoughts for how we can use SEL to solve our nation’s most pressing concerns to restore some hope, especially during these uncertain times?

Thank you so much for your time today, and for sharing your insights with us. If anyone wants to reach you to learn more about your programs at the Urban Assembly, what is the best way? You can find David Adams on LinkedIn or on Twitter 


[i] David Adams with Campbell Brown, Founder, The Seventy Four; Susan Crown, Founder of the Susan Crown Exchange; Marc Brackett, Director Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence and Karen Niemi, President & CEO, CASEL.

[ii] The 74

[iii] The Susan Crown Exchange

[iv] Marc Brackett

[v] Neuroscience Meets SEL EPISODE #22 Marc Brackett on his book “Permission to Feel”



[viii] A New Vision of Education: Reimagining the Social Contract by David Adams (March 17, 2020)


Self-Regulation and Your Brain: How to Bounce Back Towards Resiliency

Self-Regulation and Your Brain: How to Bounce Back Towards Resiliency

April 11, 2020

Welcome to EPISODE #53 “Self-Regulation and Your Brain: Strategies to Bounce Back Towards Resilience.” During these strange and different times that we are all living these days, we need to have strategies that we are using on a daily basis to navigate through these challenging times, where we are all feeling the pressure, so we can stay focused on regulating ourselves first, and then in turn,  help others around us to stay regulated. You might have had strategies in place before the corona virus pandemic changed our world, but might be noticing that as each day passes, and we recognize more and more stressors and unpredictability facing us, that our baseline is changing, and our resilience levels are not the same.  Since we all have a brain, we will all be experiencing this in some way and I’m sure that like me, you will find this information helpful to build your own resilience levels back up to where we are used to having them, so we can resume our day to day life with a feeling of accomplishment, instead of letting the pressures get the best of us.

But First, what is Self-Regulation and Why is it So Important?

I do recommend going back to EPSIODE 14[i] where we covered self-regulation (one the 6 social and emotional learning competencies that we launched this podcast with) as “the foundational learning skill for future success.” This episode covers self-regulation strategies to help our children as well as for ourselves in the workplace. Just a quick review.

Self-regulation is “the ability to manage your emotions and behavior in accordance with the demands of the situation. It includes being able to resist highly emotional reactions to upsetting stimuli, to calm yourself down when you get upset, adjust to a change in expectations and (the ability) to handle frustration”[ii] In other words, it’s the ability to bounce back after a setback or disappointment, and the ability to stay in congruence with your inner value system.  These days, this skill takes practice from all of us, and is one of those crucial life skills that I thought was important to cover on a deeper level.

The ability to control one's behavior, emotions, and thoughts is an integral skill to be taught to young children as well, so they can form and maintain healthy relationships and connections later in life.[iii] As an adult, self-regulation is crucial to develop as we all know that life is full of ups and downs (and it seems like more so these days than usual) but we must be able to make our way through challenging situations before we can reach any level of achievement and success. It’s these challenging times that give us our future strength. We all know people who seem to bounce back after adversity. A calm, regulated leader can make others feel safer but it’s not by chance –it’s because they have learned how to self-regulate and intentionally get themselves back on course. This is a learned skill and if we are modeling and teaching this skill well, it will strengthen our students/children/workplace organizations, communities, culture and world, putting us all on the pathway of resilience where we can handle challenge and adversity. 

What does self-regulation look like in the brain? This episode will dive deeper into what’s actually happening in our brain when we become dysregulated, so we can learn how to recognize when we are in this place, and get ourselves back to a regulated, calm state. 


Image: Dr. Bruce Perry's Neurosequential Network Covid-19 “Stress, Distress and Trauma Series” VIDEO 3 on Emotion Contagion

If you have listened to the last episode[iv], you will know that I have been learning from Dr. Bruce Perry (who is an American psychiatrist and senior fellow of the Child Trauma Academy in Houston, Texas) and his online resources that he has created to help everyone (parents, educators, counselors) to navigate these challenging times with more understanding and he ties the brain into each topic that he covers. I’ve watched his Neurosequential Network Covid-19 “Stress, Distress and Trauma Series[v]” and have taken notes that have given me ideas to share on this podcast that we can all use right away. If you would like to learn more, please do visit his video series that I have included in the show notes (along with images to explain each concept) and have personally reached out to Dr. Perry to see if I could get him on this podcast in person, but this may take some time due to how busy he is right now doing his best to educate those in his close network (and I did see him working with Oprah yesterday) on best practices during these challenging times. Please do stay tuned, and in the meantime, I’ll share with you some concepts that I think are crucial for us to not just understand but be actively practicing on a day to day basis to keep our resilience buckets full.

When we are regulated, and calm, we will have access to the higher levels of thinking in our brain through our neocortex. We can think, make decisions, and carry out our day to day activities, and have learned strategies to help us to self-regulate when stressors come our way. If you have access to the show notes, you will see a diagram of an upside-down triangle showing that when we are regulated, we have access to our neocortex and can make well thought out decisions. What’s happening now is that so many new stressors are coming our way and hitting us in a manner that many of us are now on our way to dysregulation where we do not have access to our higher-level thinking but become more reactive. 

I noticed this happening to me when I was working with one my kids on their school work this week (not something new but the whole working from home AND home-schooling is now new for many of us) and my daughter wasn’t happy with the fact she now has to do this either, so she was slouched over, trying to answer her math problems, with a bit of an attitude and was not putting in much effort. This pushed my buttons and before I know it, I’m reacting, and we all need to take a break and breathe. I had to stop and think about something I have been thinking about all week after watching Dr. Perry’s video series, that “a regulated, calm adult can regulate a dysregulated, anxious child, BUT a dysregulated adult can NEVER regulate a dysregulated child”[vi] and had to make some changes. In order for any of us to find our way through these times, we need to stop the minute we notice we are heading towards dysregulation and take a break and return when we are calm. “When a young child is made to feel safer (without a parent yelling at them) they will have access to their thinking brain, but if they are nervous, they will feel the power differentiator and lose the ability to use the higher functions of their brain.”[vii]

This was my experience, but it’s also happening to parents all over the country, educators who are being asked to facilitate these new distance learning courses, front line workers in the health care industry who are now being pushed to their breaking points. Now more than ever we need to recognize when we are at the state of dysregulation and implement strategies to get us back to our baseline and build resiliency.


“That when we are dealing with a dysregulated person, we can regulate them by the tone of our voice, how we listen to them, non-verbal signals and they will be able to reflect our calm?”[viii]

Now more than ever we need to find strategies to help us to stay calm, and keep our head, because emotions are contagious. We will never make inroads with our children unless we maintain our calm and we want to avoid where Dr. Perry warned us that “for years to come, there will be a vulnerability in the population and their offspring”[ix] if we don’t take control of our emotions in times of stress.

Tips to Stay Regulated, and Avoid the Traps of Dysregulation:

Once you can get yourself to a place that’s calm, by BYPASSING negativity, you can RELAX, REFUEL and REFLECT/THINK[x] where you will have access to your neocortex/thinking part of your brain. If you can build these steps into your daily routine, you will be filling up your resiliency cup and building strength that you can use for years to come.

  1. BYPASS: Negative media like the news and social media. I’m sure you have heard that watching the news is bad for your brain, but have you ever wondered why? It’s the same reason that hanging out with the wrong crowd affects your results. After a prolonged amount of time, you begin to think and act like those you are spending the most time with. The longer we watch the news, or scroll through social media, the more stress we are exposed to, disconnecting us more from our calm, regulated state. Turn it off and just read the headlines if you want to stay on top of what’s happening.
  2. REFLECT: Give yourself some quiet time to think. Take a 3-5-minute break where you step away from your work and take this time to let your mind wander. It’s during these times of rest that flashes of insight can come our way. We can solve problems in this time, generate new ideas and think deeply.

“We don’t learn from our experiences; we learn from reflecting on our experiences.

(John Dewey, 1933).

  1. RELAX: Meditation, music, deep breathing, or mental imagery. Research shows meditation improves health, well-being and our ability to deal with stress) but not everyone has the time to add this into their day, especially not right now when we all have more on our plates. Taking a few minutes, throughout your day to think of something that makes you happy is a quick way to relax and self-regulate.
  2. REFUEL: Find what gives you more energy and make it a priority. When you can get the right amount of sleep, exercise and healthy nutrition, your body should naturally feel refueled. Avoid things that drain your energy and keep things that refuel you on your daily schedule. Did you know that Einstein used to walk 2 hours/day to regulate? 

Dr. Dan Siegel[xi], clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, and Executive Director of the Mindsight Institute reminds us that during this bad and threatening moment in time, we can look towards a vision of the future where there might be an improved/better world. Think of where you can be of service to others and improve your current relationships. Use this time to connect to others, learn new skills, improve and be kind to yourself, and to others. There are many places that you can go to learn new science-based approaches that can be applied to improve resiliency in your own life, or in schools and the workplace. I want to thank you so much for listening and supporting our podcast. When we launched this podcast, last June, I had no idea that we would have the interest we have received for this information. Thank you especially to our Canadian listeners who are keeping us in the Top 100 charts for iTunes for the Education: How-to Category[xii] for our United States listeners who have just got us into the top 100 charts for iTunes for the Education: How-to Category[xiii] and for everyone who listens to the episodes, increasing our visibility. We have just hit the Top 10 Social and Emotional Learning Podcasts to follow in 2020.[xiv] I know it’s important and timely, and I do look forward to bringing on new guests to help you to implement practical neuroscience in your daily life. See you next episode.



Relational Contagion Graphic from Dr. Bruce Perry’s Neurosequential Network Covid-19 “Stress, Distress and Trauma Series” VIDEO 3 on Emotion Contagion


[i] Neuroscience Meets SEL Podcast EPISODE #14 “Self-Regulation: The Foundational Learning Skill for Future Success.”

[ii] How Can We Help Our Kids with Self-Regulation

[iii] How to Practice Self-Regulation

[iv] Neuroscience Meets SEL Podcast EPISODE #52 “Igniting Your Personal Leadership to Build Resiliency” Inspired by Dr. Bruce Perry

[v] Dr. Bruce Perry’s Neurosequential Network Covid-19 “Stress, Distress and Trauma Series”

[vi] Dr. Bruce Perry’s Neurosequential Network Covid-19 “Stress, Distress and Trauma Series” VIDEO 5 on Regulation

[vii] Dr. Bruce Perry’s Neurosequential Network Covid-19 “Stress, Distress and Trauma Series” VIDEO 3 on Emotion Contagion

[viii] Dr. Bruce Perry’s Neurosequential Network Covid-19 “Stress, Distress and Trauma Series” VIDEO 3 on Emotion Contagion

[ix] Dr. Bruce Perry’s Neurosequential Network Covid-19 “Stress, Distress and Trauma Series” VIDEO 1 on Patterns of Stress: Risk and Resilience

[x] Kristie Brandt “Reflective Supervision” Training Friday April 10, 2020

[xi] Dr. Dan Siegel Friday April 10, 2020 Crowdcast MWE Gathering and Neuroscience Meets SEL Podcast EPISODE #28 "Mindsight: The Basis of Social and Emotional Intelligence"

[xii] Apple iTunes Charts for Canada Education: How-To Category

[xiii] Apple iTunes Charts for USA Education: How-To Category

[xiv] Top 10 Social and Emotional Learning Podcasts to Follow in 2020


“Igniting Your Personal Leadership to Build Resiliency” Inspired by Dr. Bruce Perry

“Igniting Your Personal Leadership to Build Resiliency” Inspired by Dr. Bruce Perry

April 4, 2020

Now more than ever, we need leaders to emerge and take charge whether it’s you as a parent taking charge of your family’s daily schedule, or you as a worker navigating working from home. The powerful news is that you can use your own personal leadership skills to build resilience in your brain that will propel you and those around you forward. As we navigate the constant change we are all experiencing with the corona virus pandemic, I think it’s crucial that we stop and take some time to think about how we can take our own personal leadership skills to the next level to support those around us- those we work with, our families and our community. Understanding how our brains works during times of stress is more important than ever. I highly recommend listening to Episode 26, Simple Strategies for Overcoming the Pitfalls of the 3 Parts of Your Brain.[i]

Once we have an understanding of how our brain works, we can use the extra energy we have to build our own personal resiliency, model it in our homes with our family and then reach out to others who might be under more extreme stress and could use your help and support. Together we are stronger.

But first, just a reminder of how our brain deals with stress, understanding the 3 levels of stress response. Remember that some stress is good for us. We did cover this in EPSIODE 29 “How to Rewire Your Brain for Happiness and Well-Being to Optimize Learning.”[ii] Here’s a quick review. 

The Neuroscience of Anxiety: Calming the Basal Ganglia in Your Brain

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: Mild stress motivates us to complete our work projects or helps us to find solutions to problems that arise. This type of stress keeps us on our toes in our day to day lives and helps us to build resilience (which is the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties). We all want to raise resilient children and model resiliency in our homes, and we are doing this when we can manage this level of stress. We’ve all experienced that brief increase in heart rate when mild elevations in stress hormone levels hit our central nervous system 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. In the times we are facing today, many people are unable to get out and connect face to face with people to help manage this type of stress. I have seen news articles about the devastating impacts this type of stress is having on people. If you know someone who might be in this category, please keep in contact with them. Do your best to call them, and remember that connecting face to face over technology is much better than not at all.
  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. I recently learned that after the Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in August, 2005, the offspring of people who went through this disaster showed an increase of substance abuse. (Perry, 2020).

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. The more we can keep our stress levels on the tolerable side, the more regulated we become, increasing the resiliency we will have for ourselves, our families, our future children, community and workplaces.  A calm, regulated leader can help make others feel safer. (Perry, 2020). We must have strategies in place to regulate ourselves, by using our peers, friends and family to help support us, so we can then go on and extend ourselves to support others in need.


  1. Exercise, meditation and deep belly breathing to increase oxygen to the brain. If you want some exercise tips, be sure to check out episode #51 with Kelly Schmidt[iii] and for meditation examples, episode #25 with Mick Neustadt.[iv]
  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. Flashes of insight and solutions to problems often show up at this time, but we must be willing to allow these breaks.
  4. Don’t watch the news all day—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. 

For years I have been quoting Dr. Bruce Perry’s work when referring to the fact that the amygdalae (the part of the limbic system in the brain which is responsible for emotions, survival instincts, and memory) are “hyper-responsive (exhibiting an exaggerated response to stimuli)  in children coming from hard places” (Perry, 1994) so students, educators, parents and the community must find tools and strategies to manage these more extreme levels of stress. 

This past Friday night, I found some quiet time to clean out my email inbox and came across a video I sent myself earlier in the week to watch when I had more time. If you are like me, it’s been a bit crazy with homeschooling emails, online sports emails mixing in with my work emails and I almost deleted this video without watching it. Thank goodness I didn’t. It was Dr. Bruce Perry[v] (an American psychiatrist, currently the senior Fellow of the Child Trauma Academy in Houston, Texas and an Adjunct Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago) speaking on a zoom training call about the importance of stepping up your leadership skills to help others who might be struggling at this time. This inspired me to create this podcast and send out a tweet about his training. My phone went crazy all night and the entire next day when I was writing this episode, with the activity on this tweet, so I know this message is important and timely. You can see Dr. Perry’s video series here[vi] but I thought I would summarize his main points for this episode and hope to have him on as a guest as soon as possible.


We want to find ways where we can emerge as the calm leader, keep our stress controllable, where we are building resilience. When stress falls into the unpredictable side (where it can be at times these days when we aren’t sure what exactly is happening), sensitization happens where the brain sees everything as a threat. This is where dysregulation happens and is what we want to avoid since this stress causes physical problems in the body.  Research shows that this type of stress can have an epigenetic impact (impacting the well-being of our children’s children) beyond just our own, which is beyond scary. Dr. Bruce Perry reminds us that if we don’t find the leadership we need to help regulate our population in these stressful times that “we will have a sensitized population where years to come there will be a vulnerability in the population and their offspring.”[vii] To me this show us of the dire importance of leadership needed and finding the calm within the storm in our own lives, so we can be there to help others and prevent this from happening. I’m not willing to compromise future generations because of this mass hysteria and I hope you agree with me on the importance of helping yourself, so you can reach out and help others.


Dr. Perry Suggests:

  1. Structure Builds Resiliency (so keep your daily routines).
  2. Be physically distant, but not emotionally distant. Be mindful outside of yourself.
  3. Continue the activities that regulate you from the bottom up (brainstem to neocortex) where our thinking and judgments remain sound and clear. Keep calm, and this will prevent you from going to your emotional state of mind where you might not make the best decisions.

If we can all do our part to take leadership in our own families, regulate ourselves and make decisions from a calm place of mind, rather than from fear, we will be on the right path for building the resiliency our world needs at this time.   



[i]Neuroscience Meets SEL Podcast Episode 26 “Simple Strategies for Overcoming the Pitfalls of the 3 Parts of Your Brain” by Andrea Samadi

[ii] Neuroscience Meets SEL Podcast EPISODE #29 “How to Rewire Your Brain for Happiness and Well-Being to Optimize Learning”

[iii] Neuroscience Meets SEL Podcast EPISODE #51 with Kelly Schmidt

[iv] Neuroscience Meets SEL Podcast EPISODE #25 with Mick Neustadt


[vi] Dr. Bruce Perry’s Neurosequential Network’s “Covid-19 Stress, Distress and Trauma Series”

[vii] Dr. Bruce Perry’s Neurosequential Network’s “Covid-19 Stress, Distress and Trauma Series” (Find this quote at 25:16)


Fitness Expert Kelly Schmidt on “Easy to Implement Fitness and Nutrition Tips to Maximize Home Workouts and Meal Planning”

Fitness Expert Kelly Schmidt on “Easy to Implement Fitness and Nutrition Tips to Maximize Home Workouts and Meal Planning”

April 2, 2020

This is episode #51, Welcome to the Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning podcast, my name is Andrea Samadi, I’m a former educator whose been fascinated with understanding the science behind high performance strategies in schools, sports and the workplace for the past 20 years. Each week we bring you an expert who has risen to the top of their industry with specific strategies that you can implement immediately, whether you are a teacher or student in the classroom, or working in the corporate world, to take your results to the next level. If you are like me, and love to learn, grow, challenge yourself and always are looking for that competitive edge, listen closely to the tips our next guest has to say, and write down the ones that you want to implement immediately. Watch the interview on YouTube here. 

Our guest today has been training my husband and I since we were dating back in 2006, and I can honestly say that I would never hire another trainer after working with him. He not only challenges our fitness and nutrition goals, but also wants to know what’s going on with our businesses and family life.  Let me tell you more about this incredible entrepreneur.

Kelly Schmidt[i], is one of the leading personal training and fitness experts in Arizona, who has over 20 years of personal training and health development experience all over the world with his online and in person training programs. When Kelly graduated from high school, he was 115 pounds (which is hard to imagine knowing him today) but he says he felt that he was the little guy, which fueled his transformation that took him to 3rd place in his first professional body building show just 5 years ago (in 2015). He now coaches busy professionals all over the world in person at his gym in Glendale, AZ and with his online training programs to help people fit health and fitness into their lifestyle for long term, sustainable results.[ii] 

Welcome Kelly! Kelly, the minute I got the notification that all gyms were closing, I thought of you to help people at all different stages of health, with these strange times where we are quarantined inside our homes. You came to my mind immediately because you’ve been working all year with me on workouts, I can do at home so that I spend less time in the gym. I’ve been seeing posts from people all over the place asking questions about the best way to begin an exercise program. I do want to add the disclaimer, that for anyone at the beginning of their health and fitness journey, please do begin with consulting with your healthcare provider before trying anything new.

Kelly, thanks, so much for being here today, and sharing your ideas and tips with us to help those who might be at the start of their fitness journey, to those looking for more challenge with a home workout because with you, that’s exactly what you’ll get.   

  1. The first question I have for you is on nutrition, which is such a wide topic. We all have different health goals (some people want to lose weight, others gain weight, add more muscle) what would you suggest are some best practices for ALL of us with our nutrition these days? I know that you taught us meal-prepping, and what we should be eating/not eating. Has anything you are doing changed? Is there any staple food that you used to buy that you can’t get these days? How has your nutrition stayed the same and how has it changed?
  2. I had a doctor years ago get me off sugar when he was researching the impact of sugar on our health and he wrote this book called Sugar Crush: How to Reduce Inflammation, Reverse Nerve Damage, and Reclaim Good Health.[iii] I had some health issues that went away 100% and ever since then, I’ve been wary of even fruits because he had me stop eating anything with sugar, and specifically high glycemic fruits. Do you stay away from any fruits and what do you put in your shakes? What impact do you see sugar having on you?
  3. What are macros? How can people figure out what’s the best combination for them or is even talking about macros over kill? I don’t want to stress people out, so how important do you think it is that people have an idea of the numbers that work best for them with the ratio of fats/proteins/carbs that they should be consuming?
  4. What about Celery Juicing. You started us on this practice a few years ago, since we are on our 2nd celery juicing machine.[iv] Then I started to follow this expert Anthony William who is @medicalmedium on Instagram and he’s been helping millions of people around the world for years with his book Celery Juice: The Powerful Medicine of our Time Healing Millions Worldwide.[v]  What benefits have you noticed with this?
  5. I’ve been learning from Dr. Daniel Amen on the best nutraceuticals to take to help improve my health and what sticks out to me is that he mentions that most people are deficient in Omega 3 fatty acids, so I force myself to take fish oil daily. What supplements do you take daily? Have you added more vitamin c lately?
  6. I know what cardio exercise you do daily because we share our activity through the activity app on our watches. I know that people can do this on their Fit Bit as well. Can you share what your daily workouts look like with what you do for cardio, and strength training and what would be 10 exercises that people could do at home that are just as impactful as using machines at the gym?
  7. Besides exercise, what are you doing for your mental health?
  8. How are you balancing your business and fitness goals? What does your daily schedule look like?

Thanks so much Kelly for sharing your thoughts with us. I’m so grateful to have you as a friend, and for all you have done to help support our family, and for the business ideas you’ve shared. It was Kelly who suggested I record my podcasts on video and put them up on YouTube! Great idea, I really appreciate you. For those who want to learn more about your programs,  they can visit and follow you on social media. If anyone wants to access your FREE home video workouts, they can email you at  Keep up the incredible work, and thanks for the decades of health tips and inspiration.



Will Fruit Make You Fat? Kelly Schmidt

What Are Macros? Kelly Schmidt






[iii] Sugar Crush: How to Reduce Inflammation, Reverse Nerve Damage, and Reclaim Good Health by Dr. Richard P. Jacoby and Rachuel Baldelomar


[iv] Celery Juicing Machine


[v]Celery Juice: The Powerful Medicine of our Time Healing Millions Worldwide by Medical Medium Anthony William