BRAIN OPTIMIZATION The Moody's Primer
SOME INTRODUCTORY FACTS:
*The brain controls 100% of our body functioning, uses up 20% of our body energy and 20% of our oxygen. Yet 90% of nutrition plans are focused on how to eat to lose weight or build muscle. Most people only make associations between fitness, body fat, and heart health.
*Regardless of how well-educated or accomplished we are, 95% of our behavior is automatic...unless we develop mindset practices that put us in greater charge of our brain:body connection.
*Dr. Michael Merzenich, a leading pioneer in the science of neuroplasticity, defines brain plasticity as “the brain’s ability to change its anatomical, neurochemical, and functional performance status across the lifespan.”
*Brain research has shown that there are mindset, movement, and nutritional practices that help our brain cells rejuvenate and allow us to continue to be able to learn, produce, and fully experience life at a high functioning level well into senior years.
*Research also shows that chronic stress and disregard of brain care in these ways can thwart brain cell growth and create a FIXED mindset vs a GROWTH mindset. A fixed mindset is rigid out of the need to protect itself. A growth mindset allows for enhanced problem-solving, creativity, and continued learning. Positive change and growth in a corporate culture heavily relies on the brain health (growth mindset) of the corporate individuals.
*Cortisol, the stress hormone, when chronically maintained at just a slightly elevated level that often becomes the norm feeling for people, can kill, shrink, and/or stop the generation of new neurons in the hippocampus, the part of your brain that is in charge of storing memories.
*Cortisol also creates a surplus of the neurotransmitter glutamate. Glutamate contributes to the brain’s production of free radicals, which attack brain cell walls, causing the brain cells to rupture and die.
*A fun fact is that dancing stimulates the release of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), a protein that promotes the growth, maintenance, and plasticity of neurons needed for learning and memory. Remember this when we talk about movement for mindset mastery.
*Symptoms of poor BRAIN nutrition, depression, and burnout from chronic stress are identical yet 1 in 6 Americans are taking antidepressants before even considering adjusting their nutrients or learning how to protect their brain from stress damage.
WHAT TO EXPECT WITH DIAMOND MIND STRATEGIES FOR BRAIN & BODY OPTIMIZATION:
*Cutting-edge information about why and how to protect and preserve your greatest asset: your brain.
*A functional approach to warding off burnout to enjoy a vibrancy in all of your roles at work and at home.
*Practical, easy-to-implement strategies to enhance mental sharpness, increase mental and physical stamina, reduce chronic stress, and support overall mental and physical well-being.
*Methods for simultaneously reducing anxiety while fostering greater ease with high-pressure communication and optimal performances.
Diamond Mind Strategies are complementary but very different from typical Corporate Wellness programs.
Most wellness and performance coaching programs are loaded with great ideas for people to implement IF they were actually ready to take them on and turn them into a lasting lifestyle or method of higher achievement. The problem is that often people aren't mentally prepared to adopt new approaches that require consistency over time. Because our brains are designed to protect us, we are actually wired to resist change because of the uncertainty it brings. This resistance is higher in correlation with our cortisol (or stress) levels in our brain. The more stressed we are, the harder change is to accept and activate...even when we know it's better for us.
When stress levels are at a medium to low level, we are completely equipped with the ability to adapt to change once we have done our best to consciously or subconsciously assess the risk:reward ratio. This is why cultivating what I call new "Pro Self" practices, whether personally or in the corporate culture, is challenging and needs to start at the TRUE starting point for the individual. We need to reduce the interferences and foster a growth mindset with brain neuroplasticity. Diamond Mind Strategies not only give you a great foundation for brain and body wellness, but also prepare you for taking on the bigger healthy challenges/changes with greater ease.
WHAT IS "BRAIN OPTIMIZATION"?
Brain Optimization is about disrupting the interfering thought patterns and stress chemical conditions that your brain has been operating under in order to clear the space for new, healthy, and powerful brain:body connectivity supporting optimal functioning mentally, physically, professionally, and in relationships. That's a chunky definition...so read it again for best digestion, perhaps.
An analogy that I find useful is to liken the brain to our beloved Smartphones. People actually do more to protect their Smartphones than their Smart Brains! When we neglect brain care, we often operate as if in "Airplane Mode" with limited capacity for input and output (again, this is what makes important decision-making difficult at times). Brain Optimization is about supplying your brain with a full charge and a solid "service" connection.
Quick breakdown of some terms: Mental Fitness & Nutritional Psychology, my coined phrases to describe what I offer.
Mental Fitness are the mindset exercises AND movement (not necessarily fitness) practices that reduce chronic stress build-up, channel energy, and help to ward off burnout. Additionally, they are designed to help you rejuvenate purpose and passion that yields effective power in your professional role. Lastly, mental fitness exercises give you simple mindset habits to enhance communication in the workplace and the relationships that matter most to you.
Nutritional Psychology is about eating to nourish your brain so that it functions at its optimal best. While in my own life I clearly know how to eat to build muscle and reduce fat, I am not a nutritionist and don't provide nutrition plans. What I do is provide an education that is unique in an effort to build a functional association with nourishment. Food is meant to be enjoyed but fundamentally meant to give us what we need to function at our best (and not just to look a certain way).
My BIO-PSYCHO-SOCIAL approach to nutrition teaches you how to evaluate and implement nutrition more effectively for energy, focus, clarity, and mood stabilization.
Part of Nutritional Psychology focuses on the use of nootropics and possibly hormone support. Nootropics are natural supplements that impact the production of hormones we need for brain and body functioning. HRT, Hormone Replacement Therapy, is a modern medicine intervention that helps preserve our cognitive functioning and emotional stability in addition to the physical benefits.
INITIAL INFO ON HOW MY PROGRAM REMEDIATES OR WARDS OFF BURNOUT:
BURNOUT has been a hot topic for a while.
BURNOUT: living with chronic stress keeps us operating in "firefighter mode". Going from situation to situation trying to "put out fires", of course, further exacerbates "firefighter mode". End result: BURNOUT.
Burnout symptoms include: decreased energy, decreased memory capacity, decreased libido, decreased sleep, decreased creativity, decreased ability to solve problems, and more on the "decreased" functioning side. On the increase, however, you will also find increased irritability, increased weight gain, increased exhaustion, increased conflict, increased depression, increased anxiety, and others.
So what can we do to protect our greatest asset, our brain, from the burnout of chronic stress?
Too often, people try to incorporate a new healthy habit (such as yoga, meditation, getting to the gym, or changing their diet and their brains just aren't ready for those changes! What happens? They get frustrated, start to create reasons for why they can't make it happen as they intended, and quit. Their efforts to reduce stress are actually stressful, then. They "fall off the wagon".
To simplify, this is often all it takes to optimize your brain and body:
*a few different 90-second mindset exercises daily to reduce the cortisol and adjust the previously imprinted connections that currently exist.
*a new understanding and planning of nutritional choices to nourish healthy brain hormone production and reduce the fight-or-flight response.
*a couple of mind:body actions throughout each day to attend to whole body internal "communication".
This is Mental Fitness & Nutritional Psychology.
The New Mind:Body Connection
To customize my programs with different audiences (from our US Military to Yale U. medical students to law firms, hedge funds, teachers, EAP counselors, teens and parents), I spend some time interviewing at least 10 employees to learn about the corporate culture and gather some specific examples to use with the strategies. My interview questions are designed to give me insight into the variables that impact how employees are able to self-care in order to be their best in their roles. They also shed light on important corporate dynamics that influence how stress is created and managed, how purpose and value is created, and how relationships foster or hinder an environment of healthy, high performance.
Here are the questions that I have asked those at Moody's. Answer them for yourself and use your own words to help consider the strategies we will discuss when we are together on July 30, 2019:
What is the "Rhythm of Your Day" (starts, stops, pace)? The tendency is to answer from a professional perspective with the time you begin work. I am asking about this from a human perspective of when you wake up:
When is your mental energy sharpest and most dull?
When is your physical energy most robust and least available?
What are your "Fueling Patterns"? This means taking a look at what and when you eat and hydrate with regularly:
What is your caffeination habit?
What is your movement like throughout the day from start to stop? Note the differences (if any) on travel days/weeks, as well.
What is your sleep pattern and quality?
Do you incorporate napping ever?
Do you have environmental comforts or challenges at work? This refers to physical space (chairs, desks, sounds), lighting, views, and environmental "perks" that companies can provide.
Focusing on the Corporate Culture, use single descriptive words to define the overall attitude toward work, the characteristics of relationships at work, the values that shape the culture:
What does your “whole self grid” look like? Your grid includes all of the areas of life that you value and/or invest time and energy into.
What is your Sunday night mindset?
What is your weekend energy like…Friday night, Saturday, Sunday?
What is your Monday morning energy like?
What is your Monday morning mindset?
Describe your physical and mental transition from work to home.
What is your personal stress level and what are the general contributing factors:
What are your personal self-care habits:
What are your ersonal high-performance habits (those things you do that assure you will produce at the desired expectation):
What challenges your personal high-performance mindset and productivity?
LET'S NOT WAIT UNTIL JULY 30th TO GET SOME RELIEF AND START OPTIMIZING BRAIN POWER:
I am going to get you started with one Mental Fitness exercise that shifts the mind:body messaging during your workday. Give it a try and let me know how it goes at the end of the month.
We need to recognize how our body communicates with our brain and vice versa. Painful, tight, contracted muscles send the message to our brain that we are "ready to fight". The brain goes into that fight or flight response automatically. Raised cortisol.
Persistently raised cortisol= reduced mental clarity, memory impairment, irritability, resistance to change, decreased energy of all kinds, and promotes aging, illness, and disease.
MENTAL FITNESS EXERCISE: Move a muscle, change a thought. Office-based movement is not only possible but essential to high performance. Stretching shifts the muscle:mind messaging.
There are many resources online for stretches that you can do from your seat at work. You can use a wall, your desk, or your body alone to stretch your neck, shoulders, traps, and lower back which all hold tension either from stressors or sedentary position that communicates to your mind that you need to prepare to fight some battle. Stretching for two minutes every two hours will keep cortisol from building up and save you from physical pains associated with stress.
Here's an example of what YouTube has to offer for stretching guidance:
Whether you have a standing desk or are in a chair, keeping your posture aligned for best brain:body connectivity is important. Do a posture check or movement practice approximately every hour. Set an alert on your phone to do so.
1. practicing positive posture for powerful body to mind messaging. Head up, spine straight, shoulders back, hips squared.
2. Once per hour, slip your shoes off and do squats or leg lifts for 60 seconds.
If you don't have a standing desk then take two minutes every hour to sit fully upright in your chair and do leg extensions squeezing the quad muscle at the top of that leg extension. Focus on the tightening of that major muscle and then equally focusing on the release of that contraction. You can do the same with bicep curls.
I have approximately 40 Mental Fitness Exercises that range from those that take 90 seconds to those that can take an hour or so of your focus. They are designed to shift brain chemistry and keep you from living in a chronic stress condition. When we meet on July 30th, you will learn the why and how for brain optimization with greater detail.
LET'S ALSO LAY A FOUNDATION OF NUTRITIONAL PSYCHOLOGY UNDERSTANDING SO YOU CAN COME WITH YOUR COMMENTS OR QUESTIONS:
the BIO-PSYCHO-SOCIAL APPROACH TO NUTRITION
Backdrop info very worth repeating: symptoms of depression are IDENTICAL to symptoms of malnutrition...yet most people will take a pill before adjusting their dietary intake.
Another need to know for backdrop: your brain doesn't know the difference between external or internal stress. Hence, how we nourish ourselves can add to or diminish Stress Brain.
Oh, one more: timing is everything.
Quick side note on HORMONES:
HORMONES are not just about your sex life. Hormone balancing is essential for brain and body functioning,. Testosterone levels impact mental functioning because they are directly related to both menopause and andropause AND responsible for the "fight-or-flight" response.
The other hormones we need to talk about are all about Brain Optimization: Cortisol, Dopamine, Serotonin, Oxytocin. Chronic Stress, "Stress Brain", is when cortisol levels remain at a constant high. This condition causes wear and tear on: creativity, clarity, mood, memory, energy, heart health, body fat retainment, muscle aches, and more.
And Natural Supplementation:
NOOTROPICS are natural supplements designed to optimize brain and body functioning. Nootropics help to create health at the cellular level. Real "bodybuilding" is about caring for our most basic building blocks to our physical selves: our cells. Fragile cells equate to Oxidative Stress.
Oxidative Stress, or when the amount of "free radicals" exceeds the amount of antioxidants in our system, causes fatigue, memory loss or brain fog, headaches, vision problems, wrinkles and grey hair.
Mental Fitness & Nutritional Psychology Strategies help reduce Stress Brain and Oxidative Stress.
FIVE MAIN NUTRITIONAL TAKEAWAYS:
1. Protein is not just for muscle-building...and timing matters.
2. Not all carbs are created equal....and timing matters.
3. Water is not just for hydrating skin and blood-flow. Our brains require hydration at a certain level in order to not go into Stress Brain mode.
4. Nootropics, natural supplementation, are the scientific advancements that offer physical & mental stress-reduction intervention at the molecular level.
5. Hormones are important to balance for healthy, high functioning mentally, physically, and sexually. One of my goals is to help you become most educated about your own body and as a consumer of health products!
NOW CHECK OUT THESE NUTRITIONAL SUGGESTIONS: