I started off this week’s journey towards brain fitness with an intention that I would focus on boosting my brain’s ability to process across both hemispheres simultaneously. In my Neuro-agility profile I scored strongly in situations of moderate stress but was very conscious I could do much better to prepare myself for more stressful situations. Leveraging my studies with Dr Stan Rodski, Dr Andre Vermeulen and Enterprises UP, I decided it was time for a refresher course of cross cortical stimulation exercises. I got started and I have a plan to continue for another 3 weeks – but when I looked back on the week it wasn’t the exercises that were uppermost in my mind1. It was an overwhelming sense of being conscious the choices that I – and others around me – were making to be positive in challenging circumstances.
It started with a brief conversation with a colleague as we were waiting to start a meeting. I complemented him on the choice of a polo shirt in a shade of pink that I thought looked good on him – and good on the zoom screen. I was genuinely taken aback when he said it had been a conscious choice to put on this specific polo shirt to maintain an upbeat frame of mind for the members of his team. The comment took me right back to a memory of another respected colleague, the great Dick Daniels. I worked with Dick for a couple of years and remember clearly how intentional he was in choosing positive responses to the challenges he faced as a CIO in the financial services sector.
As the week progressed, I found myself noticing more and more who appeared to be choosing to be positive in challenging circumstances and who was not. I reflected over the weekend on why this had struck me so forcefully and why it was relevant to a journey towards brain fitness. Here’s what came to mind:
- First up was what I had learned from Dr Andre Vermeulen in my Enterprises UP course – that maintaining a positive attitude improves our brain chemistry in a positive way. As Dr. Vermeulen shared, “When people think positive thoughts they secrete neuro-transmitters which facilitate thinking, learning, and creativity.”2 Boosting the neuro-transmitters that would help me be more creative was certainly a great motivator for me to make that choice to be positive as I embarked on the day
- The next thing that occurred was how much I am impacted by negative energy, I have found that I need to insulate myself from individuals who bring too much negativity with them. It’s just not possible to avoid everyone who might bring negativity to me in my personal or professional life, so I went back to some of the basic principles I learned studying Neuro-Linguistic Programming3. I also referenced some of the exercises that I learned working with Dr Stan Rodski, shared in his book The Neuroscience of Mindfulness
- All of this was reinforced in my daily meditation with Headspace. As part of my 365 Day journey I’m currently refreshing what I learned in the Heart section where my task this week is to recall something positive I did for someone else and also visualize their happiness
Thinking about the people I came across who tended toward the negative, I was struck by how many of them seemed to be “stuck” in some way. Some seemed “stuck” in a replay of past events and an assumption that current events would play out in the same way. Others seemed “stuck” in the way that they were approaching complex problems and struggling to work their way through them. A few more seemed “stuck” in an unproductive working relationship or dynamic. From what I’ve learned in my area of study, I genuinely believe that enhanced brain fitness, improved neuro-agility, really would help to improve outcomes:
- Practicing a mindful approach, enabling us to return to the present moment can help us to halt a pattern ruminating on past events that we cannot go back to change. Mindfulness can also help address the physiological effects from neurotransmitters triggered by reliving the event again
- Regular brain fitness exercise that lay the foundations to enable bi-lateral or synchronous processing across both brain hemispheres – even in times of stress – can help us to access creative solutions in complex or difficult situations
- The brain is structured in such a way that it cannot process emotions and complex analytical functions at the same time. Understanding this can enable us to minimize the physiological effects of individuals where interactions tend to initiate a “fight or flight” response. In bringing a sense of curiosity to a challenging relationship, we access our analytical brain and effectively press pause before we have to process the emotional response that might come as a result of a difficult meeting/conversation
So as we enter the last week of January 2021 – already !?!?! – what do you want for your personal and professional self? Choose the positive path and boost your brain fitness.
#1: Exercise program includes Lazy 8s and exercises shared in The Neuroscience of Mindfulness: Dr. Stan Rodski.