Tag Archives: neuroscience

Take Your Vacation. It Will Rebuild Your Brain.

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More than one in three of us are forfeiting our vacation time.  Instead of taking time to renew, most of us are working harder than ever, an average 49 hours a week. We are putting in 100-200 more hours per year than our parents.  We sleep less than our parents did; one to two hours less.  Those are averages; you might be working more and sleeping less than that.

Two million years of lost vacation time

We talk about vacations, plan them, dream about them and then fail to take one. As much as a half billion vacation days will go unused this year.  Surveys reveal that we don’t take vacations because we fear an adversary will get ahead of us, or that work will pile up while we’re gone.  If we do take a vacation, we take work with us.  A survey found that 92% of those away on vacation frequently check in with the office.  That’s really not a vacation.

The Reward for Taking Vacation Time

A proper vacation can repair and expand higher order brain function that a stressful year has debilitated and even damaged. The reward for the time you invest in a vacation is a brain humming with the creative intelligence, emotional balance, and physical energy that sustains you at the top of your game. When you return from vacation, neurologically you will be ahead of the person you worried would get ahead of you.

Here’s How to Take Your Vacation

Think of your vacation as an intensive care unit for your brain, where no one from the outside is allowed to enter your personal space who might stress you. That means that before you leave for your trip, put your email account on auto-responder.

When you arrive at your destination, put your Blackberry in a drawer. If you have to use it, be disciplined about letting non-urgent business calls go to voice mail.

Here’s a simple approach to making your vacation rejuvenate your brain.

(1)  Start your day in quiet in a place where you won’t be disturbed and follow the process below:

  • Close your eyes or take a downward gaze.
  • Tilt your head toward your heart. Follow your breathing. Imagine each breath softening your heart and opening it wider.
  • Take a few minutes to frame the day in a positive light.
  • Feel appreciation for the gift of another day of life.
  • Feel appreciation for another day to be with the ones you love.
  • Set the intention to have a relaxing, happy day.
  • Make your goal to succeed at love, peace and joy.

(2) During the day,

  • Practice being present, right here, right now.
  • Practice letting go of worries and judgments.
  • Commit to tuning into your loved ones. Rediscover them all over again.
  • Hold the intention to listen better, judge less, and forgive more. In fact, practice judging nothing that happens while on vacation, from traffic jams to unpleasant people.

 

 

 

Your Brain Can Work 12 Hours Every Day And Not Burnout

You can actually work long hours, day in, day out, and experience little or no stress. How? By accentuating positive principles that empower an attitude of peace in your daily life. That’s not an opinion; it’s hard science.

A dynamically peaceful attitude not only eliminates the fatigue and diminished brain function that stress causes, it takes your brain in the opposite direction. It expands and integrates brain networks that generate peak performance, emotional intelligence and creative insight.  The science on this is now definitive (Dias-Ferreira, 2009; Lutz, Davidson, 2004).

A peaceful attitude also helps in building resistance to a long list of diseases that plague modern human beings, including heart disease, cancer, immunodeficiency, diabetes, depression, dementia and premature aging (every year of stress adds six years of aging).

Most of us think of peace as a rather complacent way of being that has no power in the “real world;” a nice sentiment on a holiday card, but not a practical way to maintain your competitive edge. Not so.  Others even believe that the opposite of peace — which is stress and fear — is what drives success.  Also, not so.

Science now knows that peace, as a way of being and relating to life’s challenges, generates the brain structure and chemsitry to perform at optimum. Stress renders the brain incapable of sustaining peak performance.

Stress hormones shrinks regions of the brain associated with creativity, executive decision-making and goal-directed behaviors to shrink.  Stress hormomes also expand regions of the brain that make us anxious and habituate unproductive behavior, neurologically predisposing us to doing the same dead end things over and over.

Happily, we can rewire the brain and reverse the damage by making a dynamic shift in attitude – toward peace.

Make no mistake, your attitude literally determines whether your brain is at full power or not.  A small amount of time invested every day toward shifting your attitude from fear and stress to peace returns enormous dividends.

This shift in  attitude is built on simple qualities anyone can accentuate.  It’s having faith in yourself. It’s trusting the process and letting go of fear.  It’s refuting worried, stressful thoughts and choosing to be calm and realistic. It’s listening better, judging less, and forgiving more.

These qualities when practiced consistently come together to form a dynamically peaceful attitude.  In the most fundamental sense, a dynamically peaceful attitude means you are not afraid of the world and its challenges.

Practiced with consistency, within a matter of weeks this dynamically peaceful attitude becomes neuroplastic – meaning it changes brain structure and chemistry in important ways.

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The Target Few Can See

I am writing a new book, entitled “Dear Genius,” and it’s intended to speak straight to you. It’s not hype. You possess your own brand of genius; it’s waiting for you to establish the environment within your brain so it can be realized.It’s the intel inside.

The great philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer defined genius best. He said “talent is the ability to hit a target few can hit. But genius hits a target few can see.” How do you see that target?

Through a process called neuroplasticity. You rewire your brain to lead from higher order brain function and then place that brain power in the hands of your higher mind. It’s simpler than you might imagine. It does not matter how old you might be. A simple practice performed each day gradually opens your eyes to see the bull’s eye your genius is meant to hit.

Take a moment and try to imagine your brain at full power generating the creative and emotional intelligence that not only succeeds at life but flourishes.

It’s achievable and it all starts with the brain.

Pregnancy and The Brain

New research has wonderful news for pregnant women but unfortunately it also has news that is no so good. The wonderful news is that pregnancy increases brain power in expectant moms. The not-so-good news is that stress can take mother and child in the opposite direction.  Stress hormones can cross over into the fetus and affect the brain of the child.  Additionally, stress hormones can shrink the mother’s neural networks that generate the higher order brain function that make her smart.  Happily, there is something that can be done about it to insure that all goes well for mother and child.

The Good News

It was once thought that pregnancy caused a woman to lose brain power.  Not so.  A new research study involving more than 2,500 women over ten years has found that brainpower not only doesn’t decline during pregnancy; it appears to actually increase, producing a permanent improvement in brain function. The study found significant increases in mental acuity and memory in women during pregnancy and after childbirth. Even husbands show increased mental performance and empathy, although not to the same degree (Kinsley and Lambert, 2009).

Pregnant women have long been the butt of a demeaning stereotype. It paints a picture of a hormonal mess of a woman, charmingly stupid and erratic, turning every day into an episode of  I Love Lucy.  “Placenta brain” is the common term used to describe this stereotype; some in medical science call it “maternal amnesia.” It’s another in that long list of stereotypes that doesn’t hold up to examination. When researchers challenged the stereotype they found evidence of cultural prejudice toward a pregnant woman. Sara Corse at the University of Pennsylvania had MBA students interact with a manager they were told was pregnant. In reality, she was really a research assistant pretending to be pregnant.

The students who related to the ‘manager’ as pregnant gave her more negative ratings than the control group that had no notion of her being pregnant. The deceived students viewed the “pregnant manager” as passive or erratic, not as a leader deserving respect.

The Not-So-Good News

Stress is bad news for mother and child during pregnancy.  When large amounts of the stress hormone cortisol reach the fetal brain, it can cause structural and functional changes that are not good. New research (Weinstock-Rosin, 2008; Monk, 2010) shows that the offspring of stressed mothers during pregnancy were later shown to have impaired learning and memory abilities, attention-deficit, less capacity to cope with adverse situations and symptoms of anxiety and depressive-like behavior, as compared to unstressed mothers.  There is evidence that stress during pregnancy may even be a factor in autism and schizophrenia.

Here’s What You Can Do About It

It turns out that, biologically, a peaceful attitude is the path to the best outcome. The more peaceful you are during pregnancy, the more your child’s brain will grow in the positive ways that assure the good life you envision for him or her.  As a number of studies have shown over the last decade (Davidson, 2001) a dynamically peaceful attitude is a prescription for an amazing brain – for mother as well as child.

Click here for the full article that also contains a set of tools that can help expectant moms and dads sustain the dynamically peaceful attitude that grows a healthy baby.

Transforming The Workplace We All Hate

It’s All About The Brain

The annual Gallup Lifestyle study reports that 75% of us are stressed, 38% to an extreme degree, and 75% of us say stress got worse this last year. Stress costs us and our organization at every level that matters. Research has established beyond any doubt that a brain chronically under stress is incapable of sustaining peak performance.

  • Stress hormones cause higher order brain networks to shrink, retarding the creative, analytic and practical intelligence that enables you not only to succeed but excel.
  • A stressed brain is incapable of generating the emotional intelligence that keeps you passionate about your work, joyful about life, and cool, calm and collected in a crisis.
  • Stress hormones also block neural networks driving the social intelligence that makes you influential, authentic and trustworthy.

Stress also makes you sick. There are a million Americans absent from work everyday due to stress and even more missing due to presenteeism. Add all the stress related illness together — from heart diseases to immunodeficiency — and you have the #1 cause of death in America. The long list of stress-related diseases is driving-up the cost of health benefits.

Stress also accounts for nearly half of turnover and is rated as the #1 problem for 90% of senior executives. The price tag is somewhere around a trillion dollars. It’s a mess and few companies know what to do to solve it. Most would tell you there is no solution. There is as solution and comes straight from breakthroughs in brain research over the last ten years.

The neurological opposite of stress is peace. It may surprise you to learn that peace is a highly dynamic neurological state. It is a core condition that expands the physical brain structure to increase analytic, practical and creative intelligence. It is also the core condition that promotes a mindset for emotional and social intelligence, optimal health and psychological resilience.

Breakthroughs in neuroscience make it clear that the prescription for peak performance is to shift our attitude — from stress to peace. This shift in attitude involves a simple set of processes anyone can learn. These simple processes literally rewire the brain to produce a highly creative, emotionally balanced, and increasingly healthy employee.  A dynamic state of peace represents a shift in perception that allows us to relate to demands without fear. A simple but consistent practice that shifts anxious, stress-provoking attitudes at the point of inception generates significant changes in brain structure and in a relatively short period of time, in as little as six weeks time.

  • Higher gamma wave activity, indicating the brain is linking and processing information from all of its parts faster and in a more organized manner. Gamma waves are associated with high levels of intelligence, higher cognitiveprocesses, and peak performance.
  • Higher levels of activity in the left prefrontal cortex, indicating that a positive perspective has become the emotional default, producing a calm, clear, optimistic, and emotionally resilient way of being.
  • Greater activity in the center of the brain (caudate and right insula,) indicating a higher level of interpersonal resonance and social intelligence.

This change is called neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity means that a change of attitude which changes our experience, physically changes our brain. As you shift our attitude from fear to peace, your brain rewire. This resolves chronic stress by quieting the primitive neuro-circuits of fear and amplifying higher brain function.

In this new environment, companies generate a neuro-competitive advantage. The emotional climate shifts from negative to positive, from survival mode to the joy of excelling. Challenges stretch people in positive ways, instead of taxing them. Work becomes an intrinsically rewarding experience that energizes people instead of rendering them drained and dissatisfied.

The ROI for making this shift is enormous, solving chronic problems that are costly, such as turnover, absenteeism, presenteeism, worker comp, and health care costs.