Habits: Motivation Gets You Moving: Habit Gets You Where You Want to Go

habits

Habit formation is like acting on automatic pilot. It is so woven into the fabric of our behavior we don’t even stop to think that we’re on automatic pilot. We just keep on doing. Continue reading

Mindful Awareness: An Opportunity For Choice And Change

Jim, a recently promoted millennial, has just finished his first one-on-one meeting with Anita – an older, long-time employee and team leader on an important project.

Walking back to his office, Jim’s thoughts flash back to the meeting with Anita and how badly he responded to some of her questions. Although aware of the way he handled himself, the more attention he gives to his behavior –  which he feels could be seen as defensive and condescending  – the deeper his feelings of regret and guilt.  He knows that he has a past history of defensive behavior when he gets emotionally triggered and he feels bad about leaving such a harsh impression with a new colleague.

How can Jim use mindfulness practice to overcome these traits and eliminate the unproductive consequences? Just being aware of his behavior is not mindfulness. Mindful awareness is more than just being aware. Continue reading

How Neuroscience Can Support the Challenge of Parenting

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So, here’s how it went. After sitting in my car, waiting in the queue for twenty minutes, my nine-year-old grandson enters the car with a big smile on his face, happy to see me. How was school today, I ask? ‘Good,” he says, and then digs into his backpack to retrieve his school issued iPad. On our drive to get ice cream, answers to my questions about his day were mumbled or unanswered. The lure of the iPad was too great a competitor!  I felt frustrated in my desire to create a “quality” moment with Ethan.

I love Ethan very much and I know how much he loves me.  I was okay with the silence. The experience, however, left me thinking about the many challenges of full-time parenting (after all, as a grandfather I have a lot of breathing room). It also got me thinking about the many moments parents have to convert frustration (or any other emotion that may be non-productive) into opportunities to help their children to grow into caring, empathetic, loving, responsible and capable adults.

I thought about Daniel Siegel’s description of mental health and well-being – that mental health is associated with the integration of the body with different regions of the brain and relationships. . And, how could that notion of mental health and neuroscience be applied to parenting and shaping the unfolding growth of children and maximizing their mental health. Continue reading

Making Changes: Closing the Gap Between Intention and Action



How many times have we said to ourselves, with the deepest intentions, “This part of my behavior has to stop, it’s just not working for me?”

And then we resort back to old behavior – still holding the best of intentions.

Why is it so easy to be our own worst enemy, especially in the arena of making personal change?

What can we do to eliminate the gap between intention and action? What stops us from aligning our beliefs and motivations so that they produce the changes we want to feel and see in our lives?

Resistance to change is powerful. In one study of heart patients, told they would likely die without making lifestyle changes, only one in seven followed the medical recommendations. I’m sure that the six who didn’t change truly want to live.  Change is a decision-making process involving different regions of the brain that become integrated, resulting in behavior and actions. However, too often it’s just a decision to change, not the actual behavioral change we want.

When we want to make a change in our lives, it usually starts with an intention that can be either an articulated expression of some desire or a privately held thought. For example, I might say that I want to lose weight or, think that I want to work on changing the nature of my relationship with a colleague at work..but the weight stays on and the relationship doesn’t change.

What stops me? Why is there such a  gap between intention and action? Continue reading

Minding The Mind

Do you think the brain and mind is the same thing? Does it even matter to talk about distinctions between the two?

It’s about how we can go about making changes in our lives, especially if we want to have more control over our internal narrative, our self-talk and ultimately, behavior.

Late 20th century brain researchers viewed the brain in strict, functional, neuronal terms as an information processor that operated without reference to content and context.  The mind, when viewed from this Newtonian mechanistic model of the world, is determined by brain activity.

Things changed in the 21st century.

Technological advances, interdisciplinary discoveries and a systemic approach led the way to a new perspective about the mind and brain. Key among these discoveries is the notion that the brain is capable of neuroplasticity – capable of changing as a result of experience.  From the moment we’re born until we die the brain is capable of creating new neural circuitry.

Another major contribution to the shift in thinking about brain and mind is the idea that the brain is a social organ. It connects with other brains via neural circuitry in our body that is hard-wired to take in other’s signals. In other words, “we think outside our own individual brain.”

As neuroscientist Leslie Brothers describes it, “our neural machinery doesn’t produce mind; it enables participation.”   While the brain is structurally 100 billion neurons, each connecting to 5,000 to 10,000 others and their complex patterns of firing – the mind as Daniel Siegel describes it is the “flow of energy and information.”  Continue reading