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John Todor: To reach brain potential, we need less individual “improv”

John-Todor

John I. Todor

What is your cur­rent job title and orga­ni­za­tion, and what excites you the most about work­ing there?
As the Co-Founder of Living55Plus.com, I enjoy the oppor­tu­nity to curate the new research show­ing how lifestyle impacts men­tal, phys­i­cal and social well-being, and to help build a com­mu­nity to share every­day experiences.

Please tell us about your inter­est in applied brain sci­ence. What areas are you most inter­ested in? What moti­vated you to pur­sue work in your field?
My Ph.D. is in Edu­ca­tional Psy­chol­ogy, fol­lowed by post-doctoral work in cog­ni­tive sci­ence and clin­i­cal neu­ropsy­chol­ogy. I am most inter­ested in uncov­er­ing how lifestyles, what we do day in and out and how we do it, includ­ing our jobs, con­tribute to well-being. How can we develop and apply meth­ods to help peo­ple adopt healthy lifestyles and replace toxic behaviors?

My moti­va­tion to pur­sue this work is two-fold. One is mak­ing sure that extended lifes­pans will be spent in a state of opti­mal well-being rather than decline. Two, my expe­ri­ence with middle-aged and older exec­u­tives indi­cate that new dis­cov­er­ies are not enough. We need to develop effec­tive method­olo­gies for wide­spread adop­tion of pos­i­tive lifestyles. We are now in a state of “improv” mostly at an indi­vid­ual level. This is a huge prob­lem in a world with an aging pop­u­la­tion and fast-changing dynam­ics where well-being depends on enhanced adap­tive potential.

What is one impor­tant thing you are work­ing on now, and where can peo­ple learn more about it?
Com­plete well-being is a state of opti­mal men­tal, phys­i­cal and social func­tion­ing, and we are dis­cov­er­ing that the three are highly inter­de­pen­dent. Peo­ple can learn more about our approach by vis­it­ing www.Living55Plus.com.

What are 1–2 key things you’d like every per­son to under­stand regard­ing his/her own brain and mind that you think is com­monly mis­rep­re­sented or not addressed in the pop­u­lar media?
The notion of health is most often approached as an exer­cise pro­gram or weight loss diet that requires will power and hard work. Cer­tainly, moti­va­tion is crit­i­cal and requires chang­ing old rou­tines and habits. How­ever, many of the pos­i­tive and proac­tive changes in behav­ior or lifestyle are self-rewarding, cog­ni­tively and emo­tion­ally, as well as stim­u­lat­ing pos­i­tive brain health. The key is to start with changes that are both mean­ing­ful and reward­ing and to develop a social net­work to sup­port an ongo­ing jour­ney that is not just healthy but rewarding.

Where do you see clear “low-hanging fruit” to enhance behav­ioral and brain health based on neu­ro­science and inno­va­tion?
Iden­ti­fy­ing con­ven­tional behav­iors or lifestyles that con­tribute to declines in health and well-being and apply­ing not only applied brain sci­ence but also pos­i­tive psy­chol­ogy and knowl­edge of social rela­tion­ships to change them for the bet­ter. The “low-hanging fruit” is in stim­u­lat­ing both offline com­mu­ni­ties and online social net­works to become engaged in pos­i­tive change.

What would you like the 2013 Sharp­Brains Vir­tual Sum­mit to accom­plish?
As with past Sum­mits, bring to the fore­front the con­tem­po­rary research on brain sci­ence and dis­cus­sion of lead­ing efforts to apply the research. Addi­tion­ally, to facil­i­tate the inter­ac­tion between pro­fes­sion­als tak­ing diverse approaches to the chal­lenges. These inter­views are an excel­lent start.

Finally, what do you do to stay sharp?
I do mind­ful med­i­ta­tion every day and try engag­ing in activ­i­ties that push me out of my com­fort zone on a reg­u­lar basis. Last spring I took singing lessons, which was an uncom­fort­able but stim­u­lat­ing activ­ity for a life­long non-singer.

Cur­rently, I am also try­ing out ways to “eat less and enjoy it more,” a mind­ful endeavor to not fall back into old habits but make healthy and enjoy­able changes in my own eat­ing habits.

2013 SharpBrains SummitThis con­ver­sa­tion is part of a new inter­view series with Speak­ers and Par­tic­i­pants in the upcom­ing 2013 Sharp­Brains Vir­tual Sum­mit (Sep­tem­ber 19-20th). You can reg­is­ter with a 20% dis­count using pro­mo­tional code: sharp2020

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