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Brain and Mind Fitness Programs: resiliency, on top of attention, memory…


6.30pm: I leave the office, downtown San Francisco, and take the train.

6.44pm: just before arriving in my station, I remember I have an appointment with my hairdresser, which means I have to walk in a different direction than usual.

6.48pm: I find myself walking towards my house, opposite direction from my hairdresser.

You may have had a similar experience. You walk towards where you parked your car. Except that the car is not there. Then you realize that, on that precise day, you couldn’t park your car in the usual place. And now you have to walk to a different corner of the parking lot. What corner?

Now you may feel disoriented, not only about where your car may be, but about why we are talking about this…

Well, this story is a good example of how our brains work. When we do anything a number of times, the relevant neuronal networks get more and more strongly connected. “Cells that fire together wire together“. We develop automatic habits, from which it is not easy to escape. We get used to just getting out of the metro station and walking home. We know where we always park our cars.

You may also try an enlightening experiment on our habits.

Let me now make a brief detour. Over the last few weeks, I have had a number of conversations where the same concept has appeared: resiliency. Resiliency can be defined as “the ability to recover from a failure”. Resiliency is a critical Mental Muscle to train.

I  learned the word 6-7 years ago, at an Ashoka event in Buenos Aires, Argentina, organized by social entrepreneur Alberto Croce. Richard Barth, CEO of KIPP Foundation, used it last week when we were discussing several Brain Fitness priorities for teachers and students. My friends at the Institute of HeartMath proposed using “developing resiliency”, instead of “beating Stress”, when we were brainstorming options to partner with professional associations and bring proven anxiety reduction programs to educators and health care professionals. Mark Katz, when we met with a number of school superintendents, empathized how important for all students to develop the executive function of resiliency, and how that would help them overcome obstacles such as ADD? ADHD and other academic problems.

In the Neuroscience of Leadership post, we saw too that resiliency is a critical attitude, and skill. To not spend too much focus and mental energy on trying to double-guess hidden meanings, and the past. To focus, instead, on what we can do next. On what is on our scope of influence. On, as we discussed before, being positive .

Let’s summarize. First, we have seen that some behaviors become habits and thereby mindless habits. They become us. What we call our personalities. Then, we have seen how important resiliency is.

So, what prevents us all from developing the habit of resiliency and letting be part of our behavior, habits and personality?

Brain and Mind Fitness are important. We can improve memory, attention, stress management, decision-making…Now, in a holistic way, Brain and Mind Fitness includes the executive function, or habit, or attitude, of resiliency. If you know of Brain Fitness Programs that allow people to develop it, please let us know. We are working on that too.

Maybe a first step is to re-read the classic Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning.

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6 Responses

  1. I have been thinking about the role of stress and how it hampers our ability to make changes and be creative enough to even think of possible changes. Of course, aligned is resilience. My thinking was spurred by a very good book I read earlier this week: WHY WE BELIEVE WHAT WE BELIEVE by Andrew Newberg, MD. I also last week first saw this article about the effects of stress on the brain:

    Have you read Newberg’s book? The article? If not, I want to recommend them as I think you will find both thought-provoking. Hope you blog about them.

  2. Alvaro says:

    Thanks Stephanie. I haven’t read them, but the article does look fascinating. Will read both and blog on Stress in 1-2 weeks, linking them to the amazing work by Stanford’s Robert Sapolsky, including his fun book Why Zebras don’t Get Ulcers.

  3. I had not heard of Sapolsky before. I just ordered two of his books from my local library. Thanks, Alvaro.

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