The Science Behind Our Yes!

This week’s article is by Lou Zenteno and Jim Ritchie-Dunham.  It is a companion to Jim’s interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled The Science Behind Our Yes! that aired on Tuesday, September 28th, 2021.

 

The evidence is clear.  When we start with a Yes!, we are far more productive, creative, and engaged.  When we start with a No!, we are far less productive, creative, and engaged.  The evidence is in social media everywhere, in our work with 1,000s of groups in 43 countries, in our teaching at leading universities, and in our survey research with over 100,000 responses in 125 countries.

Along with the recent shake-up of the world as we knew it, brought on by the pandemic, comes the opportunity to self-assess where we are putting our energy in our day-to-day activities. While this isn’t new, the changes and uncertainty we have experienced, both firsthand and through our groups, have created a more obvious space to reflect on it. We have new situations that require new daily decisions.

If we make 35,000 choices per day, or 2 per second, 99% of them are taken unconsciously [1]. It is in this unseen space where we have the opportunity to find our real Yes!  We can avoid running on autopilot, shifting from reacting blindly to being consciously aware.

Choosing our Yes! is an acceptance; affirmation and confirmation of our human creativity. It is an acceptance of ourselves that enables us to access what we hold true. It is an affirmation of our capacity to choose, through our will, where we want to direct our attention and intention. It entails the affirmation of other agreements that are intrinsically connected. And perhaps, most importantly, it is the confirmation to the external world of where we are choosing to channel our energy.  This shows how we enter into our relationship with the world.

As leaders, you might be thinking, “How can I ‘know’ this for myself?”  Easy!  You know this.  You are constantly receiving feedback about your choices through your experiences. Our work with leaders shows that there is a common denominator–you know when you are resonating in your Yes!, when you are engaged in creative flow, in synergistic collaboration within a group, reaching high impact together.  You also know when your efforts, your attention, and your intention, are not aligned with your Yes!, when you accepting a No.

While easier said than done, the truth is that not choosing your Yes! has huge implications.  Falling asleep, not being aware of where you are making your choices from, the perspectives and agreements you are accepting unconsciously are dangerous, expensive, and very inefficient.  It’s not only ineffective for organizations, it is also an energy-draining experience for you and your colleagues. Companies are struggling today to get the talent they need. They are having trouble finding accountability, creativity, and self-initiative in their collaborators [2].  It is easier to attract talent to highly engaging, creative, productive experiences than to disengaging, improductive experiences.

It is your decision.  You can choose and shift your agreements.  You can align with your Yes!  Groups with a deeper Yes!, a deeper shared purpose, have more healthy interactions, far greater outcomes, and achieve much more impact. This has been shown to be true in fieldwork from the Institute for Strategic Clarity (ISC) with over 1,000 groups in 43 countries, surveys with over 100,000 responses in 125 countries, and our research network including the ISC, Harvard, Oxford, UCT, EGADE, and Boston College.

So finally, something to reflect on: What gets your Yes!?  Where are you giving your creativity? For the love of what future do you give your will? This creative contribution, which is unique to you, is yours to give.  Yours to engage.  We invite you into daily practice, asking yourself, “Is this a Yes! for me?”  If it is not, then, “Am I accepting a No?”  “Can I shift this to a Yes!?” You can also ask this within a group. Is this the Yes! that we want? Are we happy with how this is going? Is this engaging us? Is this bringing our best creativity? Can we shift it to a Yes!? If we can’t, can we still accept this No, even when knowing this is not our Yes!?  What is the cost of staying engaged with a No? Why would we stay?

Here is your easy cost-benefit analysis. What is the cost of you Yes! and the cost of your No?  When you accept the No, you give up value creation and impact towards the business’ purpose.  Value and impact that can be derived by choosing our Yes!

In the end, it is your choice. Your choice to collapse and accept your No, or engage your Yes!

You can find out more about the work with organizations, the free Agreements Health Check survey, and our research at isclarity.org, where you can also contact us to connect to our network for a full assessment of your organization.

 

References:

1 https://go.roberts.edu/leadingedge/the-great-choices-of-strategic-leaders

2 https://go.manpowergroup.com/talent-shortage

 

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

About the Authors

Jim Ritchie-Dunham is president of the Institute for Strategic Clarity, affiliated with Boston College, Harvard, EGADE Business School, and UPMadrid, co-author of Ecosynomics (2014) & Managing from Clarity (2001). He blogs regularly at jlrd.me. He has a BSPE (UTulsa), MIM (Thunderbird), MBA (ESADE), and PhD Decision Sciences (UTAustin). Ecosynomics: The Science of Abundance shows (1) you prefer abundance-based agreements to scarcity-based ones, (2) lots of people have figured out how to live this way, for decades, with far better results and experiences, and (3) you can choose to shift your agreements, experiences, and outcomes to abundance-based. [Get the book at https://bit.ly/ecosynomicsbook.]

Lourdes Zenteno is a systems thinker, a creative integrative professional, and a purpose-driven strategist. She is trained as a Systems and Industrial Engineering with a major in Quality (Black Belt Six Sigma); holds an MBA from Grenoble Ècole de Management, France, and a M. Phil. in Ecosynomics from the Institute for Strategic Clarity, USA.  She is Co-founder of ConnexAre, member of the Institute for Strategic Clarity Community and a founding member at Intergen. Her 10+ years of experience with international organizations have been mainly around socio-ecosystem design, process improvement and transformation, and collaborative processes that move individuals and groups towards flourishing.

Photo by Drahomír Posteby-Mach on Unsplash

Are You Ready to Accelerate to Optimized Performance?

This week’s article is provided by Dr. JJ Walcutt, scientist, innovator and author, and Jason Armendariz.  It is a companion to JJ’s interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Building a Culture of Brain Health, Growth, and Effectiveness that aired on Tuesday, August 31st.

Here is a short clip from Maureen and JJ’s interview:

 

SEEKING PERFORMANCE ENHANCEMENT

Recent years have passed without the typical fanfare of annual celebrations of reflecting upon the sunsetting year and looking forward to the new year with goals, resolutions, and a vision of what a person wants to achieve in the new year.  Each new year enters with a renewed focus on challenges and building a road map to accomplish them.  For instance, if the goal is a new body weight, learning a new sport, or even setting the goal of running a marathon, one might expend resources on a training plan, gym membership, or a trainer to strengthen their bodies in preparation for their goal.  As common as these are, unfortunately, a lot of these lose steam, gym memberships go unutilized, and visions go unrealized.  And no one bats an eye.  It is a societal acceptable failure.

According to  US News report, Americans have spent more than $60B on trying to achieve this goal of losing weight.  Tom Van Riper points out in this 2012 article that the cost to train Olympic athletes can cost a range of $13K-$25K per year, monies that do not see a tangible financial return on investment.  Corporations, less focused on Olympic athletes, are focusing on the health and wellness of their employees paying for gym memberships or installing smaller health clubs in their offices.

Have you found yourself or your company seeking, similarly, how to gain the next competitive advantage? Like many, searching for an edge when it comes to reaching their physical goals hiring experts or coaches, has your business sought a workshop to hone and sharpen skills?  Have you found a gap in your knowledge or desired to gain momentum in an area that may not be your strength?  If so, you’re not alone.  However, there is an angle that most do not know about nor consider when it comes to self-improvement or improving individual performance. Training the entirety of the person – mind, body, and brain.

The skills that tomorrow’s workforce needs to thrive in uncertain, changing, and chaotic situations will not be met by the installation of a health club, but by a deliberate focus on training the most important organ in the body – the brain.

Meet the Accelerate program which combines the latest and emerging trends in cognitive psychological research, developed by Dr. JJ Walcutt.  Dr. Walcutt combines her experience from academia, industry, and the US Government to concentrate training for businesses, teams, and individuals to gain the most out of personalized training and accomplish a higher level of performance.

TRAINING

The foundation of this elite-level training centers around the findings of cognitive psychology.  Educating participants on the cognitive processes and how the brain system works to process information and understanding choices can drive toward optimal performance.  Working to understand resilience can enhance your ability to recover from stressful moment’s compartmentalize, and function with clarity. This can help productivity as well as work towards innovative solutions by enhancing your ability to clearly analyze the problems at hand. The current workforce faces challenges and deadlines which often force personnel to juggle multiple tasks.  Accelerate discusses agility and leads participants to improve their ability to switch efficiently and effectively between tasks.  These focal areas of training are unprecedented in today’s corporate training but will be key for those corporations, teams, and individuals who want to be ahead of the curve of tomorrow’s challenges.  In his book, A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink points out the importance of developing skills and the mind for skills in which the future will require a human in the loop.

Preparing an individual to be this human in the loop leverages the training that Dr. Walcutt has developed for the accelerate program.  Like the algorithms that suggest the next song on your chosen music platform, personalized learning will help corporations, teams, and individuals achieve greater success through optimized training.

INFORMATION MATTERS

Accelerate spends time honing the understanding of information processing as individuals and across teams.  As a foremost expert in cognitive load theory and unmatched experience in team dynamics from her time doing DoD research, Dr. Walcutt transfers the understanding of working memory to participants.  This allows program participants to learn how to harness the information, increase their ability to hold it, and be able to enhance the speed and accuracy of applying that information.  Having pertinent information at hand may then translate to the ability to process information more rapidly and allow teams to exponentially collaborate on issues.

Part of any corporate success is the ability to get ahead of competitors.  The same may be true of individuals looking for that promotion, edge, or gain that will put them in the driver’s seat for their career.  Getting ahead means being able to make sense of information, connect the dots, and ultimately make decisions that will be impactful for the future.  Dr. Walcutt’s design of Accelerate will allow participants to learn how to best anticipate, assess, and then act to make key decisions efficiently to achieve desired outcomes.

WHY ACCELERATE?

Most organizations, whether corporate, military, private, or even academia have goals that translate across domains.  Accelerate is the one program that delivers elite-level training that deliberately addresses these.  80% of leaders feel they are “time poor” and wanting more hours in the day to accomplish duties and tasks.  Accelerate will demonstrate methods that will allow a reduction in time to do tasks, improving efficiency.  Once time is mastered, the next logical step is to then master the ability to work through multiple tasks and learn specifically how to switch more effectively between skills and settings.  Finally, quality is the concern across all domains.  Through Accelerate, increase your quality of output, learning to accomplish more tasks at a higher level.  Increase the number of good decisions of your corporations, teams, and individuals.

Many Americans spend countless hours exercising the body.  Accelerate wants to know – do you exercise your mind?

 

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

About the Authors

Dr. J.J. Walcutt is a scientist, innovator, and learning engineer that specializes in strategic development and reform across education, military, and government. Her current work focuses on optimizing human cognition and performance across a wide spectrum of learning programs that promote optimization. Dr. Walcutt has served in the U.S. Government as a Director of Innovation for distributed learning optimization and as a Human Innovation Fellow. In her role at the Pentagon, she also served as a U.S. Delegate to NATO, Partnership for Peace, and as a national and international keynote speaker. Dr. Walcutt has over 20 years of experience in research and development for training, education, and human optimization.

Jason Armendariz is a cognitive scientist with a lifelong learner attitude and a true passion for training, education, and leadership.  Jason started his path in learning as a high school educator prior to joining the military.  During his time in the military, he rose to serve as a trainer in tactics, communications, and leadership.  He has experience in research and development efforts to improve cognitive skills, learning, team dynamics and human performance. Jason has studied cognitive science, human systems interaction, and adult education and strives to build the capability of others to succeed by integrating research into programs and plans to improve learning.

Photo by Fakurian Design on Unsplash

 

 

 

5 Ways to Rewire Your Brain for Creativity

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This blog is provided by Albin Morgan, a guest writer.  It is a companion to the interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future titled Becoming a Better Leader: Daily Leadership Development with Ron Riggio that aired on Tuesday, February 9th, 2021.

 

Did you know that you possess the power to rewire your brain and tune up your cognitive abilities? Well, you do. For the past decade, brain scientists have been releasing more and more proof that points to this possibility. The proof shows that the human brain is incredibly plastic, meaning that all you need to do is find the right habits and routines and you will successfully rewire yours. If you choose and commit to changing your behavior and becoming happier, more creative, and optimally productive, you sure can pull that off. Here are 5 hacks that will rewire your brain and give you significant gains in creativity and performance.

  1. Leveraging creative coaching

A life coach who specializes in creative coaching will help you to start thinking in new and different ways. Creative coaching involves teaching people who struggle with creativity issues the art of expressing their emotions, solving problems, and generating new ideas in a better way. If thinking outside the box isn’t your strongest suit, perhaps you need to book an appointment with a life coach.

The relevance of gaining creative skills in the corporate world can never be overemphasized. Creativity helps corporate leaders and business owners to work through any barriers that could be holding them back. A reputable creativity coach will go beyond training you on how to gain clarity and understand issues better, to training you on how to resolve conflicts and see things from the best possible perspectives. That is why investing in a creative life coach is never a waste of time or money.

  1. Diversify mind inputs

All human beings are creatures of habit. The only variation from one person to the other is the degree to which our habits and routines have affected our minds. Whereas this makes us happy and comfortable, it also limits our mind inputs and leaves little or no room for creativity. Speaking to the same group of people, sharing the same ideas, cooking using the same recipes, and visiting the same places makes you good at what you do but does not necessarily improve your creativity. That is why, if you want to diversify and improve your output, you must be ready to leave your comfort zone and start doing things differently. Take a vacation abroad, for example. Strike up conversations with random people, learn a new language, start playing new video games, read far and wide, and challenge yourself to do things that you ordinarily would not do. The more new interactions you make, the more diverse your thinking capacity will be.

  1. As much as possible, don’t multitask

Multitasking basically means asking your brain not to focus on anything specific and instead spin as many plates as possible, with the end game for any of the spins not being definitive. It is almost impossible for a normal human mind to focus on so many things and still manage to leave room for creativity. That is why when something serious bothers you, you drop everything, get in the moment, focus all your attention and energy on the problem at hand, and eventually find a creative solution. Now think of what would become of your life if you allowed your brain room to think all the time by quitting multitasking. It would be great, of course. Stop piling up issues or forcing things that probably don’t need to be pushed. Take everything in and start solving issues as they come. That will help with your creativity.

  1. Practice mindful observation

Improving your observation skills will set up your brain to a path of discovery and creative thinking. Mindful observation means taking note of your surroundings and being alive to everything that happens around you, no matter the time or place. It is time you started appreciating the environment in which you live and appreciating the creativity of the people around you. Start noticing problems everywhere you go and, instead of feeling overwhelmed by them, volunteer to find workable and innovative solutions. That will help you tap into your creative energy.

  1. Take time out and do absolutely nothing

Doing nothing isn’t easy especially with all the work deadlines waiting for you on your desk, but you should try it nonetheless. Just set aside an hour from your busy schedule, hit the brakes, and forget about work. Too much focus and attention to new information destroys your ability to process new information fast or even to analyze it effectively. Relaxing is critical to your cognitive capabilities.

Conclusion

Being creative is surely magical. It helps you to inspire new ideas and gain the admiration of people around you. Being able to create something from nothingness is also motivational in its own way. If you wish to get that ability, then, by all means, invest your time, energy, and money to getting the right tools for your creativity uptake.

 

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music and iHeartRADIO. Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

About the Author

Albin Morgan is a guest writer.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Improve Your Sleep for Increased Productivity

To start or to continue receiving the weekly blogs via email, please sign-up using this link: subscribe to Innovative Leadership Institute weekly blog.

This blog is part of the extra blog series we are doing as encouragement in these uncertain times.  As we face added pressures of working from home, having children home from school, and being all under the same roof all the time we hope you find some tips for sleeping well.  Be sure to do some self-care so you can do your best for your family and your job.  Here is also a link to an interview on leadership fitness that may give you encouragement as well: Peak Leadership Fitness: Elevating your Leadership Game with Timothy J. Tobin.

 

In stressful times, it can be easy to try to burn the candle at both ends. You will want to work harder to make up for failings in your company, the economy, or at home and this can often lead to sleeping less in hopes that you’ll be more productive.

While there are ways that you can sleep less to improve your productivity, it is still important to get quality sleep because that will allow you to be more productive during your day. There are many ways that sleep, which can often feel like a luxury you don’t have time for, helps you to be more productive.

Recover from Distractions Sooner

Every working day has its distractions, from the random question of a co-worker to that urgent email that needs attention. Often what happens when these distractions come through is that you immediately forget what it was that you were working on beforehand and it takes an inordinate amount of time to return to your pressing task.

When you get the sleep that you need it will make it easier for you to get back to the important task that you were working on sooner. This helps by increasing your productivity because you can easily return to your tasks after working on a distraction.

Helps Prevent Burnout

If you’ve ever had a day where you are fed up with your job, your life, and all the little things in between, it’s probably because you are suffering from burnout. Burnout can make us all hate the things that we once loved. To reduce your chances of burnout, you need to get more effective sleep.

Sleep can help you to feel more rested and grateful for the things that you have in your life. It can help you to want to do more and feel like your work is appreciated in a way that you never knew was possible. It can also help you to feel more effective at your job.

Improves Decision Making

When you’re sleep-deprived, it can affect your decision-making skills. It can be hard to decide between what task to do, or what decision is the most effective. Decision-making becomes harder the less sleep that you get because your brain is tired and hasn’t had the time that it needs to recover from being worked tirelessly the day before.

By getting the quality sleep you need, you become able to make decisions easily. Being able to make decisions in an easier manner allows you to be more productive as these determinations are put into place sooner.  Quicker decisions allow for tasks to be completed faster making your day more productive.

Increases Memory Function

Being tired means that your brain isn’t functioning at its peak performance capabilities. To become more efficient in your day you will need to get the sleep that your mind needs to function properly. While it can be easy to try and stay awake later and wake up earlier to get more done, it’s not always the most efficient use of your time.

Taking the time to get a good night’s sleep will help your memory function faster, giving your brain the power to remember tasks quicker allowing you better performance during your day. This increases your productivity ten-fold because it allows you to rely more on your memory than in times when you didn’t get enough sleep.

Reduces Mistakes

Reducing your sleep will often increase the number of mistakes that you make during your day. Mistakes are common among people who are sleep deprived and it’s often the people that need to make fewer mistakes that choose to reduce their sleep to become more productive.

The time that you use fixing mistakes due to poor sleep habits can be easily used to enact innovative plans that create less work for you and your team. We’ve all had the unfortunate experience of having to redo a project or proposal because we read the instructions wrong or made a simple mistake that might not have occurred had we gotten better sleep.

So, what can you do to improve your sleep and be more productive?

The infographic below by SleePare helps to give ideas of things that you can try to improve your sleep routine to help you be more productive during the day.


For example, if you really want to sleep less, they offer the idea of trying to harness your natural sleep-wake clock to help you sleep less while feeling just as refreshed as you normally would. To do this you need to understand the sleep cycle and structure your sleep time to ensure that you only wake up after you’ve been through all the different cycles of sleep.

You may have experienced this by having woken up for no particular reason at 5 o’clock in the morning and feeling very refreshed. This means that you were able to sleep effectively and get all the rest that your brain and body needed without sleeping until your normal wake time. They suggest that in order to fully harness this sleep cycle you focus on going to sleep and waking up at the same time that this occurred. It will help you add hours to your day.

 

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the Author

Jennifer Chonillo is a longtime sleep enthusiast and Content Marketing Specialist for Sleepare home of the mattress compare tool. In her free time she plays magic the gathering and goes on long walks with her dog.

Photo by Polina Zimmerman

Six Tips to Navigating the COVID-19 Landscape from an Epidemiologist

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This blog is provided by Erica Fowler, an epidemiologist who studied Public Health specializing in social epidemiology at The Ohio State University and holds ten years’ experience melding industry experience with academic discipline.

 

As the pandemic progresses, more and more people are getting a glimpse into the world of public health. Epidemiology is one public health discipline that is getting a lot of attention and happens to be my chosen field of study.

Epidemiology is an applied field of biostatistics, and beyond the numbers is the study of humans. Social norms, individual behaviors, health, wealth, emotions – any facet of life with a discernible pattern. The combination of numbers and practical application allow us to understand current trends and predict future ones. We can identify points of interaction with individuals that will yield the highest probability of action and influence behavior using subtle human cues to elicit an action.

It’s important to remember that many factors influence both sides of the equation – human and mathematical. Social determinants of health, sociodemographic disparities, or differences that can only be explained by factors that would be irrelevant in a world that was fair. The numbers you see on the screen, the dots that make up every graph a human life. On the mathematical side, numbers are only as good as the quality of their measurement and data management.

As an epidemiologist and public health professional, I’d like to share answers to six common questions I’ve been asked during the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m grateful that I can dissect the information bombarding me at every turn and hope to share useful information for others to do the same.

1) Should I wear a mask? 

Yes. I’ve been asked this question more than any other. If you are to be in public, it may help slow the spread of the virus by preventing you from spreading it to others. If you know you are infected or if you have been in contact with someone who may be infected, it is best to stay home.

2) What is flatten the curve? 

Most people are familiar with this one. It’s been used to describe the intended effects of social distancing, which appear to be working. With a flatter curve, the Area Under the Curve (AUC) is the same, but the duration of the outbreak is longer. In other words, the same number of people will be exposed to and get the virus – just stretched out so that the healthcare system isn’t overwhelmed.

3) What do all these numbers mean? 

We’ve all heard ‘flatten the curve’, but there are other common metrics that are useful for understanding the virus. These numbers won’t stay the same and will vary depending on the population studied – a key epidemiologic concept.

  • R0 or R-naught represents how many people one infected individual infects on average. Social distancing efforts can lower this number and slow the spread of the disease and prevent new incidence.
  • Incidence or number of new cases of a disease. This can aid in resource allocation, such as healthcare utilization. The number of new cases, duration of disease, and rate of spread taken together may predict what is needed two weeks from now.
  • Case Fatality Rate represents fatalities relative to confirmed cases. In the current climate, testing is limited and often flawed. People will contract the virus and have no symptoms. Similarly, patients die before they test positive.
  • All-Cause Fatality Rate is the fatality rate for all causes which can be monitored year-over-year to estimate the total fatalities related to the disease and account for gaps in incidence and prevalence monitoring.
  • Infection Mortality Rate represents fatalities relative to all people infected. This number is not known without universal or widespread testing.

4) How does COVID-19 compare to other well-known viruses? 

It’s twice as infectious as H1N1 or the typical seasonal flu. The mortality rate is 10-30x higher than the seasonal flu. The H1N1 mortality rate was much lower than either COVID-19 or the seasonal flu.

The H1N1 virus was deadlier to younger ages because many people over age 65 had been exposed to a similar strain of virus earlier in life. This immunity helped keep them from contracting not only cases but severe cases. Because this is a novel or new virus, no one has immunity. That is why social distancing may play an important role in containing the virus until a vaccine is available.

 

  R0 Mortality Rate
COVID-19 2.0 – 4.0 1.5 – 3%
H1N1 1.1 – 2.6 0.02%
Seasonal Flu 1.3 0.1%

Source: Healthline March 12, 2020

5) Why do the numbers keep changing?

The numbers listed above can change depending on the population of people you are examining. A few examples are shown below.

With #flattenthecurve, we take social distancing seriously, decrease new cases and decrease the rate of spread. The mortality rate could go either way depending on how it is calculated. If it is only confirmed cases, it may go up as more people are staying home if they have mild or asymptomatic cases and will not be tested. They survive but aren’t counted toward lowering the mortality rate.

 

6) Why is testing such a big deal? 

Testing is important because it gives us a fuller picture of the virus, how it behaves, who it affects and how intensely, what treatments are effective for easing symptoms and shortening duration of illness, and what points of intervention we can employ to prevent or stop the spread of the virus. Testing also allows us to understand who has the virus and has built up antibodies. It could determine whether people are safe to return to work and a more integrated form of society. Testing enables a more accurate measurement of metrics for informed decision-making.

If you are unsure of something you read or want more information, as a trusted friend or colleague to help decipher the information. Use your social media networks to find people you trust who share information from vetted sources. I’m happy to do this for my sources and know many others who do the same.

I’m not sure what the other side of COVID-19 looks like, but the news I read every day makes me hopeful for the ingenuity, intelligence, compassion, and humanity I’ve witnessed in-person and through social media in the past several weeks. I am grateful that my life has not much changed, yet I worry for the world, vulnerable populations, and those I love. Despite the uncertainty, I am sure of one thing – Epidemiologists around the world are at far lesser risk than ever before of being asked if they study the skin.

 

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

About the Author

Erica N. Fowler, Ph.D., is a strategy and analytics professional with a profound interest in developing data-driven solutions to improve health and business outcomes. She studied Public Health specializing in social epidemiology at The Ohio State University and holds ten years’ experience melding industry experience with academic discipline. Her experience includes analytics product development, measurement strategy, database operations, business intelligence analytics, and statistical modeling.

Dr. Fowler’s passion is professional development consulting as a certified Birkman Method consultant. She uses the Birkman Method, enhanced by her analytic skillset, to develop individual and group programs that foster emotional intelligence to improve communication skills and productive teamwork.

Her day job is Product Manager for the Applied Data Science and Omnichannel Experience teams at Syneos Health, the first end-to-end integrated pharmaceutical solutions organization. She serves as a contributing faculty member to the Health Education & Promotion program at Walden University, where she oversees the dissertation process for doctoral students. In her spare time, Dr. Fowler enjoys traveling the world, yoga, reading, and spending time with her family.

Photo by Anna Shvets

Can Resilience Differentiate You as a Leader?

To start or to continue receiving the weekly blogs via email, please sign-up using this link: subscribe to Innovative Leadership Institute weekly blog.

The following blog is a republish of an article appearing in Forbes written by Maureen Metcalf about resilience during difficult times. A great interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future to listen to as a leader in our current climate/crisis is How Does the Brain Impact Leadership Resilience? with Jon Wortmann. Take our free online resilience assessment.

In times of uncertainty, resilience is one of the most important skills for us. I define it as “the ability to remain flexible and focused when facing change.” As leaders, we are facing a higher level of volatility across the business environment than we previously faced. In the U.S., we are looking at a major political change as Republicans gain control after eight years. This upcoming transition is exposing division that was not previously evident on the surface in families, offices and communities. Such division can be healthy if addressed with a spirit of curiosity and grace. Yet, how can that happen when we view our previously trusted colleagues and even family members as “the other,” or worse?

While the political environment is the most obvious example right now, we are also seeing unprecedented volatility in financial markets and uncertainty in many sectors such as health care. Some of this is caused by politics, some by technology, and some caused by the fact that we live in a world that is much more interconnected than it used to be. We are dealing with situations we’ve never seen before. There is no return to the prior level of control so as leaders, we need to learn to be more agile.

Take Bill, a university director, responsible for physical and technology security. He came into work on a normal Monday morning, got his coffee, and started to plan his week. At 9:10 his world was interrupted. A young student drove off the road and onto a sidewalk trying to hit students. The student emerged from his car and began attacking others. It was the job of the director, campus security and many others to move very quickly in this situation. For Bill, resilience was critical in this moment and in the moments following the event. He needed to respond with his full attention, as people’s lives and the well-being were at great risk.

Today’s leaders must update their leadership thinking and behavior to keep pace with the challenges they face. In this sense, leadership is always self-renewing, and I believe resilience is the foundation of it, because, as we face accelerating change, we also face an increasing occurrence of people who respond to these changes with different perspectives. If we can integrate these differing perspectives in every area of our lives — work, politics, in our communities and at home — to create more comprehensive and durable solutions, we are all served by the process. If, however, we discount others because they have perspectives we disagree with, or, even worse, see them as “wrong,” we lose the value of learning and risk the relationships required to thrive in times of challenge.

Back to our example, if Bill had only considered one facet of security, his team would have been ill-equipped to deal with a complex attack.

So, as a leader, how can you build resilience to navigate the challenges you face in work and life?

Using innovative leadership as the foundation for this discussion, we can parse resilience into four categories:

  1. Maintain physical well-being.

This is the category most of us understand and often ignore. We need to get enough sleep, we need to eat healthy food and manage caffeine and alcohol. It is also important to find a practice to rejuvenate ourselves physically. I recommend a combination of physical exercise and relaxing to include meditation and mindfulness. It is hard to respond to challenge when you are exhausted, caffeinated or hung over.

  1. Manage thinking. 

This category is the one I think we most often miss and is a skill that can be learned even in the busiest of times. It involves paying attention to what you are thinking and stopping the negative “self-talk” as soon as you notice it. Self-talk is that inner conversation most of us have that serves as the inner critic, giving negative feedback even when no one else is around to do it for us. Think of this as adopting the most critical person in your life and inviting them to live with you. What would life be like if instead you adopted the most adoring person in your life and invited that person to live in your head?

Managing thinking shifts the self-talk and the tendency to dwell on the negative or risky. I am not suggesting we become unreasonably positive or dismiss risk, but rather, understand the risk and put plans in place. Then, trust ourselves and others to navigate whatever difficulties arise.

  1. Fulfill purpose and emotional intelligence.

If you have a clear sense of purpose, it is much easier to keep life’s challenges in perspective. This would be summarized by the adage, “Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it is all small stuff.” I would modify that to say, “Understand what is small and don’t sweat it.”

The second half of this recommendation is about being emotionally intelligent. There are books written on emotional intelligence, but for the sake of brevity here, I would say be aware of your thinking and emotions (see above) and manage them intentionally. Secondly, be aware of others, and manage those relationships intentionally as well.

  1. Harness the power of connection.

Have people in your life who support you. I recommend having people at work who can serve as sounding boards and thought partners. I also suggest having connections outside of work who can give you good counsel. Then, have at least one person in your life who just thinks you walk on water no matter what.

While Bill’s story is more extreme than most of us face on a Monday morning, we all face situations that are unexpected and highly stressful, where something bad could happen to our organizations and possibly risk our well-being or job security. Personal resilience boosts our ability to navigate these situations and instill confidence in the people who follow us and expect us to lead during the most difficult moments of our lives.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the Author

Maureen Metcalf, CEO of the Innovative Leadership Institute, is a renowned executive advisor, coach, consultant, author and speaker.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio

Lunch Break Leisure: 10 Activities to Relieve Stress

For the next couple of weeks, we are doing a few extra blog posts as encouragement in these uncertain times.  This extra blog has some great ideas to give yourself a break as we face added pressures of working from home, having children home from school, and being all under the same roof all the time.  Be sure to do some self-care so you can do your best for your family and your job.  Here is also a link to an interview on resilience that may give you encouragement as well: Five Lessons in Resilience: Overcoming Life’s Challenges with Kate Terrell.

If you’re like most Americans, you probably suffer from some level of work-related stress. According to The American Institute of Stress, 83 percent of workers report being stressed out from work, with 57 percent saying it’s so bad they feel paralyzed by it. The workplace tension is triggered by a number of factors, especially company culture, lack of work-life balance and strained relationships with bosses and co-workers. And it can have a detrimental effect, not only on your productivity during the day, but also on your overall health, well-being and mood.

Luckily, there are some simple things you can do to relieve some of the pressure during the workday. According to the experts, employees need short, periodic breaks to recharge their batteries, boost attention span and, ultimately, improve their job performance. Here are a few things you can do to tap into a state of leisure on your lunch break, even if you’re feeling totally zapped of motivation and energy.

  1. Watch a Funny Video—All those hilarious YouTube videos you saved for a rainy day may be just what you need for a midday destress. A 2015 study conducted by two psychological scientists at the University of New South Wales found that employees who watched an eight-minute video at work experienced an energizing effect that counteracted the effects of mental depletion. Yep, all those hilarious cat videos could actually be making you happier and healthier!
  2. Make Art—Creating something meaningful, whether it be a poem, a painting, a drawing or some gorgeous rhinestone art, can help you sink into a state of deep relaxation and focus on something other than work. At the same time, being creative serves as an act of self-expression, allowing you to offload some of the pressure or stress that tends to build up during the workday.
  3. Color—Studies show that adult coloring reduces stress and boosts creativity because it relaxes the brain, flows attention away from ourselves and provides a low-stakes activity that’s purely pleasurable. Another fun spin on adult coloring is the popular trend of making diamond art, which lets you color in complex designs with glimmering rhinestones, triggering the same calming effect. Grab a few diamond art kits to keep at your desk and work on each day during short breaks.
  4. Take a Walk—We probably don’t have to cite any sources here! We all know that exercise is one of the best and most well-proven stress relief activities ever, no matter if you take a cycling class, learn some hip-hop moves on YouTube or practice outdoor yoga. Taking a midday walk around the office is the perfect lunch break activity because it’s distracting and boosts your mood but doesn’t leave you feeling sweaty or too tired to go back to work.
  5. Stretch—Sitting for hours on end at a desk can cause you to store physical tension, tightness and pain in your upper back and shoulders. The physical effects of being stationary all day can lead to feelings of psychological stress, but you can counteract some of these challenges by taking two or three 15-minute breaks throughout the day to stretch and focus on something other than work.
  6. Knit—Knitting, crocheting, cross-stitching and other needlework activities are perfect for the workday because they’re fairly self-contained. You can keep all your tools and supplies in a small bag or container that you can either leave in your desk drawer for an anytime distraction or take to and from the office so you can also work on it at home. Needlework is similar to crafting and coloring in that it diverts attention away from the stress trigger and provides steady, calming focus in its place.
  7. Listen to Music—Music is the ultimate distractor, and it’s one of the few things in life that can instantly affect your mood in a million different ways. Keep some well-stocked playlists handy for those especially stressful days, with upbeat, energizing or relaxing tunes that take you to another place and help you unwind, even if only for 10 or 15 minutes while you eat lunch.
  8. Talk to Friends—Never underestimate the power of good conversation. Whether you meet an old friend for lunch or vent to your co-worker over a short walk, letting out your frustrations and listening to others can help you sort out your feelings and discover new ways to handle them. It also helps provide you with a different perspective, so you look at things differently and stress less.
  9. Write—There’s no denying it: Journaling, or even just jotting down your feelings, is good for the mind. In fact, a study from UCLA showed that putting your feelings into words actually produces therapeutic effects in the brain. Visualizing certain words on paper activates the prefrontal region of the brain and lowers its amygdala response, which tends to trip when your body is in danger. In other words, writing your feelings down literally calms the brain.
  10. Play a Game—Few things bring quite as enjoyable a distraction as playing a game. Whether on your phone, computer or tablet or even with a tabletop or board game, playing a game throws you into a totally different reality, effectively giving you some relief from the stressors of daily life. Consider looping in fellow gamers around the office so that you get both the benefits of gaming and the benefits of social interaction during a single lunch break.

Make Taking a Break a Priority

We’re all overworked, with tons of tasks, meetings and stressors to manage. The key to giving yourself some relief is to make taking frequent, short breaks a priority. You should be entitled to a certain amount of breaks each day depending on the laws where you live, so don’t be afraid to take them. It may be exactly what you need to be happier, healthier and more productive.

 

To start or to continue receiving the weekly blogs via email, please sign-up using this link: subscribe to Innovative Leadership Institute weekly blog.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

 

About the Author

Vanessa Adams serves as the marketing coordinator for Diamond Art Club, which offers the highest quality diamond art kits on the market. She oversees all content creation from their West Hollywood, California Headquarters. In her spare time, she enjoys true-crime podcasts and pilates.

 

Gratitude Improves Health and Resilience: A Time for Thanksgiving

We want to thank all our listeners, readers, radio guests, guest bloggers and the team of people who engage with the Innovative Leadership Institute! We are committed to elevating the quality of leadership around the world and your involvement makes that possible. Whether large or small, each of us acts daily and those acts ripple through the world to make an impact.

As a companion to this blog, we are happy to share an interview with Maryanna Klatt, Mindfulness: Manage Stress and Improve Performance. To understand and build your resilience Take our free online resilience assessment.

As we enter the holiday season at the end of 2019, we are ending a decade and beginning the next. I invite everyone to consider what they have accomplished during this decade. Who and what are you most grateful for?

According to Psychology Today, we know that gratitude boosts our mental and physical health, boosts empathy, reduces aggression, improves sleep, improves self-esteem, and boosts mental health. The best part about gratitude is you can do it any place, any time, with no special training.

Beyond periodic moments of gratitude, I encourage my clients to develop a regular gratitude practice. This can take many forms ranging from setting a time to reflect, talking to others about what we are grateful for to writing a journal about what brings you joy, what you have overcome, or the small things you appreciate. The benefit of a practice is it becomes part of your routine or habit. It is the regular practice of gratitude that creates long lasting impact. Over time I have maintained a gratitude journal. It is a practice I have come to value greatly and with changing life circumstances, I ebb and flow in my commitment. With this post, I am recommitting to rekindle this practice starting the week of Thanksgiving 2019 by writing 1 journal entry per week. I am very fortunate to have a partner who has mastered the practice of gratitude and we communicate our gratitude for parts of our lives multiple times each day.

I subscribe to gratefulness.org. They send SHORT daily gratitude messages that take less than 30 seconds to read and for me, they serve as a nice reminder to reset. I am also building the mental habit of taking time to be grateful for what is working well when I run into challenges. It is easy to be grateful sitting at home while drinking a cup of hot coffee first thing in the morning. It can be much harder to be grateful after something goes wrong during the day. Yet, it is the difficult moments when we most benefit from shifting away from the problem to what is working. An important benefit of gratitude is that it releases hormones into the body that build resilience that serve as the antidote for the stress and anxiety that happen during the course of a normal day.

Tips for Keeping A Gratitude Journal from gratefulness.org.

Robert Emmons, arguably the world’s leading expert on the science of gratitude, and an author of some of the seminal studies of gratitude journals, shared these research-based tips for reaping the greatest psychological rewards from keeping a gratitude journal:

  • Don’t just go through the motions. Research by psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky and others suggests that journaling is more effective if you first make the conscious decision to become happier and more grateful. “Motivation to become happier plays a role in the efficacy of journaling,” says Emmons.
  • Go for depth over breadth. Elaborating in detail about a particular thing for which you’re grateful carries more benefits than a superficial list of many things.
  • Get personal. Focusing on people to whom you are grateful has more of an impact than focusing on things for which you are grateful.
  • Try subtraction, not just addition. One effective way of stimulating gratitude is to reflect on what your life would be like without certain blessings, rather than just tallying up all those good things.
  • Savor surprises. Try to record events that were unexpected or surprising, as these tend to elicit stronger levels of gratitude.
  • Don’t overdo it. Writing occasionally (once or twice per week) is more beneficial than daily journaling. In fact, one study by Lyubomirsky and her colleagues found that people who wrote in their gratitude journals once a week for six weeks reported boosts in happiness afterward; people who wrote three times per week didn’t. “We adapt to positive events quickly, especially if we constantly focus on them,” says Emmons. “It seems counterintuitive, but it is how the mind works.”

Learn more at “Tips for Keeping a Gratitude Journal,” by Jason Marsh, at the Greater Good Science Center. This excerpt is from an article that originally appeared on Greater Good, the online magazine of the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. For more, visit greatergood.berkeley.edu.

The Innovative Leadership Institute wishes you a happy and resilient Thanksgiving holiday and joyful end of 2019!

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the Author

Maureen Metcalf – Founder, CEO, and Board Chair of the Innovative Leadership Institute is a highly sought-after expert in anticipating and leveraging future business trends to transform organizations.

 

 

Why Mental Health Awareness is Important for Leadership

 

To start or to continue receiving the weekly blogs via email, please sign-up using this link: subscribe to Innovative Leadership Institute weekly blog.

This blog is provided by Marie Miguel of BetterHelp.com as a companion to the Jon Wortmann interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future. This interview How Does the Brain Impact Leadership Resilience? aired on 9/11/18.

Years ago, when preparing for an education in business leadership it was basically all based around things like hiring, firing, and how to make more money to name a few. Nowadays, any kind of business management education you get it will include some forms of psychology courses. Because when you are a leader, you have to deal with people. Your job is not to run the business, it is to lead the employees and that means taking care of your employees so they can be motivated to be productive and efficient. Therefore, it is important to keep your employees happy and working in a pleasant working environment.

What is Emotional Intelligence?

Emotional intelligence is the ability to manage your own emotions and recognize and respond to any kind of emotional distress in others. By understanding your own emotions, you are much more able to deal with other people’s emotional issues and when you are in leadership, you have to be able to deal with your employee’s emotional issues. Some of the best leaders are those who have been trained in several types of psychology courses and know how to recognize subtle changes in their employees that could be very important. Some of the skills you need include:

  • Understanding emotional triggers
  • Only give negative feedback in a positive way
  • Have excellent listening skills
  • Know how to ask questions that will help you recognize others’ strengths
  • Do not make automatic assumptions about employees’ behavior
  • Communicate without judgement
  • Encourage employees by boasting about their skills and achievements
  • Make time to connect with your employees
  • Appreciate your employees and make sure they know you appreciate them

Learning to Recognize Emotional Issues

As a leader you must be prepared to handle conflict and it is best for you to notice the subtle hints that something may be happening under the surface. Your employees are human and they have bad days of course, but if someone is acting different for more than a few days, have been avoiding others, isolating themselves, or just do not seem like themselves, you need to acknowledge that behavior and ask them what is going on and if you can help. A lot of times it can be handled by just communicating with the person. Maybe they have trouble at home, or they are anxious about money troubles or something else like that. Or it could be an issue at work where they are not getting along with someone. Whatever the reason, it is essential that you let them know that you care and that you will help if you can.

Communication is Key

Regardless of what the issue may be, when an employee has a mental or emotional problem, you need to talk to them and see what you can do to help them with whatever it is that is going on. There are programs through many businesses specifically to help your employees with mental health care and if you have one at your company, now is the time to suggest it. If you do not have a program at your work, tell your employee about other psychological services that can help them. For example, with online therapy from betterhelp.com, they can talk to a licensed professional online without needing an appointment. In fact, they do not even have to leave their house. Just make sure your employees know that they can come to you if needed and that it will not affect their job in any way.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the Author

Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.

 

A Brain Is a Terrible Thing To Waste: Understanding the Inner Workings of Your Brain

A Brain Is a Terrible Thing To Waste: Understanding the Inner Workings of Your Brain

August 12th, 2019 by Maureen Metcalf

Leadership Resilience Includes Managing ThinkingThis is a guest blog provided by Ann Steele.  It is a companion blog for the Jon Wortmann interview on September 11, 2018, titled “How Does the Brain Impact Leadership Resilience?”  The article was previously published on PsyDPrograms.org.

Through the work of billions of cells housed within our brains, humans are the most advanced form of life in the known universe. Highly intelligent animals like dolphins, elephants, whales may have bigger brains than people, but the evolution of the human mind is far greater.

Only now is science beginning to understand the complexities of the gray matter resting just above our shoulders. A mix of protein and fat that combine to create one of the most advanced individual systems known to humankind – organic or machine, earthbound or cosmic.

The Brain Makes Us Who We Are

While at first glance, the brain itself may appear to be a singular mass, it consists of a number of highly unique parts and separate regions that control practically every aspect of human existence.

Four of the most vital components include:

·        The brain stem which aides with breathing and sleep.

·        The basal ganglia that monitors the sending and receiving of messages between different areas of the brain.

·        The cerebellum that keeps us upright – balanced and well-coordinated.

·        The cerebral cortex which helps us to think and move, achieve greater reasoning and imaginative skills and is what provides human consciousness.

In addition, the four regions include:

·        The frontal lobe that links to our motor skills and how we think, reason, and acquire knowledge.

·        At the crown of the brain, the middle parietal lobe controls sensation – our sense of touch, taste, and manipulation of the physical world around us – as well as spatial awareness.

·        Occupying the base of the brain, the temporal lobe is central to our ability to hear and helps us distinguish language and sound. Within the temporal lobe is the hippocampus – critical to our ability to learn, emote, and create memories.

·        At the rear of the brain, you’ll find the occipital lobe, critical to our visual capabilities and processing of colors, words, or any other objects that we see.

Even with all of our current knowledge, it is a testament to the brain’s advanced and complicated design that researchers and scientists have yet to fully solve the puzzle of the human mind.

One area though where there has been much discovery, and where we continue to expand our expertise, is what stimulates the brain. Factors that are both helpful and harmful and what is required to maintain a healthy mind.

Why Brain Health is So Important

While the brain itself may still hold many secrets, there is little mystery to the need for us to keep our minds healthy and functioning at their highest possible level.

As we’ve shown, the brain is central to our survival – controlling our breathing and cognitive skills, our consciousness and perception, and our ability to think, feel, and remember.

However, all of the brain’s functions do not operate independently of one another – it’s the reason we can, in fact, walk and chew gum at the same time. If you neglect one aspect of your brain’s health, other areas suffer.

But we’re not just talking about a run of the mill headache brought on by stress.

There are numerous neurological disorders that prove debilitating to both the brain and an individual’s overall well-being.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), approximately 50 million Americans – that’s one out of every five – suffer from some form of brain-related disorder. The list of conditions is exhaustive and includes:

·        Brain tumors

·        Cerebrovascular diseases such as stroke-related conditions or vascular dementia

·        Convulsive disorders like epilepsy

·        Degenerative diseases of adult life which include Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s

·        Developmental disorders including cerebral palsy

·        Infectious disease complications like AIDS-related dementia

·        Metabolic syndromes including Gaucher’s disease

·        Neurogenetic diseases such as Huntington’s disease or muscular dystrophy

·        Trauma injuries that occur in the spinal cord or with a head injury (concussions)

These represent many of the major disorders. Far more common however are the conditions that fall under the broad (and sometimes misleading) category of mental illness.

For many years mental illness carried with it a stigma, resulting in people being mistreated or receiving none at all.

While the numbers for the latter still remain low, modern medicine has better shaped our understanding of more common psychological conditions, improving diagnosis and treatment.

This segment of neurological disorders include:

·        Anxiety

·        Attention-deficit and/or hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

·        Autism Spectrum Disorder

·        Depression

Given the brain’s importance and complexity, how then do you give yourself the best chance for lasting brain health? You might be surprised by the most effective methods.

Maintaining Your Brain’s Health

While not every brain-related condition is treatable or avoidable due to factors such as age, heredity, genetics, or other non-lifestyle factors, there are plenty of ways to keep your mind sharp.

To assist with improving your brain’s health and function, as well as producing the happy side effect of giving you a far more positive outlook on life, consider the following methods to boosting your brainpower:

Exercise

You already know what exercise means for your body. Proven time and again, regular exercise has lasting, positive effects on our well-being. The impact, though, is both physical and mental.

Exercise, through its stimulation of chemicals in the brain, promotes the growth and health of blood cells. Regular physical activity also helps to clear your mind, enabling you to think more clearly, reduce anxiety and stress, and improve memory and cognitive functions.

Sleep

A good night’s rest is as critical to an individual’s health as breathing.

Lack of sleep impedes the brain’s ability to perform daily tasks vital to keeping it healthy – clearing out toxins, maintaining healthy neurological connections among the brain’s many pathways, and recharging your body so it can maintain its focus, create new memories and be alert and ready to take on the next day when you wake up.

Quality sleep also builds up your immune system, which helps to keep diseases and illnesses at bay. You will also avoid the common condition of brain fog by following a strict sleep routine – commit to at least seven hours of sleep and steering clear of blue-light emitting devices at least two to three hours before bedtime.

Eat the Right Foods

As with everything else health-related, there are specific foods that will support the development and performance of your brain.

Green vegetables, certain types of berries and nuts, and fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids are cornerstones of a brain-boosting diet. Just remember to work these into a diet that aides to promote greater health for you overall – physically and mentally.

The Power of Positive Thinking

You’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase “the power of positive thinking” many times before. So much so, that’s it’s probably etched itself into your permanent memory.

That’s very much a good thing.

Studies show that a positive mindset is more than just a cliché – it can have a beneficial and lasting impact on your brains overall health and function.

While that research focused on children, a positive outlook works for adults too.

Maintaining an optimistic mindset promotes better physical skills, social interaction, and creativity, all of which broaden your mind’s horizons and help you build skills and more comprehensive life-servicing resources.

Meditation

More than a way to disconnect from the stresses of everyday life, meditation proves transformative in building up an individual’s positive emotions. Research also suggests that it has a lasting effect on your health – improving your mind and your sense of purpose and reducing the chances for illness.

Engage Your Brain in Activities You Enjoy

Do you like to read novels or biographies? Diary or write about experiences you’ve enjoyed? Or do you dream about just getting out, having fun, and spending time with individuals you care about?

Pick one, or all three, because making time to enjoy the people and endeavors that make you happy can stimulate your brain towards better health. There are even health benefits to finding work or a career that you genuinely enjoy versus something that you slog through day after day.

Smile

Yep, turn that frown upside down. Seriously.

Though it may be hard to believe, science actually shows that a simple smile, even if it’s initially a forced effort (or a side effect of a cosmetic procedure), can reduce stress, improve your mood, strengthen your immune system, and help add a few years to your life.

According to Dr. Murray Grossan, an ENT-otolaryngologist with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and Torrance Memorial in Los Angeles, CA:  “What’s crazy is that just the physical act of smiling can make a difference in building your immunity. When you smile, the brain sees the muscle [activity] and assumes that humor is happening.”

Which basically means the brain doesn’t care why you’re smiling – as evidenced by the botox research – it processes the benefits of the smile regardless of its purpose.

Practice Good Health to Get the Most from Your Mind

One of the most astonishing aspects of the brain is that in all of its complexity, preserving its health requires a basic, common-sense approach.

When it comes to getting the most from your mind, keep it simple – and positive. A healthy diet, regular exercise, and plenty of constructive, optimistic thoughts and activities will nourish your brain and ensure it functions at its highest possible level – and provide you one less worry to think about.

To become a more innovative leader, you can begin by taking our free leadership assessments and then enrolling in our online leadership development program.

Check out the companion interview and past episodes of Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future, via iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Spotify, Amazon Music, Audible,  iHeartRADIO, and NPR One.  Stay up-to-date on new shows airing by following the Innovative Leadership Institute LinkedIn.

About the Author

Ann Steele, Ph.D., is Editor-In-Chief of PsydPrograms.org. Ann has training as a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst who has worked with adults, couples, adolescents, and preteens throughout San Diego county.