A relatively new focus, brain science, is a buzzword among professionals in many sectors. Educators are learning how children’s brains react to trauma and how that impacts learning and behavior. Social workers are looking at how social determinants of health cause and relate to the experience of trauma and what that means to their clients. Mental health professionals are merging mindfulness and grounding techniques into their practice to help those who have experienced trauma to build resilience. Savvy businesses are also looking at how brain science can boost productivity.
“Everything we have been exposed to from birth until now has created new neural networks. The minute you begin thinking a new thought you grow a dendrite from the electrical impulses firing in your brain. However, you are never growing just one dendrite but multiples, creating an entire network within three to four weeks,” says professional coach Leslie Fiorenzo. “If you want to develop new habits of mind, you need to pay attention to what you are thinking about and focusing on because your neural networks don’t care.”
In practice for more than 20 years with certifications from IPV Consulting and Thera-Rising International, Fiorenzo coaches businesses and professionals in the Grand Rapids area. She has worked with Business Network International (BNI) leadership teams in growing chapters and human resources departments at many local manufacturers, professional service firms, healthcare systems, and IT firms. She says that brain science creates better attention and focus by reducing cortisol and increasing the happy neurotransmitters like dopamine, oxytocin, endorphins, and serotonins.
“It’s a fairly new science. When we can think about what we are thinking about, it can make a big difference,” Fiorenzo says. “Most of us go through life on autopilot, going into ‘fight or flight’ for no reason when we are under high and chronic stress. Most people aren’t aware that their amygdala is hijacking them thus they have less attention, emotional distress, sleeplessness, and don’t understand why they don’t feel good.”
To develop new habits of mind, people need to recognize the thoughts that trigger the amygdala (primitive brain). Rather than reacting from that place, they can observe the feelings that the fight-or-flight response creates in their bodies and emotions, then use breathing or grounding techniques to help their executive brains take back control.
“Coaching can come alongside you and really help you identify where you can put brain training into your system or program that already exists,” Fiorenzo says. “So, when retrain your brain, it’s not extra work, not extra hours to your schedule — nobody wants that.”
Fiorenzo has embedded brain training into the programs she offers businesses, corporations, individuals, and couples. The “5 in 5” coaching program helps clients achieve five goals of their choosing in five weeks. Goals might include being a better public speaker or better communicator, improving time management, or building a better team. She also facilitates “Drama Free Workplace” and “Savvy Leader” workshops. Some businesses call her in to help employees who are not able to get along together. And, some clients ask her to come help them get along better with a spouse. She notes that including brain science as part of these programs helps those she coaches achieve their goals more successfully.
“They might be career-focused or might be health-and-fitness-focused,” Fiorenzo says. “Applying the brain science techniques, I’ve seen breakthroughs and success in people who otherwise had been stuck. Incorporating the daily practice of becoming intentional about your thoughts, diverting them to new thought processes. Your old neural networks begin to erode.”
Written by Estelle Slootmaker
Photos courtesy Leslie Fiorenzo