Positive psychology coaching has got to start internally with two key components, managing stress and creating brain fitness.
For example, the 11th step of AA says that I must practice daily prayer and meditation to know the higher powers will for me, and then I can move to the 12th step, which is the lifestyle step of carrying the message to the still suffering alcoholic.
The 12th step is the value step which can give incredible worth to the life of the person carrying the AA message, and I think living a deeply meaningful life is an aspect of what Positive Psychology is attempting to teach us about the potential of our lives.
(A recent book by Sharon Begley shows that certain kinds of Buddhist meditation can change the structure of the brain, certain areas become larger).
Where do I hear or experience the result of my daily prayer and meditation? Since most of us do not get to personally speak to our higher power nor do we experience the burning bush type of message, we get that message as an intuition or feeling most likely, and those things happen inside our calm body.
Calm being the operative word, so a positive psychology coach would begin by teaching about self talk, relaxation, mindfullnes, meditation, deep breathing, maybe even HeartMath, a wonderful tool to manage the inside of your body heart beat by heart.
It has been my experience that my clients appreciate the technology and the real time feedback that HeartMath offers.
While everyone knows that breathing deeply and regularly sounds healthy, and nod sagely at my suggestions, no one does it, even if it means keeping your body filled with stress hormones, which make a Positive Psychology harder.
So I teach my clients HeartMath, which is based on the rather recent discovery of your heart's very sophisticated nervous system.
It seems that the heart has a brain of its own, which can learn and make decisions, especially about affiliation and cooperation, independently of any other brain I have. The heart sends a lot of data to the head, more data than the head sends to the heart, and I can access that heart intelligence by learning some cognitive and breathing tools, which change my physiology in a heart beat once my heart learns it is to do that.
When the heart begins to beat very coherently, every cell in the body begins to dance to that beat, which is to say that the pneumatic and electromagnetic energy from the heart tunes the body to pulse rhythmically.
Does it feel good? Oh yes, and this heart rate variability coherence opens the higher perceptual centers in the brain, to hear that message about your direction for today.
And once the HeartMath is learned using your PC or your emWave, you can cue the physiology on demand as a lifestyly tool, or as an acute stress management tool. There is link to the Heartmath tool in the right column.
Once you have opened the higher perceptual centers in your brain, you can begin to enhance two newly discovered capacities of the human brain, neurogenesis and neuroplasticity.
Neurogenesis is the word used to describe your brains ability to grow new neurons every day. New neurons are a wonderful thing to have for your positive psychology.
That is the good news. The other side of the coin is that in order to keep those new neurons, you have to challenge them with some kind of novel learning experience, like learning a new language, learning to play a new musical instrument, or using computerized brain fitness tools.
You also have to keep poisons like frequent and strong doses of stress hormones (remember your HeartMath) or ethyl alcohol out of your brain, otherwise those new neurons are killed.
Neuroplasticity is the term used to describe your brain's incredible desire to form new connections between neurons. That linking is what forms the basis of learning, and gives us the cognitive reserve to function effectively as we get older even when we have some alzheimers symptoms present, if you are my age.
Both neurogenesis and neuroplasticity can be enhanced by taking care of the pillars of brain fitness, physical exercise, nutrition including omega 3 fatty acid, sleep, stress management, and novel learning experiences.
The pillars of brain fitness? Read Brainfit for Life by Simon Evans,Ph.D. and Paul Burghardt,Ph.D., neuroscientists at the University of Michigan.
Their book is full of great tips for brain fitness culled from new research and written for the layperson.
Physical activity/exercise is the most important aspect of brain fitness, as it is for most everything we do, including issues like depression.
More good news. Physical activity does not have to mean throwing around big barbells in the company of big men and women at an expensive gym.
It can mean simply doing more of what we already do, like walking. You can get a very effective brain fitness workout done in the basement of your home, in 10 minute intervals once or twice a day, using an exercise ball and/or dumbells, following the model of Angie and Scott Tousignant who have set up a work out model for couples. Positive psychology in your basement, sweat is extra.
Evans and Burghardt have a great deal to say about nutrition and the role of antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acid in your brain's fitness.
Daily Omega 3 fatty acid is mandatory for your neurons to stay flexible. Neurons are composed of omega 3 to a large extent, and without maintenance doses, those neurons became brittle and do not communicate effectively, which means less than optimal psychology.
Another very important aspect of brain fitness, laying the ground work for positive psychology coaching, is the novel learning experience Evans and Burghardt mention.
Michael Merzenich,Ph.D., is a leading researcher in the area of neuroplasticity, and he has created one of the best brain fitness programs for training neuroplasticity.
I use the computerized brain fitness programs because I do not have time to learn a new language, and I do like the Posit Science Brain Fitness Program. It has been measured in the IMPACT study published in April of 2009.
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