“Many of the most significant public health challenges faced today have a behavioral component. To change individuals’ behavior, we need to understand and change the brain.”[i] From Professor Huda Akil, a Syrian-American neuroscientist
Welcome back to The Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast. I’m Andrea Samadi, and launched this podcast just over 3 years ago, with a vision to bridge the gap between theory and practice, and help all of us (whether we are a teacher in the classroom, or in the modern workplace) to understand the most current brain research, and how to use it, for improved productivity and results.
On this episode we will cover:
✔ Why we must understand our brain, in order to change our behavior.
✔ 2 Brain Facts learned from Dr. Andrew Huberman’s most recent podcast on “The Effects of Alcohol on the Brain and Body”
✔ Why Chronic Disease Prevention means thinking with our brain health in mind.
✔ 4 Steps to change our behavior with our brain in mind.
For this week’s Brain Fact Friday, I wanted to tie our past few episodes together, starting with EPISODE #239 where we talked about “Using Neuroscience to Build a Stronger 2.0 Version of Ourselves.”[ii] On this episode we looked at how we can change our identity by reviewing our self-image. We looked at where our self-image is formed (in the front of our brain) and how people who have stronger pathways in this part of the brain, will have higher, long-term self-esteem, which I think we can all agree would help us to move forward, towards this newer, stronger, 2.0 version of ourselves.
Then we looked at the concept of Praxis, or integrating our beliefs with our behaviors, as a way to step into this brand new 2.0 version of ourselves where we can become an entirely NEW person, overriding our old identity, building a new image of our self, over time, with hard work and persistence.
Then, physician and neurologist, Dr. Philippe Douyon[iii] advised us with his experience of facing 2 kidney transplants, that the power for health and happiness, really is in our own hands, but he gave us a sense of urgency, telling us that we only have ONE brain, ONE body and ONE life.
If we really want to improve ourselves in any way, everything points back to understanding what’s happening with this organ that controls everything that we do. Next week, we will be speaking with Dr. Ginger Campbell, MD, who was just inducted into the 2022 Podcast Hall of Fame. Dr. Ginger has been running her Brain Science Podcast[iv] since 2006, and anyone who studies the topic of Neuroscience would have come across her work, as a pioneer, where she launched her podcast all those years ago because she believes that “understanding how our brain really works is essential for being a good citizen in the 21st Century.”[v]
When I think about why we launched this podcast, where we look for leaders around the world who are using the most current research, to help us to all see that success, health and happiness is possible for all of us, when we do things a certain way, and I would say, that this certain way, is with our brain in mind. Not to say that this way (with our brain in mind) is the only way to accomplish success, but if we are going to look at our life, and we only have a short time here to do whatever it is that we want with our time, I think to live up to our full potential, it’s important to remember that we only have one brain, and to be aware of what helps it, or hurts it.
Dr. Douyon’s company mission: “One brain, one body, one life” makes me think seriously about the consequences of every action I’m taking. While I enjoy every interview I’ve ever done, something magical happens when all of our episodes begin to thread together with a common theme, and I think that Dr. Douyon noticed the lights turning on in our interview.
It’s starting to sink in. To change an individuals’ behavior, we need to understand and change the brain.
Which leads me to this week’s Brain Fact Friday, that came to me early this week, while listening to Dr. Andrew Huberman’s podcast.
I’m sure everyone in the world “knows” that there are some things that are “good” for our brain (and productivity/results) and other things that aren’t but when new research comes out that is compelling enough to make me change my behavior, I’m going to share it here. If you were like me, you might have heard that there was a connection with drinking alcohol and cancer, but until this week, I didn’t know exactly how drinking even low amounts of alcohol (as low as one drink a day, or even if it’s not every day, a couple of drinks socially on the weekend) damages this one brain that we have, that controls everything that we are, and everything that we do. And I think it’s crazy that these brain facts that I’m going to share from the most current research are seldom discussed, so I’ll put all the links in the show notes to Dr. Huberman’s podcast (along with the notes) that made an impact on me, for anyone who is curious to review these facts for themselves.
I picked two out of the twenty-eight topics to cover on this week’s Brain Fact Friday to help us to all think with our brain health in mind.
BRAIN FACT 1
DID YOU KNOW THAT “alcohol changes our gene expression, which therefore causes cancer, particularly breast cancer and that for women, there’s a 4-13% increase in the risk of breast cancer for every 10 grams (1 glass of wine has around 10 grams of alcohol)?[vi] I’m not sure what you think when you hear this, but this research was enough to help me to decide very quickly that alcohol is now on the do not ingest list, if health is something I’m striving for, which it clearly is. I encourage you to listen to his entire episode. There were many facts that filled in the blanks for me and helped me to gain a better understanding of how toxins impact our brain and body.
BRAIN FACT 2
If that first brain fact was not enough, there were many more points to drive the truth of this matter home. Another shocking brain fact is that “alcohol changes the HPA-axis” (which is the part of our brain that balances what we see as stressful or not) and that for those who consume alcohol, (even low amounts like a couple of drinks in the week, or over the weekend) will have “elevated baseline levels of cortisol”[vii] even when they are not drinking. While most people will be thinking “hey, let’s go have a drink” to enjoy the stress-relieving and relaxing benefits (which might be true) no one is thinking that research now shows this causes our stress and anxiety to increase, in our working hours, days later, when we are NOT drinking, when focus and concentration is crucial.
I don’t know about you, but when we understand how important our brain is for our future success, and that we all want to avoid neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s Disease, or increased stress in our work week, or even Cancer, it’s definitely something that I think we should all be fully aware of, and make the informed decision that’s best for you.
It’s sinking in more now. To change an individuals’ behavior, we need to understand and change the brain.
TIPS TO CHANGE BEHAVIOR WITH OUR BRAIN IN MIND:
When I asked Dr. Douyon, when science reveals something is bad for us, even a carcinogen, how can we stop people from consuming it?
STEP 1: Think Big Picture: Dr. Douyon gave us some great advice with not having someone quit something cold turkey, but wean them off whatever it is they are trying to quit. We’ve covered “Using our Brain the Break Bad Habits” in our early episode #35[viii] when looking at eliminating habits that no longer serve us. Instead of just thinking about what you want to quit, think about what you want to start, stop and what do you want to do more of. Look at the bigger picture of what you want to create, so you aren’t focused entirely of that thing you want to give up. This should make the transition easier, especially when you can see the benefits to what you want to eliminate.
STEP 2: What’s Your Motivation Based on Your Values: This one was easy for me. With health at the top of what I value, it something proves to not be healthy for my brain or body, it’s an easy decision to eliminate it. What do you value? What will this change in behavior do for you?
STEP 3: STAY FOCUSED: When grinding away our old self-image, to create a new one, it will require focus, especially when something stressful happens. When looking to make long-term change, I like to have a plan in place. John Norcross’s book Changeology
Explains how to stay focused on whatever it is you want to change for 90 days. He says to make any long-lasting change stick, you’ve got to spend the first 14 days that getting psyched up for the change, then you prepare yourself for the change, from days 14-21, then 14-60 he says you’ve perspiring, since the change takes work, and you persevere from days 60-90. Persistence comes with day 75 onwards.
IMAGE CREDIT: from John Norcross’s Changeology[ix]
STEP 4: INTEGRATE YOUR WINS: This is the part that most people forget. If we can change our old self, into an entirely new self, this is a serious win and I think is the purpose of life. We should always be striving to be a better, 2.0 version of ourself, and when we do, there’s nothing like it. Celebrate other people’s wins and give yourself credit when you achieve something you’ve worked hard for.
REVIEW AND CONCLUSIONS:
To review and close out this week’s Brain Fact Friday, I took 2 brain facts, from Dr. Andrew Huberman’s most recent podcast on “The Effects of Alcohol on the Brain and Body” to bring to the forefront the message that we learned so clearly from our recent podcast with Dr. Philippe Douyon that we have one brain, one body and one life, and that preventing the chronic disease, especially neurological disease in our future, means looking at our brain health today.
Dr. Douyon’s interview made me think of the fact that we will all die one day, and in this quest for our goals, and daily life, I never put that much thought into what I want the last half of my life to look like. Annie Duke, the author of How to Decide: Better Choices, Better Life[x] calls it Back-Casting, or when we think of how we want the last years of our life to look like. Have you ever done this? I’m definitely planning these years, with my brain in mind, and that means making tough decisions today, that will impact the last half of my life.
What do you think?
I’ll see you next week.
[i] The neurobiology of behavior: what drives individual choices? Friday August 30th, 2019 from The Academy of Medical Sciences https://acmedsci.ac.uk/more/news/the-neurobiology-of-behaviour-what-drives-individual-choices
[ii]Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast EPISODE #239 “using Neuroscience to Build a Stronger 2.0 Version of You”
[iii]Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast EPISODE #241 with Physician and Neurologist Dr. Philippe Douyon on “How to Rewire our Brain for Health and Happiness.” https://andreasamadi.podbean.com/e/physician-and-neurologist-philippe-douyon-md-on-how-to-rewire-our-brain-for-health-and-happiness/
[vi] Dr. Andrew Huberman’s Podcast on “What Alcohol Does to Your Body, Brain and Health” https://hubermanlab.com/what-alcohol-does-to-your-body-brain-health/ (1:37:11 alcohol and cancer).
[vii] Dr. Andrew Huberman’s Podcast on “What Alcohol Does to Your Body, Brain and Health” https://hubermanlab.com/what-alcohol-does-to-your-body-brain-health/ (37:39 alcohol and cortisol).
[viii]Neuroscience Meets Social and Emotional Learning Podcast EPISODE#35 “Using Our Brain to Break Bad Habits” https://andreasamadi.podbean.com/e/how-to-use-your-brain-to-break-bad-habits-in-2020/
[ix]John C. Norcross Changeology https://www.simonandschuster.com/books/Changeology/John-C-Norcross/9781451657623
[x] Annie Duke, How to Decide: Better Choices, Better Life https://www.amazon.com/How-Decide-Simple-Making-Choices-ebook/dp/B07TRJB3S3