Train Your Brain: Get a Head Coach

Main Points:

  1. A brain fitness program will help us maintain quality of life as we age.
  2. The human brain is a social brain. It has evolved over time within multiple social systems. We are born into a social system, learn in social systems, and age in social systems.
  3. A “Head Coach” can provide a social context that facilitates and enhances brain function as we move through the aging process.

Our American society is aging. Within the next three decades, one out of every five people will be 65 or older. Unfortunately, research suggests that approximately 30% of individuals age 60 years or older will experience dementia as they near the end of life. To increase the odds that we can maintain a quality life across our life span, our focus needs to shift from increasing longevity to maintaining quality of life as we age.

Fortunately, we do have some control over the aging process. A brain fitness program that incorporates challenging activities, stress management, physical exercise, and a healthy diet can have a positive affect on brain function.

Supporting Point:

  • When we integrate mental challenge into a health lifestyle that includes physical exercise, sound nutrition, and stress management we become “SharpBrains.” A Head Coach will help you to formulate brain fitness goals and plan strategies for achieving your goals.

Maintaining brain fitness is a challenging and lifelong process. It often requires a change from our normal and mostly automatic ways of doing things. How many times have you gone on a “diet,” joined a fitness club, or stated a firm resolve to get more sleep only to eventually find yourself back in your old pattern of behavior. We can identify healthy behavior but we often do not act on what we know.

According to Ashish Atreja, MD, MPH; Naresh Bellam, MD, MPH; and Susan R. Levy, PhD:

… Americans continue to engage frequently in unhealthy behaviors and the rates are increasing. It is apparent that if most people are to achieve success, advice on techniques, schedules, diets, and the “how-to’s” of behavior modification, and information on “what is good for you and what is not” are not sufficient.

In addition to not applying our knowledge, we sometimes utilize “selective listening.” In other words, we only hear information that is consistent our current thinking. In terms of health and wellness:

In The Science of Aging Gracefully, the authors explain:

While people appear to have a firm grasp of the role of diet and exercise in staying healthy longer, the public seems to be less aware of the other leading lifestyle factors raised by researchers. Weight control, caloric restriction and stress management are often mentioned by researchers as key factors in increasing health-span, but in terms of public perception, only 7% of the people interviewed said that stress management is one of the most important factors in health and longevity. Only 4% said that weight control is among the most important things one can do to live a long and healthy life.

Why is it that we do not act on what we know and/or engage in selective listening? I have a couple of hypotheses. However, for the purpose of this current post, we will discuss the brain in terms of evolution and individual development. The human brain has evolved within the context of multiple social systems (e.g. societies, communities, families, etc). Furthermore, starting in the earliest stage of individual development and continuing into the last stage of our lives, each individual brain develops through social interactions for social purposes. Therefore, learning (and neurogenesis) can be facilitated and enhanced when it occurs within the proper social context. A SharpBrains coach can work with an individual to create the optimal social conditions for learning.

Supporting Point:

  • This discrepancy between health knowledge and health promoting behavior is likely to decrease if we recognize the brain as a social organ. A Head Coach can create the social context needed to facilitate and enhance not only learning, but also the application of knowledge.

In a broad stroke, this post begins to explore the role of a Head Coach to improve brain function. However, it is also an invitation to the SharpBrains community to join a discussion about the importance of relationships in improving brain health. In future posts, I will discuss what, who, and how of coaching others toward healthy brain function.

~Neal, Head Coach


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