Archive | December, 2015

Ep 162: Thriving on Change: Improving natural abilities for focus and attention

Welcome to the More Than Sound podcast. 

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In this episode…

Daniel Goleman talks with Elad Levinson, leadership coach and organizational consultant, about how mindfulness training can help leaders improve on their natural abilities for focus and attention.

This conversation is an excerpt from Thriving on Change: The Evolving Leader’s Toolkit, a Praxis You online course available at morethansound.net that teaches leaders how to respond expertly to uncertainty and conflict in their work.

Effective leaders are focused leaders.

“If you want to be focused, if you want to be effective, you can’t just let any old whim or whatever that comes along,” said Daniel Goleman. “You need to make some choices.  And the choices are internal. And in order to make that choice, you need to know what’s going on inside me now. Is this where I want to be or can I be somewhere better? That act is called mindfulness. Noticing what’s going on within you and using that information to manage yourself better, because self-management starts with self-awareness. And mindfulness is the toolkit for that.” 

About Thriving on Change: The Evolving Leader’s Toolkit

Thriving on Change integrates the necessary proven-effective skills, tools, and practices to ensure leaders expertly respond to uncertainty, conflict, and inevitable distraction. Unlike other leadership development courses, this program is delivered in bite-size chunks, designed to enlist all of your learning faculties. And because we all learn differently, each course offers a balance of:

  • video
  • audio
  • animation
  • self-assessments
  • discussion forums
  • downloadable practices
  • personal reflection
  • reading on your own time.

 

develop a healthy mind

How to Help Children Develop a Healthy Mind

develop a healthy mind

A key component to helping children develop a healthy mind is teaching them self-awareness and empathy.

Like learning any new skill, these two kinds of awareness can be developed through regular practice. We know from modern neuroscience research that to establish new connections in the brain, systematic practice is essential. Unfortunately, traditional curricula often ignore these topics, which are building blocks for all other types of learning.

If children are unable to exercise cognitive control and to pay attention, they won’t be able to learn – or worse, manage their emotions. Starting in preschool, we can introduce very simple exercises to cultivate these qualities of attention.

Notice a Sound

For example, here’s an exercise that can be done with four- and five-year-old children. Ring a bell that lasts for 15 seconds. Ask the children to pay very, very close attention to the sound and, as soon as they no longer hear it, to raise their hand. What happens in a class of 25 children during the time the bell is sounded? There’s a dramatic stillness. Kids will just start to raise their hand. They love this exercise.

develop a healthy mind

Notice a Sensation

Other exercises have children pay attention to internal bodily states. Practicing this helps cultivate attention and empathy, because empathy very much involves understanding how your own body is responding.

Tania Singer, a neuroscientist at the Max Planck Institute, studies empathy. Tania says that when you experience empathy, systems within your own brain are automatically attuning to the emotional or internal state of another person – and duplicating that in yourself. In order to know how the other person feels you actually are attuning to yourself using the insula as a principal pathway. Those changes can occur consciously or non-consciously. To take full advantage of the changes you must become aware of them.

Notice Your Breath

How can we strengthen the brain circuitry, the prefrontal circuitry or insula circuitry, in children for this kind of awareness? Practice attention training. Another simple exercise for children is to have them practice paying attention to their breathing. While the children are lying on the floor, have each child place a little stone or stuffed animal on her or his belly. Ask the children to observe the object rising and falling with each breath cycle. Not only is this extremely relaxing, it’s also something that helps them focus their attention on their internal bodily sensations.

 

Additional Resources

Develop a Healthy Mind: How Focus Impacts Brain Function

develop a healthy mind

The Triple Focus: A New Approach to Education

triple focus

Focus Back-to-School Bundle

back to school bundle

Focus for Kids: Enhancing Concentration, Caring and Calm

focus for kids

Bridging the Hearts and Minds of Youth

bridging the hearts and minds of youth