Wellness Coaching Australia's Blog

Coaching and The Brain - Part 1



We now know that our coaching conversation can actually light up different parts of our clients’ brains and create an “environment” that makes positive change more likely to happen - or at least be considered!  There is a lot about the brain that we still need to understand and the field of neuroscience is rapidly providing this information.


The “split brain theory” refers to the left and right brain which we have known for some time to perform different functions– one being used mainly for linear thinking (left) and the other for creative, holistic thinking (right).  Our left brain organizes information and our right brain senses danger, recognizes patterns and creates imagination (amongst other things).   We could say the left brain sees the trees and the right brain, the forest!  We need both and we are aware of tapping into each side with our work with clients. There are times they need to dream and envisage and times they need to plan and rationalize.  

When we make decisions our brain is involved, yet what we may fail to recognize is the part that other organs play in this crucial process.

We need to revisit how our brain was formed.

The brain evolved by layering – as it became more complex it built on the existing structure and the following stages occurred:

Reptilian brain – our primitive brain served three purposes – sustenance, survival and sex!  All necessary functions to stay alive and prolong the species!

The next stage of development saw the Paleo-mammal brain – this appears still in horses, apes and certain other mammals.

Then came the sophisticated  “hardware”– the Neo Cortex which included the prefrontal cortex responsible for high level learning and thinking that occurs in today’s world.

So that’s three in total.  What people aren’t generally aware of is that we have many neurons (brain cells) in two other organs – our heart and our gut.  There are over a hundred million neurons in our gut alone.  Which makes these additional organs extremely important in decision making.  As often happens, when we look back to how our language developed and the expressions we use, we realize that on some level we have always been aware of the role of these body “centres”. Think of the term “heart felt decisions”, or “gut instinct”.  We learn something “by heart”.  The heart has the most powerful magnetic field in our bodies and many stories are told about heart transplant recipients taking on characteristics and knowledge of the donor.  90% of serotonin, the “feel good’ neurotransmitter is produced in the gut!

We will take a look at what happens in the brain when we coach in our next short article but for now the most important message here is that out of our five “brains”, only one is rationale! We need to use all of them to make decisions but when it comes to the final word, our emotions will win out.  And this involves our entire body.  It has been said that reasons (thinking) leads to conclusions, but emotions lead to action.  A very important awareness for anyone who is trying to help someone with tough changes that may need to be made to improve their health.

This is part one of our two part blog on Coaching and the Brain. Click here to continue to read part two. 

Reference:  Carlos Davidovich, MD.  2016

How Mindfulness Can Help Your Clients Kick a Habit



We are aware that most of our work as coaches, focuses on helping adopt new habits and get rid of a few old ones.  Of course there is a bigger conversation that precedes this but eventually, we have to face the fact that certain behaviours have to go!

And it’s not easy.  

But here’s a new approach.  We have always said that we need to replace an old habit with a new one. But what if we could simply “turn the switch off” and knock that old habit on the head.  We can. By revisiting Mindfulness.

Let’s think about those habits.  Most of the time we are indulging the behavior because we’re not feeling so good. We could be tired, stressed, bored, frustrated, anxious or sad.  We reach for the food, the wine, Facebook, the cigarettes…We use the habit as a way of coping.  And this is where mindfulness begins its work.  By noticing what is going on for us, and paying attention to the cycle we have got into, we can start to change things.  But the important point is that we need to pay attention but not judge. 

So here is a step by step approach to using mindfulness as a way of breaking the cycle.

RECOGNISE
Note the craving, recognize the feeling and avoid rationalizing it

ACCEPT
Accept that the craving is there. Don’t do anything about it, just accept it.  Don’t try to ignore it or distract yourself, just accept it.

INVESTIGATE
Get curious and notice how you feel.  Identify your thinking and remember, your thoughts are not you!  

NAME IT
Make a mental note of how you feel – or even better write it down! Use a word or phrase and put a label on it.  When you give a feeling a name, it calms your brain.  

You are now in a better place to “surf the craving” and you may well find you can ride it out and it passes on its own. The trick is to become more aware, mindful about what is going on at the time the behavior is about to kick in. The more we become interested in what is happening in our minds and bodies, turn towards our experience rather than away from it, the sooner we can take control back of our actions, and our life.

REFERENCE:  The Craving Mind, Judson Brewer
Highly recommended:  
Barking up the Wrong Tree, Eric Barker.

Two Words


The new year is well and truly on us and before we know it, we are into the swing of things and are now wondering where the holiday went. But most of us take some time, if only a moment or two, to ponder what lies ahead. What do we want for 2017?  Do we have new directions to travel in? New challenges to enjoy?  Notice I have not once said the word “goal”... Not that there is anything wrong with having goals, as long as we don’t get caught up in a mad rush to achieve them.  

What I prefer to do each year is to find two words that I can focus on that mean something significant to me at this point in time.  And I let those words “colour” my  plans and way of living.  So, for example, my two words for this year are, “Balance” and “Freedom”.  I won’t indulge myself by explaining what they mean to me, but I think you’ll get the general idea. 

So why am I sharing this?  Because I think it is just another creative way of working with clients at a time when most of them are busy, they've set new years’ resolutions (that often are broken by now) and planning to make major changes in their lives, which suggests that things are really not going well.  The reality is, we have all spent the last year growing, learning and experiencing a variety of things.  Hopefully, we have ended up with more information about what we want, what we don’t want and are feeling fairly clear after a nice rest and reset that Xmas and New Year can often give us.  Choosing two words keeps it nice and simple, creates a feeling of control and gives us clarity around what we need most. 

What are your two words?  How do they apply to your life?  How can you bring more of those two elements into your world?  Share this with your clients.  Have fun with them as you invite them to do the same. Spend time talking about what those words mean for your clients.  Coaching does not always have to be delving into the dark stuff.  There is always room for laughter and lightness; for fun and anticipation; for a sense of the unknown whilst feeling grounded in who we are and what we stand for. 

Go lightly into the rest of 2017 and make it a wonderful year. 

What does personal organisation have to do with Wellness?




Everything!  We are writing new material for our courses and simply have to include this very relevant area as it is becoming one of the biggest obstacles to people achieving their wellness goals. Sound ridiculous?  Well consider:

What do people say prevents them from, let’s say getting fit?  
Number 1 obstacle – lack of time.  Really? (They have the same 24 hours as all the other exercising people.)

And perhaps, lack of sufficient, good quality sleep?  
Number 1 obstacle – worry about work or an inability to switch off.

What about eating well?  
Biggest obstacle – it’s easier to grab food on the run, eat at my desk, replenish with a sugar hit when I have had long periods without food

Cutting down on alcohol?  
We often hear – “How else would I unwind at the end of a day?  My list is just never done.”

Something is going wrong here and it would appear that the ability to organise our time is slipping away from many people.

Why is this so?
There are many complex reasons why we feel we are losing control our lives.
  1. We never switch off – Many employers expect their team to be available virtually 24/7.  Other people waste so much time on Facebook that they forget to spend their time on things that are important – ie lifestyle habits that might help improve their health and vitality.
  2. We juggle multiple roles – One hat comes off the other goes on, except often we end up wearing 10 hats at once doing this wonderful thing called multi-tasking. 
  3. We can’t see the wood for the trees.  Our world becomes a jumble of “stuff’. Unfinished paperwork, household duties or simple tidying up.  How could we ever allow time to go for a run/meditate/prepare a meal from scratch?
  4. Our ability to categorise information is depleted.  We no longer can put things in their separate compartments and clear some head room for the task at hand.  Or we find it impossible to retrieve information once it’s gone in
  5. We spend our time on “shallow” work, not “deep” work.  The former includes all these administrative tasks like answering emails, calls, doing expenses, checking facebook, checking facebook.
  6. We rarely get time for the “deep” work – that sense of focus with out distraction when we use our strengths, work that has an impact.
  7. This flows into our ability to do the activities that give us the “wellness” that we crave.  We are too busy dealing with non-important busyness to ever get to what we really want to do
Is personal organisation important for increased wellness? Most certainly.

How do we know we're happy?




There’s that word again! Do we often check our happiness meter to see how high it is? I find that I am more likely to ask myself questions at the start and end of the day along the lines of, “How do I feel about today with what’s ahead?”, and, “How good a day have I just had?” When researchers explore this notion of happiness, they have two common ways of measuring it. Firstly, how often do we experience positive feelings over any time period, and how high is our life satisfaction (more of a global measure) at a certain point. These two factors are obviously interlinked as lots of happy feelings through the course of the day may lead to a feeling of contentment when we look back on that time period. But does that then influence a general feeling of life satisfaction? I’d like to think so.  

But back to the issue of our state of happiness. Some people choose to look at life through the proverbial half empty glass filter. That way they don’t get disappointed and manage to exist in a more stable mood perhaps? Others amongst us would like to cultivate positive feelings and, with a sense of optimism, look forward to pleasant events ahead. I have also learnt that I can structure my day so that I end up feeling more satisfied with the overall experience. I’ve come to recognise that this is usually to do with what I choose to do with the day and how much I set myself as tasks to complete. If I manage to plan a balance of activities with plenty of time in nature, and stick to that plan, and set an achievable task list instead of working manically towards a never-ending goal of getting everything done, I will end up in a much happier mood at dinnertime. 

I’ve also learnt that when I experience good feelings I can make them last longer by sharing them. Like hearing my father laugh at a story I told him today on his 85th birthday. If I recount that to other people, the feeling of amusement and love, keep on being reproduced!

There are many things we can’t change in our lives. We experience continual stress with the demands placed on us by others and by ourselves. We could constantly be at the beck and call of everyone through technology that never sleeps. But we do have choices and if we understand what makes us, as individiuals, feel like we’re experiencing a good life, then we can choose accordingly.  

Mood Tracking Aps: Support or Crutch?



In my own life, and in my coaching, I am a proponent of the importance of mindfulness of emotions in cultivating overall wellness. I often encourage my clients to practice awareness of their emotional states by checking in various times throughout the day to what they are feeling. In a recent session, a client challenged me with “there MUST be an app that can help with this”. Now perhaps I am a bit slow on the technology front- but I had no idea how MANY apps already exist for mood & habit tracking. So many, in fact, that I needed to seek out a good blog that would compare them all, and tell me which one was best for what. 

I came across a useful blog- cleverly entitled “The Quantified Soul” and after reading a breakdown of the pros and cons of each app, I decided to download one to try it out myself! Now to be honest, I have mixed feelings about the idea that one can create a state of mindfulness and wellness through responding to a prompt on one’s phone (or computer).  To me, mindfulness is something that takes a level of commitment to take the time to be present and tune into oneself, not a simple tick off of a long to-do list.  However, after having an app on my phone for several weeks now, which prompts me several times a day by asking “How are you feeling?”, I can say that it can be a useful reminder to take time out of the busy-ness of the day to notice what I’m feeling.   

The technology can only be as mindful as its user of course; it can also be easy to tune it out altogether, or to give a one-word answer without truly being present. Alas there is still no magic bullet for mindfulness. However, for someone who is genuinely wanting to begin the process of practicing mindfulness, and finds difficulty getting into the habit of awareness, it could be a useful tool. Or perhaps the traditionalists would say it’s a crutch of technology….I’m interested to know your thoughts….?



Lucine Eusani
MA & MPhil Conflict Resolution, RYT


When Distractions Become Addictive


I have given a lot of thought to content of the sessions at Mind and Its Potential conference the other week and feel compelled to share a few more pearls of wisdom – or perhaps different ways of looking at things with you all! 

The idea of our becoming addicted to distraction really hit a note for me as I can recognise the tendency to sometimes scan my working environment (ie laptop) for new stimuli, usually in the form of an email or perhaps a Skype voice message, particularly if I am working on something not quite as exciting as I would like it to be! The ability to focus, or pay attention to the task at hand – otherwise known as “mindfulness” (yes, let’s take the hoo ha out of this term) is something that I believe we all struggle with more and more. The quote about attention deficit trait “turning steady executives into frenzied underachievers” was very powerful and a reminder about the dangers of constant stimulation and multi-tasking. 

I will share with you a set of guidelines given to ensure we get the most out of our choices in life and don’t miss out on what is valuable.

  • Set limits on technology
  • Be active, not passive – innovate, write, do something!  Don’t see to be entertained.
  • Use these things to clarify your emotions
  • Exercise!  Minds live in bodies.
  • Talk
  • Have idle, quiet time (not sleep).
  • Share activities with someone (eg read the same book – two copies of course).
  • Remember mortality to make more of life
Some of those strike a chord with me. Do they with you?

The Tail of a Wild Dog


It's February!  How did that  happen we ask ourselves?  Weren't we just looking at the first page of our fresh and new diary, thinking what a glorious feeling it was that the year had yet to unfold and what possibilities lay ahead?


Then suddenly, it's February.  I asked a colleague how her week was going the other day.  She responded with, "I feel like I'm hanging on to the tail of a wild dog!" That made me smile as I recognised the feeling.  And I know for a fact that I am not alone.


So why is this one of the most often cited reasons for people feeling, well, less than perfectly in control?  This sense that life races ahead and unless we hang on tight, we get left behind. I have two Labradors. On our morning walk to the park, they are also like wild dogs. After a run, they are calm, well-behaved and willing to be gently led to the next activity.  I want my life to look like that. Calm, obedient, good looking and satisfying!


We could list the many reasons why life today is this chaotic and demanding.  Technology; expectations (our own and others), distractions and multiple roles to mention a few. We need to manage time better. Or do we? Perhaps managing priorities and even our energy is a better place to start?  

Priority Management

How often do people say, "I have no time to exercise"?  Of course, they do.  It's just that exercise is a lower priority than the other things in their life.  And we all have that choice.  If we ask ourselves the simple questions:

What do I want more of?

What do I want less of?

The answers will be revealing.  The things that get in the way will be competing priorities.  What counts is  how much you want that missing aspect of your life.  How  much do you value it?  Worth spending some time thinking about that.


Energy Management

Then there's this question of exhaustion, or simply feeling too flat to be bothered. Try asking:

  • What gives me energy and what drains me?

    When am I at my best? 

With a bit of careful planning it is possible to organise our day so that we play to our strengths. If you do you best thinking in the early morning make sure you have a way to record your ideas. If your energy is low in the mid afternoon, perhaps plan to do mundane tasks that don't require much thought. Or find a way of boosting it by slotting in exercise at a time that gives a flow on effect. Don't leave the things you hate doing for the time you feel the least motivation to do anything! Take time out to work out how your natural energy flows.


Time Management
We can't make 24 hours any longer than it is.  But what we can do is ensure that we get the maximum result from the time we spend on a task/project.

Mind Management


To do this we have to organise our mind rather than live to the clock.  Margaret Moore writes of the six Rules of Order in her latest book "Organising your Mind, Organising your Life" and she stresses the need for developing the ability to focus and cut out distractions at appropriate times.  On the flip side, we also need to cultivate the ability to switch tasks without getting flustered and annoyed.  Very often our emotional state prevents us from being at our best and neuroscience shows that our thoughts can in fact calm the pre-frontal cortex - the part of our brain that  produces emotions that can sweep us along in a positive, or sometimes negative way.  Panic, anxiety, frustration all work against our working in a  relaxed steady state.  If we can start to recognise what patterns we fall into that make that dog run (the one we are trying to hold onto), we can then begin to retrain our brains and regain control.

Wellness Coaching is a rapidly growing field


Contrary to what people think, poor lifestyle habits do not stop at what we ingest, whether we move enough and what tine we go to bed.   Instead we are working with people at a deeper level to help them be more better performers, have more peace of mind, improve the quality of their relationships etc.  Together we set not only physical goals, but mental ones as well.  Exercise, nutrition, managing thoughts and emotions become the tools to create change and much of our work focuses on helping people work out what they want and why they want it and then understanding  why it is difficult to achieve.


This realisation is spreading through the health, fitness and wellness industries and very quickly into the corporate world where the main measure of success has always been financial return on investment.  What is happening now is that companies are recognising that what goes into creating this success is a multitude of factors, many of them concerning the people who work in the organisation and their level of satisfaction or "wellness".  





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