Educator Wellness Podcast

Challenging our Minds to Improve our Intellectual Dimension of Wellness

March 26, 2023 Scanlan Center for School Mental Health Season 1 Episode 6
Challenging our Minds to Improve our Intellectual Dimension of Wellness
Educator Wellness Podcast
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Educator Wellness Podcast
Challenging our Minds to Improve our Intellectual Dimension of Wellness
Mar 26, 2023 Season 1 Episode 6
Scanlan Center for School Mental Health

During this episode, Dr. Shelli Kesler, Director of the Brain Health Neuroscience Lab at the University of Texas – Austin, joins me to talk about the importance of nurturing our intellectual wellness. We talk about how to cultivate mental growth as well as improve concentration, memory, and critical thinking skills. 

Reading, doing challenging puzzles, thinking through a creative project, learning how to play a musical instrument, etc., are just a few of the strategies we discuss. Tune in to learn more about how to challenge your mind and stimulate curiosity and creativity.  

Thanks for listening! Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, X, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Visit our website: https://scsmh.education.uiowa.edu

Show Notes Transcript

During this episode, Dr. Shelli Kesler, Director of the Brain Health Neuroscience Lab at the University of Texas – Austin, joins me to talk about the importance of nurturing our intellectual wellness. We talk about how to cultivate mental growth as well as improve concentration, memory, and critical thinking skills. 

Reading, doing challenging puzzles, thinking through a creative project, learning how to play a musical instrument, etc., are just a few of the strategies we discuss. Tune in to learn more about how to challenge your mind and stimulate curiosity and creativity.  

Thanks for listening! Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, X, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Visit our website: https://scsmh.education.uiowa.edu

(upbeat music)- Good evening everybody. Welcome to the Scanlan Center for School Mental Health Educator Wellness Podcast. I am your host, Kari Vogelgesang. Welcome back, or welcome to those of you who are new joining us. I am actually the director of professional development for both the Scanlan Center for School Mental Health and the Baker Teacher Leader Center. And this podcast has been designed to share wellness information and practices to help us lead healthier and happier personal and professional lives. And it's really geared towards and specific to K through 12 educators. And tonight we're gonna be talking about one of our dimensions of wellness with Dr. Kesler. We are gonna focus on our intellectual dimension of wellness with her. She is an amazing person that I actually stumbled upon online when I was reading some articles about intellectual wellness. So I'm gonna give you a little bit of a background about Dr. Kesler, and then we're gonna go ahead and get started. But as a reminder, if you're joining us live and if you have questions for Dr. Kesler or something about our conversation, or if you want us to touch on something that's related to our conversation or the topic this evening, then feel free to drop those questions into our chat function and we can publish those questions and try to address those the best that we can. Okay, so Shelli, here we go. Dr. Shelli Kesler is a cognitive neuroscientist with specific expertise in neuroimaging, neuropsychology, biostatistics, machine learning and computer programming. Her research program focuses on the neural mechanisms of chronic conditions, especially cancer related cognitive neural toxicities. Her work includes both clinical and preclinical studies that focus on translational approaches for measuring the functional and structural connectome, which is a word that I learned today, in both humans and animals using MR neuroimaging. The overarching goals of her work concern the neurobiologic subtyping of cognitive impairments, as well as neuroimaging based predictions of cognitive behavioral outcomes, survival and treatment response across the lifespan. And she has obtained over 14 million in external grant funding and received tons of awards and accolades for all of the work that she has done. And we are just very thankful, Shelli, that you took the time out of your clearly extremely busy schedule to join us this evening to drop some knowledge, so thank you for joining us.- Yeah, absolutely. It's my pleasure.- Good. So one of the things that I like to do right away in these podcasts is just try to understand or learn just a little bit about your path. I think that always gives us a really good insight into what brought you to this work and how it has shaped your work and helping us better understand and give us some context. So tell us your story.- Okay. Well, I was born.- Yeah, go ahead.- All the way back. I really first became interested in neuroscience in high school, and part of it was stemming from my siblings and I have always been very artistic. We play instruments and we draw on paint. My sister is very talented at pottery. And I always was so curious how we create art and music and all the amazing things that humans do. And I knew enough, even at that age, that it was the brain that did those magnificent things, but it was like, how? It's this like weird looking organ, how does it do that? And just even throughout history, the feats of art and architecture and engineering. And so I just was kind of obsessed with that, like how does it do it? It just doesn't make any sense really. And that and also the other interesting and kind of weird things that it does, like dreams. Why do we have dreams and why are they so weird and what do they mean? And it's so bizarre that if you don't get enough REM sleep, which is the type of sleep where dreams happen, you die. You actually die from that. So it's like dreams are necessary for... Now, we know they're necessary for consolidating your memories and keeping your memories healthy, but they're also somehow important for your very survival. So those, that's where it all started, was just this enormous curiosity about how that works and how do we figure it out. And of course, the brain is so complex that no one actually really knows. So I wanted to be one of the people who tried to help figure it out a little better. And so I got a undergrad degree in psychology, the study of the mind, of course. And then I did a PhD in neuropsychology, which is more specific to brain behavior relationships. And it turned out that neuropsychology wasn't exactly the best fit for me. It's more concerned with how to describe conditions of the brain, but not really how it works. Like I wanted to take it apart and what's under the hood, how does it actually function? And so then I went on after my PhD to do post-doctoral training in cognitive neuroscience. And that's really like, that was the perfect home for me. And that field really does focus on, you know, how does your brain do these magnificent things like remember stuff and solve problems and create? And so then in terms of what to specifically study, when I started out, I studied like most of us do in science. We study what our mentor is studying.- Oh, yes.- And that happened to be, I worked with a very famous neuropsychologist who studied traumatic brain injury. And that was so fascinating to me because your brain can have this catastrophic injury and it'll still work pretty well considering, and especially considering that when you lose a brain cell, you don't grow it back. And so that was amazing, like miraculous to me. And then in my postdoctoral work, I studied what my mentor studied, which was neurogenetic syndromes. And that also, again, very, very interesting. And so I became very interested in, well, how does the brain recover from injuries? And then one of my mentors introduced me me to this concept of chemo brain. Which, you know, really fit with there's this injury, but it's, you know, people kind of don't believe in it. And that really appealed to me because all these women and other patients too, and men too, were talking about these huge changes in their brain function after they had chemotherapy and everyone was saying nah, it's just stress, or that's not possible, it doesn't exist. And so that just really got me. I was like, I wanna figure that out and see what's going on there. And so that's where we are. And brings us today is that's what I study is cancer related cognitive impairment.- Okay. So we have to do a little bit of a side step because now I really need to know this. So I mean, we're gonna get to some intellectual wellness stuff here down the road, but okay, so my mom died of cancer about six years ago and she went through many rounds of chemo and definitely talked about and experienced this chemo brain. Fast forward then, so she died about six years ago, then this pandemic happened, right? And then people start to talk about like this COVID brain.- Yep.- Right? And when I would hear people describe this to me who experienced it, very much the same way that my mom described in many ways this chemo brain. So like, can you tell us about that and like, are our children experiencing this and is this showing up in schools? And if our teachers are experiencing it and they're coming to schools? Like A, it's a real thing, what's happening in the brain and how is it impacting our schools?- Yeah, absolutely. So we actually have done a couple of studies in COVID because we saw how similar it was to chemo brain. And it's a similar situation where you have this medical illness that doesn't originate in your brain. I primarily study breast cancer. And so it's like people say, well, why does that affect your brain? And same with COVID. And so yes, it is a very real thing. And there have been... There are measurable changes in your brain from COVID. And it's most likely that people who have more significant changes in their brain are the ones who are gonna have the COVID brain. And you know, there's always gonna be a continuum there. It's not well understood, of course, and because it's just so new and we're still studying it. But even though COVID is a respiratory disease, it is what's known as a neurotropic virus, which means that it can travel along nerve pathways. And it goes in your nose. And so, you know, where is your nose attached to? Your head, your brain. So you breathe things in, it gets into your brain, right into this frontal area. And most people talk about problems with what's known as executive function, which is our problem solving, our decision making, our processing speed. And those things are multitasking. And that stuff seems really befuddled in COVID brain. And so it makes sense 'cause that's kind of the first place that it hits. And your prefrontal area also plays a role in memory and attention. And so all those things, your language, your word finding ability, right, like how quickly you can think of words. And so all of those things are potentially affected. The other thing COVID does that probably affects the brain negatively is it causes a lot of inflammation. And so your brain is super, super sensitive to inflammation. And so inflammation can be very toxic to brain cells, so that's probably an issue as well. So that's just mild COVID. And then when you start talking about people who had moderate, moderate to severe COVID, then you're also adding the hypoxia, the lack of oxygen from having a respiratory illness.- Yeah. So you know, so I'm sitting here thinking, okay, so now let's take what you just delivered to us, like what's actually happening when you have COVID or you know, chemo brain. And then what if these students have had experienced COVID and experienced these things that have changed their brain in ways that of course impact their executive function functioning skills. Same with teachers. One of the things we keep talking about, Shelli, in schools, and maybe you do or do not know this about what's going on in schools with our students right now is that we keep coming back to this conversation of like, oh my gosh, like our seniors are acting more like sophomores and they're functioning more like sophomores and so on and so forth, right? They're like a couple years, especially emotionally, socially, intellectually seems to be lagging a little bit. I'm wondering at this point, like maybe it's not just the isolation that took place. Maybe there is some real actually, you know, scientific or biological things that are happening inside of our bodies coupled with the isolation that just exasperated this issue that are really showing up and creating these issues that, well, issues that we're seeing in schools. I mean, we're taking benchmarks and measures that we were using pre-COVID to determine where our students are at right now. And yeah, so I think, you know, what you're saying really is ringing kind of a lot of bells in my head in terms of what we're seeing and experience with students and even teachers.- Yeah.- And how they're struggling.- Yeah, I mean, millions and millions of people were exposed to this virus, right? And so we have this unprecedented situation where so much of the population has been exposed to a potentially neurological issue. And of course not everyone gets the neurological problems, just like not everyone had to be in the ICU or have right ventilation, but it's just... We really don't know why some people got it and what the long-term effects are. Is it a acute thing? Is it gonna be a chronic thing? And in terms of children especially, you know, their brains are still developing. Our brains continue to develop into our early 30s. And so you hit it with something like that and you're definitely gonna see some disruptions. And another way that it's similar to chemo brain is that obviously cancer is this really stressful situation, a life-threatening illness, and you have have to go through all these really difficult treatments. And so of course the anxiety and the stress of that situation is going to affect your brain as well. And then on top of that, you're having trouble with memory and thinking and they kind of feed off of each other. And so I think that's exactly what happens too, especially with children who don't have as strong of coping skills. I mean, I guess it depends on the adult, the adult house, how the coping skills are, but they don't understand some of this stuff as well. It's harder for them and they don't know what's going on. And so their response is often to act out or to have a personality change and those can feed into, like I said, they affect each other. When you have anxiety, it affects your brain, which then can releases hormones and chemicals that can make the anxiety worse. And it's this big circle a lot of times.- Yeah. So that kind of feeds into like this bigger not issue, but I think topic that I'm really wanting to talk about today, which is also how to take care of our intellectual wellness, especially when something's kind of going south maybe and not working quite right. When we're thinking about like (indistinct) definition of what intellectual wellness is and why it's important and what it means in our lives, and you know, as you know, it's just recognizing the creativity and the importance of expanding, extending, expanding our learning through engaging in different kinds of community activities, cultural activities, intellectual challenges, so on and so forth. And so one of the things that I'm thinking of as you're talking is, okay, so you're experiencing what we would call chemo brain or COVID brain, let's say, or maybe there's some other things that are happening. You've experienced a traumatic event that's creating some issues in your life. What would you... Like, is it possible then to engage in different kinds of activities or challenges that actually reverses things, I guess maybe is what I'm trying to say? Or the things that are happening in your brain?- Yeah, absolutely. It's funny in our society how we consider that our mind and our body is somehow separate and it has this history, right? Like early modern philosophers like Descartes and his peers started talking about mind body dualism and their way of trying to figure out how physiology worked. And that's kind of been a pervasive theme. And then you also have the three main religions in the world, Islam, Judaism, Christianity believe that our bodies are inhabited by a soul. And so we have like the majority of the population with religious and or philosophical beliefs that they're two separate entities. And so you have this, you don't have any problem going to get to treatment for a broken arm or a bad heart, but we're real skeptical about needing treatment for mental health, for cognitive issues, for depression or anxiety because we think subconsciously that it means there's a weakness of our soul or our spirit and it's kind of this collective belief that we often don't realize, but still pervades in our society. And so I think one of the first things is having this open dialogue and maybe an openness to taking care of our minds, if that makes any sense. That's always the first step that I have to work on with patients who are having these struggles because it's, you think I should just will myself out of this and if I just try harder, then it'll be fine. And so I think the very first step is recognizing this and recognizing that your mind stems from your brain, which is part of your body. And just like when we break our arm, our brain can become injured by our circumstances, by trauma, as you mentioned, by illness, by disease. And the problem is you can't put it in a sling like your arm, you have to keep using it. And so we have to engage in certain behaviors that help it, but the long-winded answer to your question is yes, there are many things you can do to strengthen your brain, to potentially even reverse damage. You can't, like I said, ever get brain cells back that you've lost, but you continually make new ones and there are things you can do that make that process happen more quickly. And there are things you can do that strengthen what you do have and maintain what you do have.- Okay, so there's a couple things that I wanna talk about after listening to what you just said. So first, what are those things? So like, what are some challenges or some activities that you would maybe prescribe or suggest to somebody? Yeah.- Okay. So the best thing to do, of course, which is always gonna be the hardest because we don't have time or motivation a lot of times, but you really have to combine two things for your brain health. One is physical activity, so aerobic exercise causes new brain cells to form. And so it reduces inflammation and it has all these other properties that are good for our brain. So we engage in some physical exercise, it doesn't have to be crazy, go for a walk and you're gonna get some new brain cells. Then the problem though with that is about 50% of them just die after you've made them.- Really?- Yeah, yeah.- What? How quickly do they die?- Pretty quickly, within days.- Why?- I don't know. I think because they're like these new baby brain cells and when they don't have a purpose and you're coming in, I think of it as kind of like, you know, a child who's born and their next sibling is like 12 years older than them or something. That family structure is already doing its thing and now you're introducing this really new person. And it's kind of like that with these little baby brain cells. Your brain has been formed and reorganized like over many years if you're an adult. And when they come there, there's like no real place for them to fit in. And so how we get them to fit in is through the mental exercise. That is what wires them into place. And so that's why the two things are important to do together.- So like when you say mental exercise, are you talking about like learning a new language, learning how to play an instrument, doing crossword puzzles? Like are those the types of mental exercises are you like encouraging people to engage in?- Exactly. And there's not one that is gonna be best for everyone. Of course you have to, you need to pick something that you like enough to keep doing regularly. The key is not necessarily what the thing is that you do, but that you can do it regularly, like every day, you know, or every other day so that it's like a part of your routine, a habit. And so the two very best things for your brain are gonna be learning a language and learning music. And that's because they use all of your brain. And so that's just gonna be the best exercise. But not everyone wants to do that. And the other thing I would say about that, those two is you don't have to become fluent in a new language.- Thank god.- Exactly.- That's not happening.- Yeah, right. A few times a week, you're learning a couple new vocabulary words, a couple new phrases, you know, that is enough to challenge your brain 'cause it's hard. And so that's enough. We don't have to become polyglots to have this work. Same with musical instrument. You don't have to go on tour with a rock band to have this work. You just find something that fits into your lifestyle that's small. And then there's those, like I said, are the top tier things. And then you have so many other things too. One of the things I find works really well for a large variety of people is what I call active journaling. And so you're, you know, most people understand what keeping a diary or a journal is, but in this type of journaling, you're not just writing, oh, today I did the laundry and I went to work and I saw my friend. You're writing about something you did and then you're kind of analyzing it and saying, you know, this is what it meant to me or this is what I learned from it, this is how I felt about it. So you're really kind of diving deep. And the other part of that is you can't just free, what's the word? Stream of consciousness.- Okay, yeah.- You have to be very focused, like you're kind of writing a term paper that someone else will read and you wanna use good grammar, good spelling, good sentence structure, all of those things to challenge your brain to communicate and to express itself. And that works really well.- I just wanna make sure I'm getting this straight because I wanna do it right because that's the kind of person I am, Shelli. Like I gotta get... I have to know the formula and I gotta do it right. So like, okay, I'm a runner so I run six days a week. So after I run in order to like, try to keep as many of those brain cells that my body is creating,'cause I like that image to me of like, those brain cells die, like 50% of those brain cells die. I don't know, that kind of shook me a little. So then I come back from my run. And then you're telling us that like pretty much, is it like right away we should engage right after physical activity in these exercises and these intellectual exercises? Or can we wait? I mean, is it okay to wait like two, three, four hours and then, it's totally fine?- Oh yeah, yeah, absolutely. And you know, no one knows exactly how quickly. It is definitely sooner than you would think. And so I tell people try to do these health things every day if you can, even if it's five minutes. And it doesn't have to be right after. Some people wanna do those together and there are like certain exercise based games, cognitive games that people do. And so they get 'em both at the same time. But if you are doing one in the morning and one later in the day, that's fine, or even the next day. Yeah.- Okay.- The key really is regularity.- Okay.- Yeah.- So you said something else too when you were talking about religion that I thought was really interesting that you even brought religion into it'cause that's super fascinating to me. I've never thought about it the way that you just described it. Like how when we separate the two, you know, how that can change like our feelings, our thoughts about brain health and our body health and whether or not they are connected or not. And so it took me to, when I was doing research and reading and prepping for this particular podcast, I came across a bunch of information that was basically talking about intellectual wellness in a way that's like, it's not just like the physical dimension and pairing that with these intellectual challenges, but like, it's also really important for the person to come to this work, this self-work with having not necessarily just an open mind, but an an ability or you know, an ability and even a desire to receive information that maybe even challenges your current beliefs in your whole own personal bias. And that even takes it a new dimension or takes it up a another notch. Like, have you dabbled in that or have you talked about that with people or what are your thoughts on that?- Definitely, and so it kind of, it brings up a couple of things for me. One is this concept of cognitive reserve where when we're doing these mental exercises regularly, we actually start stacking up reserve in our brain. And in some cases it's more brain cells. In some cases it's just a more efficient wiring of the brain. But it works exactly like money in your bank. If there's a recession and you've had a savings account, you're gonna come through it okay. If you have good cognitive reserve and you get an illness or an injury, you're gonna come through it much better than someone who doesn't have cognitive reserve. And cognitive reserve is tied really, really closely to education. And so people who are more educated have more cognitive reserve, but it's more so than just, oh, I went to school. It seems to be about your experiences in life and the... I'm having trouble explaining it, sorry. But the breadth of your experiences, the type, the diversity of experiences is what I'm trying to say, the diversity of the people you know, the diversity of the things you've been exposed to. And we know that people who have more diverse experiences tend to be more empathetic, right?- Yeah, absolutely.- To different points of views, to different lifestyles, to different ways of thinking. And so when I think about that, I'm like, it's just so good for your brain to have that diversity of experience and of education. And so I definitely talk to people about trying to expand their horizons to be cliche. Yeah, absolutely.- Yeah, we are really fortunate in the college we have, one of the centers that I co-direct, the Baker Teacher Leader Center is named after Linda Baker. And she is a donor and donated the funds to start the center and keep it going. And she is such a believer in the research behind making sure that our students have these diverse experiences, that she has created scholarships and systems and ways for students to go abroad and study abroad and scholarship them. So it's not just for the haves and the have nots, but like understanding that putting yourself in these situations, it is such a deep and rich life-changing learning experience, educational experience that it's something that you just can't get out of a textbook or in a classroom. And those things are great too. And engaging in difficult conversations with classmates or peers or faculty, but also like that traveling experience is something I think that you were kind of alluding to or speaking to.- Absolutely.- You can see that in K through 12 students though too. Like you can have students who, you know, the same IQ range or whatever were going through the same school and interacting with the same students and teachers. And it's always really clear to me when I go into K through 12 schools who has had life experiences, and there's a variety of what those life experiences are, right, like what neighborhoods you live in and how much you've traveled and the things that you've visited and seen and the kind of culture that your family exposes you to. Yeah, it's super interesting.- And part of that at its foundation is literally the difficulty, you know? I mean, talking to someone who has a different opinion than you or a different belief than you, there's a difficulty there, like an emotional and an intellectual difficulty. And doing it with grace and with openness, you learn from that difficulty. You benefit from that difficulty. Traveling to a foreign country is really difficult and you know, once you make it through that, you have this new strength. Just like lifting weights, it's the same for your brain. And it reminds me of when I worked in pediatric cancer, I noticed this major trend that the children who had cancer, even if it was the same disease, I could always tell the ones whose families were more open to diversity of experience and those kids were so much more resilient. And the ones who were really like, I wanna say overprotective and restrictive, those kids really struggled. And it came out also too in like as they were trying to go through their recovery, you know, the parents would not make them do anything, wouldn't make them do their homework, wouldn't make them do their chores. Kind of tried to remove...'Cause they were so scared. I mean, I get it, I totally get it. They would remove all of those challenges from them and those kids just floundered without those challenges. They really struggled.- Oh my gosh, Shelli, like you just opened up like a can of worms for me. I mean, not really a can of worms, but I have been thinking about this. And I think educators across the board have been thinking about this for quite a while, but particularly since the pandemic, this resiliency piece, You know, it is so apparent and you know, I think there's multiple factors that we need to think about that have influenced the resiliency of our students right now. But it is very apparent. I mean, even with my own children, to be honest. I think it's something that we're gonna start to have to really spend a lot of time on. And you know, and I get it, like I said, there's people who speak to this and we talk about how we were the latchkey kids, like I was, right? So I came home. My parents were super, to be honest, like great. I mean honestly, like particularly my mom, wonderful. But also very hands off. We had to learn to self soothe and to figure things out and you know, to pick ourself up and keep going and there wasn't a lot of space for like, you know, box breathing in my house. In fact, emotions didn't exist a lot of times to be honest. And now this is the space I'm working in.- Same, same.- But then we had kids, right. And I think a lot of our natural instinct has been to be these helicopter parents because it's like we're trying to protect our kids. And I'm speaking, I'm overgeneralizing right now, but...- Right, of course.- But like then our, you know, it was like we didn't want our kids to have that experience. Like we wanted to be there for them, we wanted to coach them through things, we wanted to be on their side and guide them through things. But what's happened is I think we've overcorrected in many ways, especially maybe during the pandemic. And I think that you can really see this in some of our students. And it's something we're gonna have to kind of deal with. Well, that we are even seeing, you know, having to deal with and having to work on with our students in higher ed, for sure.- Yeah. No, my colleagues and I talk about this issue all the time at the undergrad and the graduate level. We're like, what's going on with the students? Like they're helpless. I'm like, I don't don't trust them to go out into the world and be able to be okay. Like I'm really worried about what's going on here. And yeah, I think we have to change the way, at least I definitely have over my career had to change the way that I teach me too and the way that I interact with students'cause they're just very different.- They are very different. And I think in some ways like, I'm not trying to pick on them either because some of the things that I see from my students and even from my own children and their friends and some of the kids that I work with in schools are amazing. I mean, some of 'em I'm just like, yeah, you guys, I mean, you guys are badass. But then there's these other things that I think, and I am totally blaming myself for this too. I see this in my parenting and I see how it's impacted even the development of my children. And if I could rewind and go back and not be so hands on all the time, I totally would. that's the one thing that I would definitely change about my parenting when I was raising my children because I think, yeah, it's definitely had an impact for sure.- And those things are so hard to predict, like it's coming from this place of like love and protection and how you wanna be treated as a person and like, you just have no idea So it's so hard.- It's hard. I mean, they don't, like we all always talk about they don't come with a manual, right? And you know, I really was doing my best and what I thought was my best. And I think we all do, we all do that. We all love our kids and do our best. But yeah, that is I think an outcome of us, of our generation of helicopter parenting. For sure.(both laughing)- Shoot.- I know, shoot, darn it. Now we get to see how they're gonna mess up their kids. Just in a different way, it's fine.- It'll be awesome.- I remember after I had my first baby, I was sitting on the end of my bed, like I had gotten home that day and I remember just thinking to myself, I can't believe they let me go home with a baby. Like, how do they think I am to be able to take care of a baby?- No evaluation.- I didn't have to take a test like what? Sitting on the end of my bed and I'm sobbing and my mom comes over and she was like, what is wrong? And I'm like, I'm gonna mess him up. I don't know what I'm doing. She was like, oh yeah, you are gonna mess him up. It's fine. She's like, I messed you up, I messed your siblings up, it's fine. We just do our best and it's just to what degree are you gonna mess him up?- And we all turn out okay, right? That's the thing.- Yeah. I don't know, in that moment, it made me chuckle. It maybe kind of pushed me through that moment. so I'm thankful that she kind of made a joke, but not really to be honest.- Well I mean, that's one of the things that I just love so much and I'm so fascinated by about the brain is how adaptable it is.- That's true.- You know, like we adapt to really incredible things.- Yeah.- Yeah. But resilience, yeah I think is... We're having to really rethink that and how we can help students gain some or improve what they do have.- Yeah, absolutely. So ending on that a little bit, I'm gonna ask you one more question, and this is kind of a takeaway. If you were gonna give our educators who are joining us this evening or who maybe listen to the podcast later on through Spotify or Apple, Kat, I think you're with me, I don't even remember what outlets we're on right now. Maybe you can tell us later. If you were going to give our educators like one suggestion in terms of not only what they should do in their life to improve their intellectual wellness, but how they can transcend this knowledge into the classroom with their students, like what kind of advice would you give them?- In terms of what they can do themselves? Do you mean like what specific activities?- Yeah, maybe. Is there like one thing that you think that they should focus on or how would they maybe assess their own, like maybe strengths or areas of growth and then pull from their strength? Is there something that you would have them do to start to think more critically or intentionally about their intellectual wellness, and maybe even how they coach that or teach that with students?- Yeah, I mean, one thing I always recommend is for people to schedule it in their calendar. You know, like this is the time of this day that I'm going to spend 15 to 20 minutes or however much you have on my brain health. And what you do in that particular session will depend a little bit on kind of what you mentioned, on your strengths and weaknesses. And if part of your brain health is the cognitive stuff, we all wanna maintain our cognition. Unfortunately, as we age, our brains just naturally starts to decline. And so we have to, you know, we're always lagging behind and having to try and fight that off. And so that baseline level of just maintaining our brain health and warding off our aging brain, I would pick a thing that you like. And the key is that it needs to be slightly challenging. So you can't just sit down and read a book. You have to like journal about it or have a discussion with a friend about it and make it a little more of a challenge'cause we can do a lot of passive things like that. Or we can watch like a Discovery Channel show about something we don't understand. But if you're just a passive recipient, it's not gonna do much. You have to really like think about it or discuss it or journal about it and try and find like the meaning in it to make it denser, I guess is a good way to put it. And if you are then, like most of us are I think in today, in this time that we're going through, you additionally have anxiety, depression, stress, then you're also gonna wanna use part of that session for some relaxation, for meditation. And those are brain exercises too. Again, we always separate. We're like, oh, well this is cognitive function, my memory, of course that's important, but then like there's anxiety and depression and we try to put it in the separate box that's separate, but they're both brain and they're very connected to each other. And so it's a little bit individual. If you're having those additional symptoms, then you wanna tweak your session to address those, if that makes sense.- Yeah,- So it's not... It's hard for me to say everyone should do this one thing because you might not like that one thing. You could maybe do computer games. Or there's a question on the, I see, from a listener about karate or Tai Chi because it combines both movement and mental and yes, those are perfect things and they're also meditative. And so, you know, if you can find something... If you are a person who likes everything to be tied into one, then that would be a perfect choice for you. And in terms of applying this to the classroom, I would passionately advocate for teaching children about brain health and what it means to not only like, you know, our brains help us remember things and we're trying to exercise them. And when you learn something, you actually change your brain structure and your experiences are gonna change your brain structure and it's sometimes hard to reverse that. And so you kind of want to be healthy as much as you can, but also teaching them about emotion and that's part of brain health too and how we cope with that and how important it is to feel open about that and to feel empathetic and accepting of those things, and yeah, yeah. I hope that's not too simple or expected of an answer. And somebody has asked if it would be beneficial to teach students about neuroplasticity, that they have control over their own brain health? Yes, absolutely. I think most people go through their lives not knowing that and not understanding that. And so it would be a really critical thing to teach people when they're young and starting out and when we have them at our disposal to teach them about neuroplasticity and how our brains adapt for good or for ill, and we can choose which one that's going to be.- I think that is like a great spot to end, what you just said. You know, how we can choose which one we want them to be, that we actually do have some control and some choice over it. And the responsible decisions that we make in our lives and teaching children about that's one of the five core SEL competencies that we think about when we're teaching both academics and you know, when we're teaching about our emotions and our intellectual health. I think it is really important for them to understand everything that you just spoke of today at a developmental level and that there's choice, that they can make responsible decisions around it. So Shelli, really thank you so much for joining us today. You are seriously brilliant and I've learned a lot from you, not just prepping for the podcast, but even just today listening to you, I've learned so much. So I am imagining that we'll stay connected in some way, shape or form.- Yeah, I hope so.- Yeah, and collaborate in some way.- Yeah, absolutely.- I'm gonna say before we leave, our next podcast is gonna be focused on environmental wellness. And so we are gonna talk about the importance of shaping our environments and systems within our environment to support our wellbeing and how we can even do that in school buildings and maybe even show you some examples of different types of schools that have kind of modified their learning environments in ways that inspire you to even just show up at school'cause we know that we're having a hard time getting kids even just to show up. So we're gonna focus on that next month. And then I also wanna say Kat Wilson, our marketing manager, sent me a text message during this podcast and she's like, Kari, we are on Spotify, Google Podcast and Amazon Music, and we're still waiting to get on the Apple ID approval. So Spotify, Google and Amazon Music is what we're currently on. So thank you, Kat. I know I don't always stay up to date with that kind of information, so I really appreciate that you all joined us this evening and I am looking forward to connecting with all of you again next month. And I hope that you can take some of this information and directly apply it in your own lives and somehow transcend some of this knowledge into your classrooms with your students, your families, and maybe even your colleagues. So thank you everyone and have a really great night.- Bye.- Bye-bye.