Girl under Stress

Girl under Stress

The October post discussed how stress is related to chronic disease and the importance of using BrainWise CPR to prevent and manage problems. Here are two examples from children and teens who have successfully used the 10 Wise Ways as their first response to deal with a range of issues.

BrainWise CPR Problem-Solving Worksheet: Practice Brings Behavior Changes. You may know what the 10 Wise Ways are, but do you apply them to problems? The problem-solving worksheet  is a fast and effective way to use your thinking skills. People have found that going through the steps helps them analyze the problem and come up with a solution. They are surprised to find that it does not take many times using the worksheet before the process becomes automatic, and suddenly they are using Wizard Brain thinking to replace Lizard Brain reacting!

The following story shows the positive consequences of using the worksheet with children. After hearing about the successful handing out of worksheets at another elementary school, the staff of an after school program requested their students fill out the BrainWise problem solving worksheet to address conflicts and other issues. The results were immediate and unexpected. Not only did the students resolve their problems, but they also helped each other fill out the worksheet. The staff found that the worksheet helped children see what they could have done differently, and to realize that the problem could have been prevented if they had used BrainWise skills.

The director said the activity “helped get the BrainWise message across in a more hands-on way,” provided an opportunity for the children to “connect the dots,” and guided them to realize that they do have control over their emotions and can successfully deal with their issues by themselves. This “has been a blessing. Before, the smallest issue would take hours for children to get over, even when the staff thought the issue had been resolved.”

handshakeBrainWise CPR Is Successful for Anger Management. Tenille, a teenage mother and high-school sophomore known for her explosive temper, was placed by the school counselor in a BrainWise class. Tenille showed her BrainWise skills when the new girlfriend of the father of her child came to her locker and taunted her. A crowd gathered, expecting a fight. Instead, Tenille closed her locker and walked away. She said that she thought about the consequences of getting into a fight. “I realized that it was not worth getting kicked out of school over a stupid boy.”

Parents and educators “need to teach information literacy as soon as children can push a button.”
Carla Hayden, PhD, 14th librarian of Congress

Carla Hayden, PhD, 14th librarian of Congress

Carla Hayden, PhD, 14th librarian of Congress

Carla Hayden, PhD, former president of the American Library Association and the 14th librarian of the US Congress, says that information literacy is key to addressing fake news. “Librarians have been pounding on this issue in a different way for a while—just having computer literacy is great, but as information professionals, we’re always looking at what’s the most authoritative source for the information and teaching information literacy. It’s great to have all this stuff, but you need to teach how to use the library.”
Dr. Hayden promotes the valuable service libraries offer and understands the important role libraries play in communities. From school and local libraries to the Library of Congress, she sees professional library staff as resources who give unbiased, nonpartisan information and will provide answers to questions about fake versus factual news. Because of their long-standing reputation as stewards of information, libraries and librarians should be “double lines” in everyone’s Constellation of Support. They are the “go to” fact checkers for accurate information on any subject matter, including government. This link shows the wide range of online resources libraries offer for government information:
For some people, libraries are their sole resource to electronically access information they may need for their health, job, and families. As many businesses, health providers, and government agencies now use electronic formats as their only means of contact, libraries provide everyone with online computer services, free of charge. They thus enable all members of the community, regardless of income bracket, to find needed information. Additionally, in times of disaster, the library may be the only functioning source for contacting critical government services for people from all walks of life.
And while the services of skilled librarians and the resources of libraries are invaluable, individuals also need critical-thinking skills to navigate the information-gathering process and to evaluate multiple sources of information. This is where BrainWise CPR tools are needed, including knowing how to use Wizard Brain thinking, build a Constellation of Support, recognize red flag warnings, manage emotions, separate fact from opinion, ask the right questions, identify choices, consider consequences, set goals, and communicate effectively. BrainWise graduates recognize that solving problems requires them to wisely assess a situation, and using credible resources is part of this process. BrainWise provides the foundation for information literacy by teaching skills that prevent and solve problems associated with the assimilation and dissemination of information.

Benjamin Franklin - “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”

Benjamin Franklin – “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”

No one would associate fake news and untruths with John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and other leaders of the American Revolution, but history sheds a different light.  Dr. Robert Parkinson, a professor of American history at Binghamton University in New York, found documentation in personal diaries, and the Congressional Library, that proves otherwise. He reports that John Adams, his cousin Sam, and other Boston patriots planted fake stories about the British designed to undermine King George. They were aided by the governor of New Jersey who fabricated a number of stories, also published in colony newspapers, that accused the king of sending thousands of soldiers to kill Americans.

Benjamin Franklin added to the fray by making up a gruesome story about American soldiers discovering bags containing 700 scalps of boys, girls, infants, and soldiers allegedly taken by Indians in cahoots with the British.  To support his story, Franklin wrote a fake letter purportedly written by a real war hero that urged the colonies to declare independence because of the murders.  He printed the story in a fake issue of a mock-up of a real Boston newspaper. He sent copies to his colleagues as real news, and they published the story in their papers.  Later, he wrote a friend about the power of what he had done – “By press, we can speak to nations.”

BrainWise CPR worksheets, and BrainWise Checklists help guide discussions of such situations, as students use the 10 Wise Ways to assess and analyze the lizard brain actions that that drive behaviors.  For examples, the PBS New Hour’s educator editor has posted a lesson plan on fake news that includes incendiary stories related to the election.  Inserting BrainWise questions into it would help students use critical thinking skills to analyze the problems not only from their point of view, but from the point of view of others.


It is a privilege to keep in touch with BrainWise instructors, and I would like to mention two who have been longtime program champions:

Dr Li and Dr Pat

Dr Li and Dr Pat

Xiaolaing Li, M.D., translated the BrainWise curriculum to Mandarin in 2005 and trains educators in Kunming and Hong Kong.  When she retired from Kunming Medical College, she started Pioneer in Health, a nonprofit organization serving youth.  She enjoys the newsletter, and sends her love.

Melanee Stevens

Melanee Stevens

Melanee Stevens attended a BrainWise training in Seward, Alaska in 2006.  She taught BrainWise to Alaska Native youth and families before moving to Washington State where she continues to teach BrainWise to youth.  She placed a new order, and added her name on the newsletter list.

In November, Stanford University researchers shared their “bleak” and “dismaying” findings on research they conducted with 7,804 youth regarding how they interpreted information on the internet.  They asked the students to discern fake stories from real stories, activist groups from neutral groups, and ads from articles.  They found that the respondents –   “digital natives” who simultaneously Tweet, Twitter and upload selfies while texting multiple friends – were unable to separate truthful information from false.  The participating youth, middle school, high school, and college students from  12 states, were easily duped, ignorant of their deficiencies, and clueless on how to conduct accurate fact checks.

Despite the efforts of Facebook, Google and Twitter to stem fake news, the problem will only get worse.  The issue is not new, as humans have a long history of presenting false information as fact.  What is alarming today is the exploding number of deceptions and lies, and the inability of those receiving them to recognize those that are false. Examples include inserting untruths about bottled water (it is better for you) alongside of factual information (there is no difference) and websites that masquerade under misleading names (see Daniel Levitin’s TED Talk for a more detailed discussion).

Elementary School Students Learning Brainwise

Elementary School Students Learning Brainwise

Fake news comes from many sources, and assessing information that is entwined with lies, and identifying misinformation convincingly presented as fact, requires using the skills BrainWise teaches.  The 10 Wise Ways can be used to help students figure out how to spot fake news, respond rationally, and teach what they have learned to others.

BrainWise instructors know that students who have mastered the 10 Wise Ways are equipped with tools that help them use executive functions to assess and analyze information.  Preteens and teens who have mastered BrainWise know how to recognize Red Flags that warn them if something does not seem quite right.  They know how to use their Constellation of Support to seek legitimate fact sources, and understand why that in order to stop and think, they need to stay low, or off, their Emotions Elevators.  These steps will allow them to Separate Facts from Opinions by Asking Questions, Identifying Choices, and Considering the Consequences of each choice Now, Later, and Affecting Others (CNL)/CAO).  This process makes them aware of why it is important to take others’ points of view, and helps them integrate this knowledge into their communication.

Teens Learning Brainwise

Teens Learning Brainwise

The serious issue of fake news provides an opportunity for BrainWise instructors to use examples from websites, videos, social media and printed materials to discuss how thinking skills override Lizard Brain reactions.  The BrainWise Problem Solving Worksheets offer a self-directed guide on how to apply the 10 Wise Ways to asses  assess fake news

Kelly McGonigal, PhD, Stanford psychologist

Kelly McGonigal, PhD, Stanford psychologist

In a number of situations, accepting and embracing stress can make you healthier.  Once you appreciate that going through stress makes you better at it, it can be easier to face each new challenge.

Kelly McGonigal, PhD, Stanford psychologist and popular TED talk presenter

The upcoming holidays can be a time bomb of expectations gone bad and Lizard Brain explosions.  In last month’s newsletter I discussed the strong correlation between levels of stress, health problems, and premature death.  The column shared how BrainWise® instructors apply the 10 Wise Ways to courses on mindfulness and contemplation, helping their students and clients better cope with stress and related challenges.

 

stress2So when Dr. McGonigal introduced research that shows it is better for us to embrace stress, as opposed to trying to ban stress from our lives, it raised questions. Haven’t we been told that we need to get rid of the stress in our lives?  She mentions one study that found simply setting a goal to reduce stress increased the outcome of depression, divorce, and getting fired.  The reason?  It increased people’s reliance on harmful coping strategies (e.g., drinking, procrastinating, or imagining worst-case scenarios.)  An analysis of the research puts these findings in perspective:  For people who are unaware of the 10 Wise Ways and don’t have coping skills, trying to reduce stress creates another set of problems.

BrainWise practitioners will recognize that the thinking skills they use are exactly the methods that provide the positive mindset McGonigal and other researchers recommend to embrace stress.  BrainWise graduates know to get help from their constellation of support and recognize the red flags that signal the onset of stress.  They manage their emotions by lowering their emotions elevator and use positive self-talk to deflect the impact of stress.  With their emotions low, or off, the elevator, they easily separate fact from opinion, ask questions, identify choices, and assess the consequences of each choice.   Their goal is not to get rid of stress, but to develop coping strategies that help stress work for them.  They are able to recognize the success of their approach, and learn to handle all problems this way.

Some people think that these are a lot of steps to take. In fact, after observing a BrainWise class, a nonprofit executive looked at all of the BrainWise posters hanging on the walls, and asked students if they were able to remember everything.  A teenager promptly answered.  “It took time for me to learn about the 10 Wise Ways, but once I started using them, they made me think fast. They are in my head now, and easy to use.” 

This describes the “aha!” moment when the rapidly firing brain neurons sync together, providing the information and guidance that helps us stop and think.  BrainWise instructors see this happen when an aggrieved student walks away from a fight because “it’s not worth it,” or when a client says she did not attempt suicide because she thought about the consequences affecting others.

Jill-Botle-Taylor, Brain Scientist and TED Talk Celebrity

Jill-Botle-Taylor, Brain Scientist and TED Talk Celebrity

“To experience peace does not mean that your life is always blissful. It means that you are capable of tapping into a blissful state of mind amidst the normal chaos of a hectic life.” – Jill Botte Taylor, M.D., Brain Scientist and TED Talk celebrity

BrainWise skills make it possible to achieve a blissful state of mind and a number of teachers of mindfulness are using the 10 Wise Ways to help students learn contemplation and relaxation.  In this month’s newsletter I would like to talk about this application.  

The link between stress and chronic disease continues to be documented, and the serious outcomes of these findings spurred pediatrician Nadine Burke, M.D., to evaluate children’s levels of stress as part of their medical history. Her pediatric clinic in a low-income neighborhood in San Francisco offers not only medical care, but also courses on mindfulness and other relaxation techniques.   Her efforts were recognized as groundbreaking in a recent article published in the Washington Post.

Dr. Burke, a graduate of the University of California at Davis who did her residency at Stanford, said she had never heard about research  linking childhood trauma to an increased risk of contracting seven of the ten leading causes of death in the United States.  “When I did, I wanted to shout about it from the rooftops.”

BrainWise instructors know this feeling.  They also work with children and families who face stress  as an obstacle to their health and well-being, and it is often a challenge to “shout about it” and get programs like BrainWise into their classrooms and clinics.  A number of instructors who teach mindfulness have integrated BrainWise into their programs, and praise how the 10 Wise Ways make it easier for students to understand contemplation and how learning BrainWise enhances their outcomes.

Master Teacher Dell Brooks working with his students at Colorado High School Charter

Master Teacher Dell Brooks working with his students at Colorado High School Charter

Dell Brooks, a Colorado high school teacher who teaches contemplative thought, said that BrainWise concepts and language help his students understand abstract concepts of mindfulness.  His students come from difficult situations, and giving them tools to address adversity has helped them graduate and succeed in their lives.  He and other instructors say that when they run into students, even years later, they hear stories about how BrainWise has helped the students and how they continue to use its thinking skills.

Indian teachers in training

Indian teachers in training

Dr. Marga Theophil has introduced BrainWise into the Mindfulness Practice workshops she conducts for teachers in India.  She is pleased with  how it has been received,  and says that program graduates are emailing her with descriptions of how the 10 Wise Ways have helped their students gain control of their emotions.  One instructor said that the “completion of this task makes the studies part follow easily.”

Oprah Winfrey is a longtime advocate for mindfulness, and her network (OWN) has aired a number of programs on the subject.  Her interviews with John Kabat-Zinn led to links to two videos that are  great resource for teaching ways to Exit Your Emotions Elevator.  The videos are produced by Wavecrest Films.

The first, “Just Breathe”, is a three-minute video that features elementary school children.  The second video, “Release”, shows middle school students talking about anxiety and how mindful meditation and breathing can help ease their mind from stress and anger.

The difficulties our students and clients face are always stressful, and as Dr. Harris shared, the result can be life-threatening.  It is exciting to know that you are teaching ways that help lift this weight.

disseminationMatt Sena is a BrainWise champion, and a member of the BrainWise Board of Directors. He is inspired in his work by thinking about the following formula, given to him by a former professor:

●Think about how many new people you impact in a year when you teach a BrainWise class, hold a BrainWise workshop, or counsel individuals and families.

●Next, think about the impact they will have on at least one other person — perhaps it’s the person with whom they have their primary interactions, or a friend or family member in need of support.

●Multiply that person by one or more, because there could be a generational effect, where children teach other siblings, or parents teach their children, spouse, or other family members. Then you will have an estimate of how many people you can impact in a year.

●Then times that estimated number by the years you teach or provide counseling – and then think about your impact on others.

This formula is guaranteed to jump start any bad day!

BrainWise instructors have a wide array of popular games that offer exciting ways to help students and clients practice using The 10 Wise Ways.  At a BrainWise site in Denver, high school students are used to reinforce BrainWise at a nearby elementary school.  In order to make the learning more fun, the high school students played BrainWise Jeopardy with 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders who had been taught BrainWise in their classrooms.

For this project, with the help of the BrainWise instructors, the mentors created their own materials and inserted customized BrainWise questions into the Jeopardy format.

First, they identified five topics for the headings.  Because the game was part of an after school program, they included a fitness heading – “GET PHYSICAL”.    Other headings were “JUST GETTING STARTED,” KNOW YOUR BRAINWISE,” FACT OR OPINION,” AND “COMMUNICATION.”

Then the high school mentors divided the elementary school students into two teams of fifteen students each.  Each team picked a student to represent their team on different questions. The chosen students selected a heading, picked a question, and used others on the team for support.  Each heading had questions under four monetary categories ranging from $100 to $400 and the instructors inserted increasingly difficult questions behind each of the monetary signs.  It was an exciting and fun way to reinforce what they had learned.

BrainWise Jeopardy is a powerful teaching tool.  The headings and statements can be changed, and can be created to be as easy or as difficult as needed.  Competitions between classes can be held, with winning teams answering more difficult questions.  Templates for a wide range of games can be found on the Internet or teachers can create their own.  Either way, students have fun while learning to make decisions using the wise ways.

Please let us know how you use games to teach BrainWise, and we will share them on www.brainwise-plc.org.

 

Prefrontal Cortex HighlightBefore starting a private practice, veteran BrainWise instructor Pat Austin, LCSW, taught the program to high school students with special needs. The students attended a public high school, but their classes were held in a contained classroom. They shared the hallways, lunchroom and other facilities with the general student population. David, the son of schizophrenic parents, had been in Ms. Austin’s class for years. She often wondered how much he was able to retain, and she found out after David had an incident in the hallway when he thought flying clocks were coming to steal his brain. Frightened, he started shouting about the clocks. His classmate guided him through the crowded hallway to Mrs. Austin’s office, where David fell on the floor in fetal position, hitting his forehead with his fist and saying, “I need to find the green, I need to find the green.” When she said she did not know what he meant, his classmate said, “Yes you do! He wants to find his wizard brain!” In class, students colored the prefrontal cortex/wizard brain green, and David wanted to use his Wizard Brain to get rid of the flying clocks. Mrs. Austin called his therapist. Like his parents, David was diagnosed with schizophrenia and put on medication.

Braille Brain

Braille Brain

10 wise ways in Braille

10 wise ways in Braille

Aurora Central High school in Colorado serves a high needs population, including refugees from all over the world.  The school has 300 IEP (Individualized Education Programs) students, and a small number are blind or have visual impairments. School psychologist Karyn Singley Blair is a veteran BrainWise instructor, and serves on the district’s Crisis Team and Brain Injury Response Team. She shared teaching tools they are using with the visually impaired students, including a Braille brain, a Braille Constellation of Support, and a Braille Emotions Elevator.

Braille emotions elevator

Braille emotions elevator

 

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