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It’s brain awareness week. Yes really!

My sometimes slightly naughty sense of humour really enjoys those times when my carry-on bag gets that extra special scrutiny at the security screening point at our domestic airports.

“Madam, did you know you have a brain in your bag?”
And I reply “Yes, I was aware of that, I always carry a spare brain with me, in case of emergency.”

And just in case you weren’t sure, brain awareness week is not about spare brain carrying capacity for domestic air travel, but it is about increasing global awareness of the progress and benefits of brain research.

Did you know there are over 1000, diseases and disorders of the brain, many of which do not have a cure.

The Brain Foundation is a valuable source of information that includes their healthy brain program. As in the book Brain Fit, this program is all about the steps you can take to maintain your brain and keep your thinking razor sharp.

Many businesses now realise that their number one and most precious asset is the mental capital of their organisation because;

Yes, you may have the most highly trained and experienced staff.
Yes, you may all the latest technological wizardry on board to streamline processes.

But does that translate into a happy, healthy workforce that is engaged, motivated and contributing their best work?

Enhancing this “mental capital” starts by creating an optimal work environment that nurtures and supports all brains to perform at their very best.

Building brain friendly culture recognises that most people work best, when they feel valued and supported in what they do and how they do it.

Building brain friendly culture requires:

1. Optimal brain fitness gained through greater self-awareness and implementation of brain healthy nutrition, exercise, mental challenge and stress management.

2. Knowing how minds operate at their best in regards to the quality of decision-making, problem solving and innovative thinking.

3. Integrating and embracing those changes necessary to stimulate mental flexibility and agility.

Next week Perth is hosting a unique event. UWA Extension is presenting Dr Jeffery Schwartz from UCLA who will be speaking on how to redesign your brain. An internationally recognised expert in the field of neuroplasticity, obsessive compulsive disorder and mindfulness, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to listen to a scientist of this calibre sharing some of his ideas and research.

I’ll be there, along with my spare brain so as not to miss a thing. I hope to see you there as well.

Meanwhile how brain aware is your workplace?

Do you have access to healthy nutrition options?
Food scientists have shown how our choice of food influences not only our memory and our mental performance but our mood as well.

Does your workplace encourage you to engage in physical and mental workouts?
Twenty to thirty minutes of aerobic activity every day primes your brain to perform at its best. Some gyms now provide a physical/mental workout combo so you can stretch your mental muscles while working on your biceps. Mental challenge is just as important as the next physical challenge – looking for a ten-minute daily activity to up-skill your focus, your ability to filter relevant information and your speed of processing.

Does your workplace ensure you have access to the resources and support you need?
Putting on the pressure to deliver more, to meet deadlines and get through your workload can be made to feel a lot easier if you have the confidence that all the appropriate materials, resources and other people relevant to the task are available at the right time.

Do you take regular brain breaks to manage your mental stamina and focus?
We make around 35,000 decisions everyday, and if you are feeling over-pressured or fatigued this can lead to increased stress and contribute to the loss of your problem solving, decision making and willpower capacity.

Are you encouraged to take your annual leave as appropriate?
Time out or time off is crucial to long-term performance. Staying late too often, or working too many hours is counter-productive to optimal efficiency and productivity. Do you feel that you can take sufficient time out to divert your energies to those other important areas of your life?

Do you feel nurtured, valued, and respected for your opinions and ideas?
Do you get rewarded for effort and innovation?

And importantly, does your work make you feel as if it’s work worth doing?

Businesses exist to make money and improve their bottom line. But are your leaders/bosses and managers putting into place those policies and strategies that will allow you to produce your best work?

Dr Jenny Brockis

Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner and internationally board-certified lifestyle medicine physician, workplace health and wellbeing consultant, podcaster, keynote speaker and best-selling author. Her new book 'Thriving Mind: How to Cultivate a Good Life' (Wiley) is available online and at all good bookstores.

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