Thursday, January 16th, 2014
Are you ready for your baby to become a teenager? Most parents are not because, if I remember correctly, teens are a PITA. But bestselling author Dan Siegel, M.D., says those adolescent years do not have to be so dramatic. In his popular new book, Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain, he explains that what’s inside teens’ heads are normal, scientifically-proven developments. Once we understand how their thoughts work–and why–we parents can lead them much more easily and sleep better at night.
Here’s what Dan had to say about the highlights in his book:
KK: What is the greatest myth around the teenage brain?
DS: The greatest myth is that adolescence is an “immature period of life,” one “we need to just get through and survive.” The truth is that it is an important and necessary transformative period that can allow us to thrive–not just in adolescence, but in adulthood as well. The scientific truth is that the “essence” of adolescence is something we can learn to cultivate in our lives. This “essence” is the crucial foundation for living a full life in adulthood as well. This “essence” = emotional spark (ES), social engagement (SE), Novelty-seeking (N), and creative exploration (CE). These things, which are all critical points of development, are vital to living well during adolescence and to keeping your brain young as an adult.
KK: People don’t often think of brain health daily. How important is brain health to a great life?
DS: Our brains shape how we feel, how we think, how our body functions and how we interact with others. When we learn the key to keeping our brains healthy with daily activities, we not only strengthen our mind, feel better and engage with others in more rewarding ways, we actually make our body healthier. How? By strengthening the brain, we help fight off chronic disease, repair the important caps of our chromosomes, and even improve our immune function. These are all skills that I try to teach both adolescents–and adults—in Brainstorm.
KK: So what can people do to keep their brains healthy and active?
DS: Science shows that there are at least seven fundamental daily activities that have been proven to keep the mind strong, the brain healthy, the body working well and our relationships thriving. These practices include having time each day to move the body, to be out in nature and connect with other people, to focus on one thing at a time, to relax and unwind, to sleep well, to be spontaneous and playful, and to take “time-in” to focus on your inner experiences of Sensations, Images, Feelings, and Thoughts. That’s how you can “SIFT” your mind each day to keep your brain healthy.
KK: What are 5 of your favorite facts about the brain?
DS: There are so many, but here are my five favorites:
1. Your brain continues to grow across the lifespan.
2.How you focus your mind changes the function and the structure of your brain.
3. The brain is the social organ of the body–and relationships shape and are shaped by the brain
4. The brain’s remodeling in adolescence leads to a more integrated and highly functional brain–remodeling is necessary and can be cultivated by both adolescents and adults.
5. You can choose to keep your brain strong and healthy. We can learn these important skills in adolescence and then hold on to the Essence of Adolescence throughout our adulthood to keep our brains vital.
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