Habits & Health episode 11 with Mary Rensel and Ali Hively, exploring the world of brain optimisation. They teach busy, stressed professionals brain resiliency tools to improve productivity and focus.
Mary is an MD and Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine and Director of Pediatric Multiple Sclerosis and Wellness at the Mellen Center of the Cleveland Clinic.
Ali holds a Master’s Degree in education and curriculum. She has been in the health and fitness industry for over 15 years as a certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor and nutrition and wellness consultant.
Full transcript of this episode is available at the link below
Topics discussed include:
- Mari & Ali’s 4-Week Biohack Your Brain Resiliency Course
- CLE: Connected- Lifestyle habits- Emotional processing
- Brain optimisation
- Difference in emotional reactions to this between men and women
- Self care and compassion
“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears”
“Be strong enough to stand alone and you’re doing things your way. Smart enough to know when you need help, and then brave enough to ask for it”
Ziad K. Abdelnour
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The Mary Rensel and Ali Hively interview link:
This video is related to an older episode featuring Elisabeth Kristof
Tony Winyard 0:00
Habits and health Episode 11. Welcome to another edition of the podcast where we give you ideas on habits you can create for a better health and a better life. Today, my guests are Mary Rensel and Ali Hively. And they've teamed up in quite a unique combination. They help people around brain optimization, and helping them with the emotions and many other areas in life. And we're gonna we're gonna hear a lot more from Mary and Ali, coming up. If you do like this episode, please do share it with anyone who you feel would get some real value from it. Why not subscribe to the show? leave us a review. And I hope you enjoy this week's episode.
Habits and health and my guests are Mary Rensel and Ali Hively. How are you doing?
Mary Rensel 0:57
Amazing. How are you? Thanks for having us.
Tony Winyard 1:00
It's good for you both to be here. And we're in Ohio today with you.
Mary Rensel 1:05
Ali Hively 1:06
We have the sun but still chilly.
Mary Rensel 1:09
Across the pond to join each other.
Tony Winyard 1:13
Before we started recording, and we chatted memory about how you two got together, it was a fascinating story. So to do one of you like to maybe tell that story?
Mary Rensel 1:23
Sure. So I was giving a lecture at a professional women's conference here in Cleveland, Ohio. And I, you know, I'm a neurologist. So I'm used to talking about brains and brain health. But they asked me to speak to that at a professional women's conference. So I imagined to walk into the empty room. I thought, well, who's going to come? You know, they're all here, like hitting their professional goals of, you know, making their mission statements and working on their skills? Like, why would they come to my lectures, so I walked in the room, and it's packed, and I was like, standing rimoni Oh, awesome. They love brains here too. So I was really exciting. And people had a lot of questions, they really wanted to kind of dig deep into the details, they want to know how to get into what we know about the science of, you know, brain optimization and work, how they could get it into their lives. And I thought, you know, I'm fine. I love talking about science, but they need a coach or someone that can help me figure out human nature and how to help humans, you know, pencil this into their life regularly, it just, which is tricky. And we don't always have those skills. So I thought, Okay, I need a life coach. And then Allie, and I started chatting, she was at that lecture. So then we started chatting, and I said, Oh, I need to, we need to put our heads together. So we can help brains around the world. So here we are.
Tony Winyard 2:37
And how has that been working out? Good. We've
Mary Rensel 2:40
had the opportunity to give lectures, you know, nationally, here in the US, and yeah, it's been good. It's we've we've learned a lot we were, you know, right now we're can reach out to of course, professionals that are struggling with COVID COVID, lifestyle challenges with work and COVID, and isolation and productivity and focus. So that's been our focus. And, you know, we built a course to help people, you know, get some more tips, but yeah, it's been good, you know, people like to talk about it and learn, learn some new habits towards this.
Tony Winyard 3:12
And do you work with a particular niche of people? Or is it quite genuine? Or How's that?
Mary Rensel 3:19
Yeah, we've been giving lectures to like professional, you know, women doctors, you know, healthcare professor, you know, professionals. And now we've gone into different, you know, with different HR groups, so all different kinds of professionals to talk about productivity and focus, and brain optimization.
Tony Winyard 3:37
And brain optimization and whole kind of brain science. For me, I guess for many people, it's a really, it's an area of a lot of confusion. Most people don't realise there's so much misinformation around as well, which doesn't help things.
Mary Rensel 3:53
Well, we tried to boil it down to things just to know where if you know, if it's really new area for you, you're not sure where to start, we tried to do to make these three spheres. Like we said, We're from Cleveland, Ohio, so we call it CL E. So people know kind of where to put their, their attention and their energy. So quite how you want to talk about the CLE?
Ali Hively 4:11
Yeah, what we found is that people want to know the information, of course, like as clear and concise as it can be. And so exactly, we've created a framework to help people to kind of examine where they are, when it comes to how they're, you know, taking care of their brain and how they're building their resiliency. And so the CLE framework, again, from Cleveland, his connection is the see and so how connected do you feel? How connected are you to the people in your life and in your world? how, you know, how are you So who are you surrounding yourself with? Are you surrounding yourself with people that do have positive health habits? Are you surrounding yourself with people that are not helping you to take better care of yourself? So really, we dive into a lot of detail on that connection piece and what matters most and then the L stands for lifestyle habits. And so I mean, we know your audience is focused on that and interested in that. And you, of course, is an expert in that. No, it's a very loaded kind of topic. And so lifestyle habits includes all of the things that you talk about a lot, and that we know people do for the for their full day. So how they sleep, how their nutrition is, what kind of movement they're getting in on a daily basis, what are their habits around alcohol and drugs? What, what makes up their life, you know, and so, when we examine this fear of lifestyle, we talk about, like, what matters most in each of those fears. And then what Dr. Mary's research really shows that, like, here's the, here's the place you want to be, and then you can kind of build those habits around making that happen in your life. And then the E stands for emotional processing. And so how do you move through your emotions? How do you handle them? Instead of stuffing them down? How do you really, you know, manage the feelings that come up on a day to day basis? And what are your habits around those? You know, do you allow yourself to feel your feelings? Do you squish them down? Do you, you know, put them on the side and save them for later? Or do you have those habits built in to really process emotions, because the research shows that that matters to our productivity to our focus, and really resilience and optimization.
Tony Winyard 6:19
And so when did you start this programme?
Ali Hively 6:22
So we spoke on this, a year and a half ago, at a at a big conference, which really kicked off of kicked off kind of like our, I would say, our framework, and then from there, we build out the programme and, and the framework really kind of has it all wrapped up into a little bundle. So that's been really helpful, because people like we said, they want to know exactly what they need, right? We don't want too much information, we just want the right amount, we want to know what we need to know. And so everything kind of fits well in there. And oftentimes people are looking for something that is, you know, a quick fix. And so we feel like the framework is our version of a quick fix in in regards to how you can evaluate, and how you can kind of focus on these things. But I would say we put it into practice about a year and a half ago.
Tony Winyard 7:15
And genuinely, Is there like a sort of set timeframe that you usually takes to work with someone? Or is it very, pretty varied? Yeah.
Mary Rensel 7:24
Yeah, of course, is is four to five weeks, if you know, for folks to kind of jump in and learn a little bit about it, do the self assessment, and then start to practice the habits and and figure out how to put it in their lives. But then, you know, it's a it's a life, it's a life time. You know, just we're all lifelong learners. And so, you know, each week, you know, you try to kind of learn a little bit and figure out how you can optimise what you need to that week. And then, you know, I what I see is a doc is a lot of folks will come to me, you know, right before they're ready to retire and be like, hey, what should I do for my brain? I don't want to get that dementia thing. You know, I don't I really that's not a road I want to go down and what the studies are showing that it it actually matters, you know, what the activities with kids do with their brain? What teenagers what, you know, young adults in their 20s. So new professionals, you know, all every life stage, it really matters. So we're all kind of optimising our brain, you know, through our whole lifespan. So it is good to know what to do. And, you know, Allie, and I started talking about this, really, for caregivers, because, you know, as professionals, healthcare professionals, you know, we gave you know, one of our first lectures was to a roomful of women, Doc's and women docs, like any professionals have, you know, certain goals they have to hit, and when they're trying to balance caregiving for the community, for family, for friends, for parents, just like any professional, so they're juggling a lot of, you know, a lot of goals and responsibilities. And so we looked up, like how can we help them be better caregivers. And the research really points to this, you know, this multi system plan where you have to look at how you connect with humans, because our we are tribal, right? We know that that we are tribal, and we enjoy the connection. And that's why this year has been so tragic for all of us and challenging. But that's really what we need to make that a priority. And as professionals, we know that we need to have a professional network because it's your net worth. Professionally, we talk a lot about that. But just you know, brain optimization wise, we don't always talk about that. But there's something called your social network. So how many people do you know that kind of help you out you're sick where they bring over soup, where they give you a tip where they you know, eat? So what is your connection to kind of your community? And who are those people and what do they do with their lives? So, you know, there's been many medical studies showing that your social network, especially if you have a chronic disease is challenged by your disease, and if you're healthy, your social network can support you. So we were looking at like how can we support these women Doc's at That's really it's you just need to have some activity in each of these spheres, you need to focus on connection. You know, lifestyle is a loaded word. Some people don't even want to hear about it. But it's really how you live your life. How do you live your days? What do you put in your days? What do you prioritise. And then emotional processing, we're finding a lot of people don't like to open that closet, they don't like to go in there, it's a scary place, they don't know what to do when they get in there. They don't want to see anything too scary or dark or so we just give folks tips just to you know, get through naming emotions, realising they don't have power, unless you let them kind of stay ahead of them. Try not to react. So just, you know, things that just some tips, and when people did those all together, you know, when they address those three areas, they were better caregivers. And we all want to be there for others to help others. And so that's what we were focusing on, especially with that lecture to, you know, health care providers, because their caregivers as professionals, and then they're also caregivers in their community.
Tony Winyard 10:59
And has, since the whole pandemic started, has it changed your focus? Or how you deliver the programme? And will it be much changes?
Mary Rensel 11:08
Well, yeah, it's opened up opportunities like this, that we get to connect with people from around the world, which is really exciting. And it's given us more opportunities. We're not in the car kind of travelling to meetings or travelling. We're not in the, you know, aeroplanes. So we have I, you know, I find it gives me more time to focus and to be productive, so that when we do meet with people, we're not wasting time travelling, although I like to travel, but we just, you know, that's been removed, obviously. So it's given us more time. And, you know, of course, if focus is to be creative, like anyone else to think about new ways to get things done. So that's the resiliency, right is just, you know, I want to get to here, it's going to look different, my path to you know, x is going to be different now, after go over something around something or under something that's resiliency, it's just kind of finding a new way to get things done.
Ali Hively 11:56
Yeah, absolutely. And we really, I think, also, the idea of focus and productivity has really been brought to the forefront, when it comes to taking care of yourself, you know, so often people, as you know, I'm sure, like, I focus on lifestyle habits for their body or for you know, trying to attain a certain goal. But when you're forced to work at home, and you're forced to take care of your family at home, and everything kind of changes. And all of a sudden, you know, those were really trying to help people tie and understand the meaning of like, those habits have so much more to do with your brain, your productivity, your focus, and your body, but not just your body. And so by understanding that it's like that whole person approach that there's just, I think, a lot of good positive energy around like, oh, wow, like, this is also a positive benefit to these lifestyle habits and to, you know, connection and all of these things. So helping people to draw that connection is becoming even more important since the pandemic, because, you know, our challenges have been been so huge when it comes to that.
Tony Winyard 12:59
And has it been? How has the challenge been about? I presume most of these you are delivering online now, as opposed to before it was face to face? How has that been?
Mary Rensel 13:10
Yeah, I mean, the first thing we built was on an app. So that actually was something that we recorded, and even though it wasn't COVID, so it was app based and people could take on their own, you know, and then there was coaching with that. But But this Yes, obviously, we're, you know, we're on podcast, because that's one way to people love podcasts, and I love them as well, because I can be driving and listen to them or running or walking and cleaning the house, whatever. You know, I just I love. I love the flexibility of podcasts. Yeah, so yeah, so we have packaged it differently and tried to put it in, you know, small packages is people can only take in so much, they're tired. It's a hard time to focus. But we, you know, we focus on the fact that, you know, there are things that you can do to optimise and what you're able to get done in the day, you know, so one of my favourite studies I read was that, if you're tired, if you're sleep deprived, you know, prioritise your sleep, the way you perceive the world is different. So this was a study looking at functional MRI. So there's a special kind of MRI, a picture of the brain that can tell what parts of the brain are lit up. And when people are tired, and they would look at it, you know, someone's face, they would see anger more often if they were tired rather than well rested. So when we say you know, the world is this, the world is this and we're saying everyone's this, sometimes it's, you know, our ability to perceive things because of what we're doing or not doing with our brain, put it in a good you know, positive emotional state. So I think that's, that's the magic is that we actually can do things day to day to optimise our perception, our creativity, our positive emotional state, we don't we swing you know, during the day negative, positive, negative, positive, but there's a way there's ways to manipulate it into more positive state which is our creative state.
Tony Winyard 15:00
What would you say is what? What do people have the most? resistance towards in in what you do with them? Yeah, what do you think,
Ali Hively 15:11
I would say depends on their lifestyle, if their habits are pretty aligned, and they're in a good routine with those, then they feel good about that, if that's like, really something that can be, of course, you know, overwhelming. And so we've had a lot of clients that are just, you know, understanding, and I think our whole message is that is similar to yours and taking like that little steps really do matter. So that can be a big roadblock. But then the really, the other one is the emotional processing piece. And people like Mary said, are not sure what it means to kind of deep dive into your feelings. And we don't often want to allow ourselves to feel things that are negative, but once we realise that we can build habits around processing emotions, and we can build habits around feeling our feelings in a way that isn't scary, and is the way you know, it's actually going to help us move forward more positively, then that I think, is a really beautiful gift that gets given because, again, without the support, or without the understanding that that your brain, you know, is impacted by squishing down your emotions and just kind of like covering them up, then you might not have that understanding how important it is. And so yeah, I would say people are often resistant, like, Oh, I'm not sure about, about diving into that. But there's so many small ways to just move through them, as you know, as easy as starting to name your feelings, journaling, meditating, these type of things that then allow you, when you do feel anger, you do feel disappointment, you do feel frustration, you can, you know, not worry that you're going to react in a way that you don't want to you, you're more comfortable with those. So I would say until people have a better understanding of that they do feel like that's a big obstacle. And and then just that knowledge and understanding that this can be done simply is hugely important.
Tony Winyard 17:02
As you started explaining, and one of the things that was going through my mind when you especially when you're talking about the emotional side of it, I wonder if there's much difference in the reactions you get from from men and women on especially on the emotional side.
Mary Rensel 17:17
The men so far one a very clear path, you know, they want A to B to C to D in a way, you know, so a very, very clear. The women kind of wants more, I mean, in my impression, you know, the women want more time to kind of slow down and think about the why as well, you know, why should they do this and women tend to have easier time taking care of themselves if they think it's for someone else. which it is. So that's you know, if we're good caregivers, if we do these things will be better caregivers for our community, our families, our friends. So yeah, so we have seen a different approach it of course, it's not down the middle, middle, you know, black and white, but it's it's we do see different approaches, you know, that they want to very clearly marked. But yeah, I think there's neat things, you know, I think when you see the power of it, it's number one, it's grabbing people's attention when you said I mean it's physics, right? So it's like hard to get people in motion if they're not emotion. So we've had responses say, you know, I've had a hard enough hear you guys come on, I don't want to talk about this, you know, this, I've been through enough. And then when they realise the power that we're What I'm saying is I like efficiency. That's just one of my, one of the things I put as a priority. And I'm saying you can have a more efficient day, if you learn a few things about this, just get a little brain wander. I mean, I don't you don't have to know everything about the brain. Like I say I have a cell phone, I don't know everything, how it works. But I know how to I know I have to plug it in, and I know I have to take care of it, not throw it into the ocean. So I just want you know, just I'm just requesting a touch of brain wonder, because I think you'll be surprised by the outcomes. So we have like, you know, like you've talked about the tiny habits. I mean, we talk we talk about, okay, are you willing to do one or two things this week, you know, just very small start in some folks, and some people like to jump in and do everything. Some people just need like one thing just to see the positive outcomes.
Tony Winyard 19:16
What What would you say have been? Can you think of any stories of people who have been like, really surprised that what's happened when I've gone through working with you?
Mary Rensel 19:26
I did have one person who was super angry about you know, even thinking about it, or, you know, her work and she was just she was just in an angry state. You know, she was just mad about most things and and I was like, Okay, let's take one step at a time. And she really did and she was able to slow down and start just a little bit at a time and she could then start feeling the difference that she could. She thought people were nicer. I mean, it's funny, like her perceptions change. She thought work was a little bit better. And then she became more creative so she She, you know, learn, like, you know, I really love this about my job she got on some new projects, and then she ended up taking a new job because she really loved this part of her job, she realised she loved this these parts, so she wanted to find something. And that area. So I've seen those kinds of outcomes. Ellie, what about you? Yeah, we
Ali Hively 20:16
I think that another big impact with with people when we've had a few specific clients is the, you know, people are when they're trying to take care of themselves when they're trying to build that self care and having the understanding that this is such a piece and having that message from the doctor that this matters is really creates a positive shift where it's like, oh, we all know we should, quote unquote, do whatever. But when you can then tie it to like, well, this is what the research says, and here's what is really going to change my life. And this is actually for me, to be able to help people. That's I think, where we've seen a lot of Fijian women, it's like giving that permission to that next level of permission that they've probably heard from different sources, but just that next level of permission to really take ownership of like their habits and their, their spaces in these fears that have really been able to pass a positively shift. It's like, Oh, this, this kind of clicked and came together and made this happen for me where I've been trying to but once you tie in that doctor's orders, that always helps to
Tony Winyard 21:20
you mentioned a couple of times about taking it really slowly. Have there been cases where you've been working with people and they've just been so enthusiastic about what you're saying they want to try and do everything at once.
Mary Rensel 21:32
Yes, it's funny, because our course we you know, we give people so much each week, they can't get it early. You know, this frustrates some people like I want to you know, at first they're like, I want it all right now there's, they're super enthusiastic, they want it all. But then after they've been in a few weeks, they say, Oh, I see why you did that. It gave them time to work on it. You know, just to get really one thing you learned one new thing that week really ingrained in their in their daily habits. So it is pretty funny. We do have some of those approaches, you know, where people are like, I want it all today, you know, they just like digest it, but they're not sure then how to put it into their lives. The other thing we've seen is we've seen people say I gotta get my head, I gotta get my brain together. I don't know what I'm doing. And we review their life and they're doing amazing thing, right? So we've seen a lot of that like, okay, you're like a multi business owner, a parent of young kids. Look at you, you're teaching your kids at home, you're you know, so but then sometimes you see them relax, like, yeah, I am doing good things. And, and that's part of our programme is like, Look, you're doing all these things in both in all the three spheres, you're doing something like you're You got this, you're good. You don't have to add as you got this, you know, so, but it's funny, some people say, Oh, you know, they're scared of even thinking about it, because it's they're not sure where they are going to be, you know, kind of where they're supposed to be doing. And some are really rocking it and they're not they're not aware of it.
Ali Hively 22:52
Not celebrating that enough. Yeah.
Tony Winyard 22:58
So many people really beat themselves up. don't realise how well they are doing in so many respects.
Mary Rensel 23:07
Yeah, I think she seemed like shameful. And she was she owned multiple businesses, she had little kids who were learning at home for a year as they haven't been out of the house. So it was just on and on, it's just so many good things.
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Tony Winyard 23:41
If you've got any thoughts on why people are so likely to be very negative about themselves, what would you What do you think about that?
Ali Hively 23:51
I think it's a big combination, right? So we are continuously judging ourselves. We're continuously comparing ourselves, those are things that we learn when we're so young, and it's almost like if we don't unlearn them, then they stay with us. And they continue on. And so I mean, oftentimes, we find we're our own worst critic, and I think it's something that becomes ingrained very young. And unless even you know, you're around people who are really conscious and aware of trying to help not allow that to happen, then society really just allows that to happen. And so then you add in social media, you add in everything being performance based, and there are a lot of there are a lot of reasons to you know, be critical. And so, that is a huge thing that we really believe in just like that support of that self love because of course that that makes everything easier, which I think is that is actually something that we find is very hard to to help people move into because it's it's unnatural, and it's uncomfortable to really appreciate yourself and to really celebrate yourself. And so that is a huge part of our mission. As well as just like highlighting how, you know, if you're doing well, then that's amazing. And you need to like, reaffirm to yourself all the good things you're doing. So it's not just about giving people more to do because we know that they are negative enough, and they, you know, are hard enough on themselves. But it's really that how do you bring out, you know, the positive energy and help them to use that as motor add momentum and to carry them through?
Tony Winyard 25:27
The partnership you have it makes so much sense in so many ways. And yet, from my experience, I haven't heard many people with this approach before, is it? Do you know, of others doing something similar to you? Or is it quite unique? As far as you're aware?
Mary Rensel 25:45
I don't know. I think not that I know, of? Yeah, we just, this is important to me, I feel like, you know, I know, the science, I just want to make sure people know, because it's I don't want people, you know, missing these opportunities. And I I also think, you know, there's a lot of great scientists out there. But sometimes it's hard for them to share just in, you know, with the general public. Because it's they just, it's they're not comfortable with that they don't, you know, they feel like, well, you should come to the doctor and hear it but the, you know, a GP or primary care, Doc, you know, they have to do a lot of things in a visit. So it's hard for them also to say, Oh, yeah, by the way, you're 25 it's really important what you do today for your brain, it will help your brain serve you more as you age. And, you know, that's it's it's like, you know, that messaging, but there's, you know, some global groups looking at brain health, and they, you know, think you can decrease like vascular dementia by 40% of people knew more about, you know, what they could or couldn't do for the brain over over the years. And I think, wow, that's, it's really impactful. So I just want to get that message out. And then, you know, we see so much burnout and people struggling at work and struggling at home. And that, Oh, well, let's bring it there as well. Because, you know, sometimes you don't come to the doctor, so something's wrong. But we want to give people these tools before they're, you know, quote unquote, sick, you know,
Tony Winyard 27:08
Can you think of any examples of people you've been working with who at the beginning or maybe at the beginning, were very reluctant and they just thought there's, you're not going to be able to help me but and who you were able to turn around?
Ali Hively 27:20
We have a client Yes, who is a single woman professional. And I would say she was one of the ones that was just not sure she you know, she is Adak. actually see, she was a client after the programme. And she was just thinking, like, you know, I'm not sure that this is for me, I'm not sure I, you know what to do. But she also really wanted that research. And she's a great example, because she has made so much so many changes in her life, by taking back that little ownership and being able to celebrate the habits that she is doing, and really, you know, be able to find a new job and be able to move on to implementing so many of the things where she and she really needs to research. So back to your original point about the combination of the two of us, I think that's been one of the most powerful because she's someone who was like, you know, I'm not gonna do anything that's not proven. And I need that to be something that's proven for me, and then also I need that help with implementing this. And I need that validation of what I'm doing. So she kind of needs that whole package. And again, since she started the programme, she was validated on a lot of things implemented and really enhanced her understanding and her importance of the connections and the emotional processing, I would say she had the lifestyle down pretty well. And then has again, similarly gone on to be able to move and find a better job that is suited her and just really that positive transformation that you're like, wow, you know, I wouldn't say that this is completely related only to this course. But it did help her put a lot of things together that in order enough to move on and, you know, get something that really fit her life better.
Tony Winyard 29:03
How do you see this developing in the next few years?
Mary Rensel 29:06
Yeah, our dream also is to bring this to kids, we just were out a podcast this summer. That was our that was one of our first dreams that our first presentation is like, you know, if we're good models, this will spread, you know, and we were we're both moms and so you know, if we if we could spread it to younger generations, that would mean the world to us, if people could just realise that, you know, again, get some brain wander and realise that there's things that they can do, again, just to be more efficient at work so they could go out and have fun and just get work done and know what to optimise. So yeah, we would love to keep scaling and we do have a client in the UK as well because the lockdown was so severe and a single professional and she wasn't sure that she had the time she was working online and you know, had been through COVID you know, so we've been working with her and she's you know, it's been really neat for her again, it was some shame like I didn't know This, why don't I know this? You know, it's like a lot of she has a lot of degrees. She's an intelligent person. Like, you know, it's just today's your day, you just you have this new knowledge today, it's like change, you know, as you as you teach about change, like, sometimes we don't know what we don't know. And then we know it's, and then what are you going to do with the knowledge are you actually going to do something with that, you know, so that's where I can give you the knowledge, and then Allie helps us put it into, you know, to be able to fit it into our lifestyle, but that was pretty neat, because she thought, you know, she was having a hard time working in apartment, you know, by herself and her own flat, I should say, you know, by herself, and it was very, it was a struggle, because she didn't feel well from COVID. And she was trying to get her work done. So just learning again, just small changes to begin with, just learn about it. Just First of all, figure this out that this is important and put a little bit of energy in it not 100 new things in a week, maybe one new thing. Yeah. Yeah, yeah, we
Ali Hively 30:56
do want to spread it too, because we do find that people are looking, like I said, for a pill or a magic, you know, magic bullet. And Mary often has patients come in just like, tell me what to take, or we get crushes and presentations like, well, what what supplement, you know, is it and it's like, No, it's not that. So I think, you know, our mission of spreading the understanding that like taking care of yourself in this way that in these ways can feel good. I mean, we're talking about connecting with people, and we're talking about journaling, and we're talking about so having that understanding that this can, you know, add to your flourishing, positive life is hugely important. It's not something that that is, is going to be horribly treacherous. But at the same time, it's also not a pill or something very simple. So I think, you know, that is really our main point of the mission, and it can be done with your whole family. And like Mary was saying, just our mission to spread. With the kids, we, we feel like these aren't things that you need to spend hours doing. And when you are able to do them with your family, then they just get built in and instilled at a young age to
Tony Winyard 32:04
when would you say that for both of you, you first noticed in your in your life that by focusing maybe more on habits that would help you get to where you wanted to go? How How old do you think you were when you first had that? realisation?
Mary Rensel 32:22
Yeah, I remember a long time ago, like early in my career, someone say, telling me about the book, the seven habits of highly successful people, you know, and I and I, I always like that framework. It's kind of how I think so if I'm working on a project, you know, you kind of keep a list of my roles and what I'm trying to get done. And I've noticed in my own life as a doc or you know, a researcher or anything is just if I want to get something done, I have to look at it regularly schedule. And you know, if I'm going to build a team, I'm meeting with the team regularly so that we can keep setting goals each week and hit them achievable goals. Because otherwise if I say, hey, let's just get this done it but we don't have any plan for it, it's not going to happen. So I definitely have noticed that over the years. I will say what's interesting to me personally, is I I do meditate regularly in journal regularly, but there's some weeks where I just forget I don't do it. And then I see the consequences of not doing it. But when I do it, it's not so obvious to me like oh, I feel amazing, like right after I meditate and I feel good, but I I don't realise the power of it until I don't do it. And then like, oh, why is my week a mess? You know, like, why am I losing it by noon? You know? So I, that's personally myself, like, when I see the benefits of some of these habits if I don't do it, don't do I leave some of these things out. It matters.
Ali Hively 33:42
I think my parents were different. They're both, of course amazing. But my dad was always like a very habit, regimented guy, and he always knew where everything was, and he, you know, had his stuff right in place. And so growing up, I was like, I was not that way, I was more similar to my mom, my mom is such like a caregiver and a lover. She doesn't have everything perfect. You know, it's like that different personality. And, and so, I would always watch and be like, Huh, look at that he has exactly what he needs right there when he needs it. And it was kind of like that habit, we always talked about that. But it wasn't until my I had my third daughter that I was like, you know, I felt like I had a daughter. And then I had another daughter and I kind of like had everything in control. And then I had the net third one, and it pushed me to the edge of like, Oh my goodness, like I need to get these habits and check into my own life. And so while I was always, you know, pretty type A in my in just like focusing in school and work and all of those things that I didn't have, I can always keep it all together. I didn't really fully understand until I had three kids that like habits are absolutely the answer to giving yourself, you know, a break in your brain so you don't have to think so much. You just you Don't ask yourself, Am I going to work out? You don't spend any energy thinking, should I do this? Or that you, you work out and you don't ask yourself, should I meditate for five minutes you that's just built in, it's automatic. It's like, when am I going to do this? When am I going to do this? And so that shift really happened after three kids, like five years ago, where I fully committed to like, making space in my mind to make these things happen, and not ask myself every day if I was gonna do them or not.
Tony Winyard 35:30
Mary, you mentioned meditation, do you do you find that more people are much more receptive to meditation now than previously? You know, I
Mary Rensel 35:40
think that has been a bonus, if there's any bonus to living through the pandemic is that people have heard more about, you know, the habits that will help their mental health. So they've heard more about journaling, and meditation and, you know, taking a walk, taking a break from zoom, you know, during the day. So that's, that's been great. I, I still think people aren't sure quite how to do it. But I have heard more people they know about it. And I think with YouTube, and things so accessible and free, that has been wonderful. And I think even in this in the schools here, you know, the kids take a break, or they take a brain break, they call it where they jump around and dance and, you know, and so it's I think it's great that it's being modelled in different ways, and it's accessible. I always, you know, teach my patients about a guided imagery meditation, because it's free, you don't need any anything else you can do it when I say why waiting for me in the waiting room and around zoom or what have you. So I love those kind of tools that are very accessible, you don't need to buy anything, no products. Yeah, it's just a matter of putting it on your phone, like somebody were just talking to said they have to put it in their phone with a reminder. So they don't forget, I mean, I put it in my calendar, I put these things in my calendar now. Because Because I can't take it for granted. I've seen there, I've seen the benefit of sticking with these habits.
Tony Winyard 37:01
And he seems to Well, my perception and I could be wrong is that maybe 10 years ago, people have this stereotyped image of the only way to do meditation was sit in lotus position and be doing, man everything. And now, I see seems to be people are realising that that's not that's not true. That's not, that's not the only way to do it.
Mary Rensel 37:22
Right. Right. Right. And it has been nice, like a lot of the apps were free for folks during the pandemic. And so I think it did just make it more available, more widely available. And it was just smart discussed, which is wonderful, I think it's a great tool, we know that it really it can really support mental health in a way that's very powerful. So again, without having to buy anything, typically, you know, we have access to a tool that can really help to, you know, help our emotional, positive emotional state, which is really important during a pandemic, right at anytime,
Ali Hively 37:58
most importantly, during a pandemic, taking off the, the our own ideas attached to it. So exactly what you were saying, it doesn't have to be done seated, it doesn't have to be done, you know, for 45 minutes, five minutes, while you're walking five minutes in nature without any noise or phone can be your meditation. So I think just kind of rewriting that story of what meditation looks like, in the world is so hugely empowering to what what meditation looks like in your life. And for you right now today, so that it becomes easy to to make happen is huge.
Tony Winyard 38:32
Have you found people you've been working with have been many clients you've worked with who've really been not very keen, maybe on doing meditation when you first suggested it? or anything along those lines?
Ali Hively 38:45
Absolutely. Yeah, I do find that I feel like at this point, if people haven't tried meditation on their own, then they they are resistant, right? And so part of it is like having that conversation about why where's the resistance coming from? Why is this feel like something you don't want to get into? And oftentimes, I find with clients, you mean, so many of them are high achieving, we're all busy, of course, you know, we all know those obstacles. And it's often that like, well, I can't make my brain stop. And it's like, Okay, well, let's think of some other ways that you can do this. You know, starting with a guided meditation can be a great way where, again, using a resource like YouTube or one of the apps that's very simple and easy. And one of the things I love to do with clients as have them use YouTube and actually look up short guided five minute meditation with a topic that feels, you know, resonant to them. So for stress or for overwhelm, or for anxiety or for whatever it is they're feeling in that moment in that time and then building that habit of what am I feeling right now? First, it helps them to check in on the emotional processing piece and then what could five minutes do of meditation and I'm on YouTube or movies, apps, there's so many options. And I find that, especially when my brain is really busy, or especially at the beginning of getting into the habit, if, if it's not talking to me, then I can't, it's hard to get into, right? So really picking the thing that is speaking to you in that moment. If it's stress, if it's worry, if it's fear, then you can listen to something that's like, Oh, this is what I'm feeling. So it's almost like check in with yourself, and then look up the five minute meditation that goes with that. And that's how I've had a lot of clients break through that barrier. Because, yeah, it's hard when you turn on a meditation, and they're talking about something that you just can't get into at that moment. So So I find that that's one of the best ways.
Tony Winyard 40:43
Can you think of anything when you were a child that you absolutely loved doing? And what kind of things were they? And I'm just wondering if there's any connection to that, and what you do now?
Mary Rensel 40:59
Yeah, I, I always loved art and creating and crafting. So I feel like that's related to neurology, because neurology is a lot of like, connecting, and you have to kind of imagine, like, what connects to what? So I think I think that works, that's the kind of down the same pathway, you have to be creative. And so I still, like, you know, I try every Sunday to do some art, you know, even if it's super simple, I just get a CRAN out or something, because I just want to acknowledge that my brain needs a little downtime. And it's my happy place, you know, and so I there's no expectation that don't tend to show it to anyone, just do something to get away. And yeah, I would say that are nature, those are my two things. And I do still get so much from being in nature.
Ali Hively 41:43
I would say playing I used to play with dolls, and I used to teach them and have a school and that is like basically what I grew up to do. And so I could be lost in like, you know, taking care of the dolls and teaching them whatever I was teaching them. And so that's absolutely played in because my background is in education and curriculum. And then of course, now it's teaching adults, but I can just get back into that zone of kind of my own world of connecting with people or about
Tony Winyard 42:14
Do you read much Ali?
Ali Hively 42:22
Tony Winyard 42:23
What kind of what kind of things do you like to read?
Ali Hively 42:26
I am a realistic fiction and a definitely a nonfiction reader. I have to like, make myself read things that for pleasure because I love learning so much that it's hard to not just go on to the next you know, book that someone mentions and I, I'm definitely a chronic, if I hear if someone mentions a book I'll just ordered on Amazon immediately even without, you know, without looking into it. So I am a huge reader and I've actually really enjoyed my kids are 10 seven and five. So I've been enjoying children's literature so much and getting back into all those stories I realised not all of the books are good. I feel like we need to you know, write some awesome kids books, but um, but those young adults books are really fun to get lost in with my kids as well.
Tony Winyard 43:17
Are you much of a reader Mary?
Mary Rensel 43:19
Yeah, I usually have a few going sometimes I have too many by my nightstand. And then I have obviously I listen to them online and but if I you know, doing some of the house or gardening or something and I'm reading Obama's book right now, which I'm, I just love You know, I have my eldest daughter is a big reader too. And she actually stopped reading excuse, like, it's so good. I don't want to I don't want to finish it because I don't want it to be over. So I was like, why she's like, I love it so much. And I see what she's saying. Like his voice is really peaceful, and authoritative and kind of a very authentic throughout the book. So I'm enjoying that very much right now. And I usually the galley, like, I usually am reading also or listening to something that is more instructive. Yeah, and then I'm in a book club. So I'm generally reading some kind of fiction or nothing. Yeah.
Tony Winyard 44:08
When you're reading a book with the aim of using the information, you know, for something maybe not work related or whatever, what what techniques do you have for really trying to retain that information?
Mary Rensel 44:21
Yeah, I mean, I try to like so. Some books suggest you know, you do something throughout the year so I try to put it in my calendar you know, so let's say like this says, you know, think about your vision. You know what your vision statement each year I'll put it in or check in after three months with your vision statement, or some success habits or something I try to put them in, just put them in my counters never have to try and what does that book say to do when you know, the other time I The other thing I do is I tend if I'm listening while I'm cleaning or doing something around the house, I'll listen to it twice. And I know the thing that sticks to my brain best are the stories like you've said. So when I read listened to a book, I remember all the stories I just remember we Exactly like all the tips, you know, all the all the assignments. So I've been recently listening to a building a story brand by Donald Miller. And that's it, it's really instructive in anything, you know, even if you're not trying to market something, but you're trying to just share a message. And as a doctor, we do that all day long, we try to share an influence and support people. And so stories tend to help there too. And I'm a coach as well. So stories really help. And I see they helped me when I read listen to a book, you know, I remember every story. Yeah,
Ali Hively 45:34
yeah, I mean, underlying, or I underline, and mark and write all over bucks. So if I ever I always have to, like, scan them, if I let someone borrow them, like, what was I right in there? the good stuff? Exactly.
Mary Rensel 45:48
Tony Winyard 45:51
And while we're talking about books, can you can you see yourself ever putting something down in a book?
Ali Hively 45:57
Yeah, absolutely. We've we've had this conversation quite a bit too. And just like, you know, when is the right time? And what is the right focus of writing something together that really does pair, the science and the research with the implementation and the integration? And, and so that is definitely something on our list as well. And I think, I think that it's down the line, and I think there's a lot of room for it. And something that's interactive with giving some stories and ideas as well. So for sure.
Tony Winyard 46:29
If people want to find out more about you and your course and everything you do, where would be the best place to go?
Mary Rensel 46:37
Yeah, we're on BrainOpsGroup.com is the is the website to start from there. And then you can find both of us there. That's a good place to start. We're both on LinkedIn. Yeah, so you can find us all over Facebook.
Tony Winyard 46:55
For anyone who's listening now and maybe they're thinking, is this for me or not? Who do you think, if any, what doubts might someone have in their mind now that would be addressed by what you do?
Ali Hively 47:11
Yeah, I would say, I would say all the details, you know, when people are wondering, like, how much should I work out? What do you mean by the connection? What is it? You know, what are the amounts in the thresholds that the research shows that are important? I think that's what this course really speaks to. So the health and wellness world we know is so overwhelming. And so when you're looking for, like, what's that bottom line that the research shows matters, that's what this course really outlines, because Mary's research is so clear, like, this is the amount of minutes to exercise and here's what, here's what's shown to work. And so you can then get those thresholds. So if you're a person who is really trying to understand like, what, you know, I have all these things to do, maybe you're doing a lot of them and you want that validation, or maybe you're not doing them and you need that extra, like, help me, you know, help me get this going, then that I think is the is the biggest benefit, because not only is it hearing what matters most and then giving you the tips, but oftentimes, I mean, you know, as a coach, oftentimes, getting the information is not enough. So we've tried to really pair Mary's research with some actionable tips. But sometimes that's not enough. So then once you have this plan, and once you have this understanding of what matters, then finding someone to work with, you know, like a coach is hugely beneficial in helping to make it happen and become, you know, become a part of who you are and what you do.
Tony Winyard 48:38
Finally, before we go, do you, is there a quotation that either of you have that you particularly like?
Mary Rensel 48:44
I do have one from Nelson Mandela, his quotes have been hitting me lately. I'm not sure why. But here's when it says "May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears". So I do love that one. I love I love so many of his that I love that one.
Tony Winyard 48:57
Why does that resonate with you, Mary?
Mary Rensel 48:59
Well, because sometimes, you know, I know, we know, you know, as a brain Doc, I know, the brain is protecting us. So it'll help us feel fear with new new ideas or, or, you know, new habits or like, we'll feel fear first, because it's new to us. And that's fine. So we just have to say thank you brain, we know you're protecting us. But we're going to move ahead, this is something that's going to serve me in the long run. So I think if you move forward according to your hopes, rather than your fears, you're going to find some doors opening and being more creative space, and happier, more flourishing that is rather than not changing, you know, because we know our brain is malleable. We I always tell people it's not a brick, you know, it can change. It's not a brick this, you know, you can it's growing every time you learn something new, it's different. It changes and so we you know, if you lead according to your values, and you walk forward according to values and hopes, I think your life is more interesting.
Tony Winyard 49:54
And Ali, do you have one?
Ali Hively 49:56
Yes. So one thing I think I've really noticed is that people oftentimes think they need to do everything on their own. And I'm sure you know as a coach, and is that you know that asking for help can be hugely important. So, "Be strong enough to stand alone and you're doing things your way. Smart enough to know when you need help, and then brave enough to ask for it". Because oftentimes, we just think that we really just have to figure this out on our own, and there's so much support and now with the world being so accessible to us, and, you know, we will probably never go back fully to coaching in person or whatever. But that opens up so many opportunities indoors to, to have that right in your home. And so I think that just kind of putting out there that like if, if you're trying to implement your habits and just not working or if you need some more info, then ask for help is there's so many great ways to get
Tony Winyard 50:49
married. It's been a real pleasure speaking of you. So thank you for for coming onto the show. And yeah, best of luck with your programme and everything that you do.
Mary Rensel 50:58
Yeah, all the best. Thank you. For this opportunity. Stay. Well,
Ali Hively 51:03
Tony Winyard 51:06
Next week, Episode 12 is with Johnny and Yusef. Better known for the podcast they run called Propane Fitness. They're experts in the world of both medicine, and fitness. And they really combine those two areas Yusef is a doctor, they know a lot about many different areas of exercise and fitness from from strength building and weight training and gymnastics, and the breath and many other areas. And so that's next week's episode with Johnny and Yusef. Hope you've enjoyed this week's show and see you next week.
Thanks for tuning in to the habits and health podcast where we believe creating healthy habits should be easy. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and leave us a review on your favourite podcast app. Sign up for email updates and learn about coaching and workshop opportunities at Tony winyard.com. See you next time on that habits and health podcast.
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