If you are as old as I am, you will remember the public service campaign “This is your brain on drugs.” The graphic to illustrate the infamous line was a fried egg in a skillet. Obviously the message was that drugs mess up your brain.
Recently I came across some research in The International Journal of Coaching in Organizations* that says coaching, like leadership or executive coaching, is good for your brain.
This is your brain on coaching…
“Studies of the brain during a coaching session show increased brain activity and that the brain “lights up” during coaching insights and “aha’s”. The best way to bring about insights is to help people become more aware, pay attention to and reflect on issues, thinking more deeply for themselves. In fact, the very act of discovering an idea ourselves packs an energy punch, an emotional buzz that solidifies insight and learning.
Coaching is often about change, and change requires focus. Neuroscientists are finding that focused attention systematically re-wires the physical brain. Coaching helps people remain focused on the change they are trying to achieve. There is power in focus.
Coaching makes our brains grow. Stimulating environments lead to more nervous system (brain) connections and higher levels of functioning. In addition, active participation creates the stimulation necessary for learning. Neuroscientists are finding that effective coaching, including a stimulating conversational environment and active participation, leads to better brain functioning.
Where we put our attention creates new neural connections, and it happens more quickly than commonly believed. For example, if we put our attention on solutions rather than problems, we actually create solutions. Alternatively, drilling down and focusing our attention on problems results in deepening those problems in our thinking.
Moment to moment, our choices change the functioning of our brain, which then impacts the way we see the world and interact with it. Coaching helps in evaluating and reflecting on our various mental maps and creating “super-maps” that result in more deliberate, intentional actions and choices.
Studies show that during reflection we engage a part of our brain used for making links across the whole brain. Reflection causes us to think in an unusual way, tapping into more intelligence than the three to five pieces of information we can hold in our working memory or cognitive, logical prefrontal cortical center. Not only do we use more of our intelligence and our whole brain, the very act of reflection releases the neurotransmitter serotonin, a chemical messenger that increases relaxation and eases pain. So when we reflect, as we do in coaching, we think bigger and more broadly, and actually feel good as a result!”
Sounds good doesn’t it? To be more focused, happier, creative and intelligent. I can’t really promise all that but I am ramping up my leadership coaching practice and would love for you to visit my new website www.lindaksommer.com.
Here’s to your success,