Episode 30: Creating a Daily Practice to Aid Executive Functioning

Below you can view or listen to Episode 30 of The Personal Brain Trainer Podcast.

Creating a Daily Practice to Aid Executive Functioning

Woman in her daily practice




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Welcome to the Personal Brain Trainer Podcast.

I'm Dr. Erica Warren and I'm Darius Namdaran and we're your hosts.  Join us on an adventure to translate the scientific jargon and brain research into simple metaphors and stories for everyday life.  We explore executive functions and learning strategies that help turbocharge the mind. Come learn how to steer around the invisible barriers so that you can achieve your goals.  This podcast is ideal for parents, educators, and learners of all ages.

This podcast is brought to you by Bullet Map Academy. We have free dyslexia screener app called dyslexia quiz.  It's a fun, engaging and interactive app.  Try it now.  Just search for dyslexia quiz on the app store and see how your score differs from your friends and family.

This podcast is brought to you by www.goodsensorylearning.com where you can find educational and occupational therapy lessons and remedial materials that bring delight to learning.

Finally, you can find Dr Warren's many courses at www.learningspecialistcourses.com. Come check out our newest course on developing executive functions and study strategies.

Erica, what have we got to talk about today?

This is going to be a really cool episode because we're going to be talking about how we can create a daily practice to aid our executive functioning skills.

So I'm super excited about this.

I think we've talked about some things that maybe overlap a little bit.

We've talked a little bit about routine, but I think we're going to be going more into a daily practice as a way of being conscious of maybe some subconscious patterns that haven't been serving us.

So it'll be a little bit different.

I know this is your kind of topic.

We kind of go through phases where you choose a topic and I choose a topic and so on.

I have to admit, whenever I hear creating a daily practice - and I've got dyslexia and ADHD - and along with that comes a difficulty with automaticity - where becoming automatic at things and building and keeping habits. My heart sinks a little bit because creating a daily practice, I'm like, oh no, this is another thing that I'm going to fail at.

What's your take on that?

Oh well I want to give you a big hug and say it'll be okay; we can do this.

No, but I think what really what I'm hitting at is that we have these subconscious patterns in other words, you might say, well what is the subconscious?

And the subconscious is the part of the mind that notices and our members information when you're not actively present or actively trying to do so and it influences your behavior even when you don't realize it.

So there are these things that we do automatically that may not be serving us in life.

And we do it because I think most of the time we are run by our subconscious patterns because we're kind of going through life, we might have a subconscious routine that we follow on a daily basis.

And sometimes those subconscious patterns are created from fears and when they're created from fears, it can really get in the way of our growth.

And so what I love about being kind of conscious about creating a daily practice is we can really start to analyze what are those subconscious patterns that are working for us and what are the same subconscious patterns that are not working for us.

And I love taking the word subconscious apart because if you think about it subconscious, it's kind of below thought or below your awareness and it's where we're on that automatic pilot.

And I know I've been doing this a lot with myself where I've been trying to be more aware of what those patterns are.

And I know that we've talked in past episodes where I've admitted that I've had some patterns that I wasn't aware of.

I told you that story in a past episode of I asked a boyfriend, I said, I think there's something that I'm doing that upsets people.

Do you know what it is?

And he said absolutely.

And I had no idea what it was.

And it was that whenever I had something to say or a point to make, I would put my finger in people's faces.

And when he told me that I did that, I didn't believe him until I lifted up my finger and put it in his face and it horrified me.

So there are a lot of these kind of awkward things that we do that we're not aware of because we don't see ourselves.

I found it really helpful to watch videos of myself giving a podcast or an interview or whatever, because then I get to see myself and I'm like, oh, that's a little awkward, right?

Oh, that's so funny.

Because you keep asking me to listen to our podcasts.

I don't like listening to our podcast back over.

Even with a sort of editing ear, I'm not listening for the content per se.

I just dislike it.

There's so many actors say they've never seen their own films for example.

And yet, interestingly, I'm fine watching myself when I'm editing a video for a training course or something like that.

And I suspect it's because I can immediately cut something out or change something.

Oh, I did that long pause or that more.

I said something three times over and I didn't realize I repeated myself three times over.

So cut, cut, cut, cut, cut, and then you listen to it, you go, oh, that that's good, that's okay, I'm happy with that.

But there's something inside me where I'm listening to it just there.

I start to get overwhelmed by, oh no, I don't like that.

Oh no, I don't like that, and I just don't do it.

So it's interesting.

I just had that revelation right now actually, this moment because I felt the difference is I felt I want to do it when I feel I've got power to change it and that's the relevance to this conversation, I suppose from that is that sometimes we can be wary of going into something if we feel like we're powerless to change it.

So if someone says all right, you're like this Darius and then I don't want to hear it because I know I'm not going to be able to change that.

But then if there's something else, I can change, then great.

It's interesting that difference.

So if you feel like you're empowered to change it, then you're more willing to face it.

If you feel like you're not empowered to change it, then you actually, well what's the point of facing?

Because you can't do anything about it sort of thing.

So the natural thing is to just know I'll just avoid that.

So it's quite interesting.

Just keep feeling my own emotions when you bring this up because I do feel this, I watch all these podcasts, listen to all these YouTube videos and I know all of these things.

I know I should be doing stuff like that.

But actually I don't, I wake up in the morning, I scroll through a bit of YouTube or TikTok, I roll out the bed, go have shower, etcetera, go eat my foods, go get in the day and I know inside of me, I'm kind of like not reflecting enough or I need to do something to be edging myself up a bit each day, but I'm not.

So I'm interested, but I'm also a little bit defensive and I suspect many of our listeners are too sure.

But you know, the thing is to let go of that feeling that I can't change it, because even if you can't change that episode, you can change the next episode.

So by listening to myself, I'm able to kind of notice these patterns and I can say.

But it's amazing how you there's certain things that you change quite easily when you observe it.

But the other thing is when you're editing your work, you're hitting it from a very different perspective than listening to a finished podcast.

Because any conversation is awkward.

If you were to read it, it just sounds a little bit different.

So people are very much more forgiving.

You don't have to have perfect grammar cadence when you're speaking, but you really do when you're writing, it's a lot more formal.

But I find that the more I observe myself, the more I'm able to make these micro changes.

And although I used to be very uncomfortable with my voice and my presentation when I was younger, I am now quite comfortable with it.

And there's something to getting to that point of comfort that is very reassuring, it also helps to kind of release any negative emotions that you have about yourself, so that you're more comfortable embracing yourself as you are, which is a beautiful thing and I think it's really necessary for many of us to have more pride in who we are and more comfort with how we present.

So it's really kind of a nice opportunity.

I think the more conscious we can become of our subconscious the better because then we can re program it and I think you're right taking that big leap of going from one extreme to the other is next to impossible because our subconscious is programmed.

But making these micro changes and I can definitely talk about for myself that I've been trying to make these micro changes and that's the trick when I was trying to make big changes in my daily practice then it didn't work, and I gave up on it.

But when I decided that I was going to make micro changes and add maybe one thing and also be gentle with myself and say oh okay I missed it today.

But it doesn't mean that I have to just give up the whole plan, it doesn't mean that I just let it go, I can do it tomorrow and that's okay.

So it's being gentler with myself.

Alright, so okay we've got over the defensiveness now.

So what's daily practice got to do with executive function and how does it help?

I like that?

What does it have to do with executive functioning?

It has to do with that decision to reprogram your subconscious to do things that are going to help you to grow and what does that have to do with it.

It's metacognition, right?

It's being aware of your own cognition.

Well in fact this is awareness of your own kind of sub cognition, right?

Your automatic patterns and then deciding, oh okay, that pattern isn't really working.

I need to take out a piece of that and replace it with something else.

Now, that's not easy because subconscious patterns have been repeated many times.

So we have the pathway of learning.

Myelin sheath is a fat fatty substance that covers your neurons so that your pathway becomes very established.

So it's not easy to change subconscious patterns.

You have to be conscious for quite a long time because you're having to change the route and then you have to change the route and make it established enough that your subconscious isn't going to flip back to that other pattern and there will be times where it does, but then we have to recognize it again and use our meta cognition and say wait a minute, Oh that's familiar.

Right, I wasn't going to do that.

So tomorrow I have to make sure to take that other path.

And over time you are able to kind of reprogram yourself and I am just thinking very mindfully for over a year.

I've been trying to re program my morning practice.

Tell us about it.

How's it gone.

What is your morning practice?

Can you give us an insight into that?


So and it's funny.

it's it was very hard, and I've given up on it and I've come back to it, but it's really starting to happen now, which is really, really exciting.

And what's really exciting about it is that I'm not thinking about it, it's just happening, which is beautiful.

So the first thing that I do when I get up is I go outside, I go outside and I get the morning light it is that he totally convinced me about that because what it does is it gives you that little bit of a cortisol boost which we all get in the morning, but at the right time and because we're getting that light and we're walking around, it really makes us alert and it kind of deactivates the amygdala or makes it a little bit less sensitive through the day so that I find that I can regulate my emotions more.

I'm just more even tempered.

It's really interesting, but there's a whole physiology to this and Huberman loves to go into that.

It's not just like a I think this will happen or they say this will work or there's a physiological reason behind it.

So he says I will put the podcast in the show notes where he talks about the importance of light and he goes into one podcast just on this, how light exposure.

And What does he say?

He says 12-15 minutes of sunlight falling on your eyes.

Well, he refers to it as forward ambulance station.

Oh and Forward movement.



So it's the walking forward and getting the light in your eyes and being inside isn't the same.

It's just not the same, but it's there's something absolutely beautiful about it and it becomes addictive, just like people say that when you start to take cold showers at first, it's really uncomfortable but then it becomes addictive and people crave it, which is another way to become alert.

But I think going outside and what I love about it is I got into my garden with my dogs so it's an opportunity for me to connect with my dogs, which I wasn't doing.

You know, it's just very easy.

They're around me their company but they're not getting attention.

So now they know that they get my attention when we go outside and it's really fun.

And then I walk around my garden, I see my flowers in the wintertime, it's beautiful, you just get out to nature, get the fresh air.

There's so much that's great about it.

The other thing that I do is I have a personal guru, Mark Nepo have his book right here.

I'm showing I'm showing Darius the cover of the book is called the Book of awakening and I've seen Mark Nepo he's the most authentic speaker I've ever met and he's so available and such a beautiful person and his book is called the book of awakening, having the life you want by being present to the life you have and every day he has a passage and it's short and I've heard from a number of different gurus that it's important to read something that gives you a nugget that you can hold onto for the day that just kind of gives you that little boost.

And I always find a nugget in his passages there just really brilliant and he's a poet.

So his writing is very poetic.

It's very deep, it's very personal and it's funny because oh my gosh, I can't even imagine how many of these books have given to people.

I often will just buy it on amazon and send it to people or I have a whole bunch of books on my shelf and if someone is over and we're talking about it, I'll just hand them one of his books.

It's lovely.

It's funny that because I don't know if you ever read the book, the Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance at all in the seventies and in the eighties and nineties it was very popular, wasn't it?

Did you ever, I didn't, but I knew a lot of people that did, and I started it and I read parts of it.

So I get it, I get it, it's a really fascinating book, but all the way through the book, he references how important certain books are chateau was.

He's got this phrase that he's picked up from Middle Eastern and I don't know, but she was and there often religious texts that are crammed full of these gold nuggets and wisdom and so on.

And it was actually the one of the few things that that and the power of positive thinking by Norman Vincent Peale that convinced me to actually read the bible in the end when I was in my twenties because I thought maybe this would have lots of nuggets.

And sure enough for me, my nugget sources, the bible and I've been actually talking about daily practice.

One of the big things is people often say, why don't you read a little bit of the bible every day?

And I used to put it off and interestingly enough, I forgot we were doing this topic, but this morning I read a little bit of it, and I was like, my goodness, I should do this way more.

But it is so valuable to just have a nugget for the day.

It is, it is I'm also in this group where we're well I run a group on how to drop into your best self.

And I'm also in another group where it's an international group where we all talk about how to access and be our best self.

Yeah, that comes up repeatedly of having that that little nugget of information.

So I guess my morning routine is going outside doing my forward ambulance in connecting with nature connecting with my dogs then sitting on a little bench that I have, and I read my Mark Nepo and then I might share my nugget right with a few of my friends.

So I'll take just like as you know I have in the summertime I send everybody the floor door which is the flower of the day from my garden.

I will often send the Nepo du jour.

The Nepo quote that really speaks to me.

And it's nice because it starts like a little and sometimes my friends will send me a nip oh nugget.


And then it gets you.

Oh if you didn't read it, you’ve got to go read it and find your own nugget, or maybe I'll find the same nugget.

And the other thing is either before I go out or when I come back, I have a tall glass of water with Himalayan crystal salt in it.

So it helps you assimilate the minerals and helps you to assimilate the water better.

And so I want to expand my practice.

But that's where I am now.

And that that part has become automatic.

Okay, well that sounds actually doable, because sometimes people start off with this holy daily practice thing. I've gone through some daily practices: I get up at 5:30 in the morning, I go and do half hour run or something outside.  I then do this cold shower and then I do half an hour of reading some important book and there was a part of me that used to do stuff like that. A part of me that thinks maybe I should. But having something that's incremental that these little mini wins that layer up on each other is really helpful to hear from you now.

How long did it take you to sort of build that up?

I think my biggest problem in the beginning was that I was just trying to do everything at once.

I had my little list, I even have it on my computer, a little picture of myself, a little kind of emoji of myself and I'll read it to you.

It's, it says what I need to do morning light, give thanks with a great grateful heart hydrate nip oh passage.

And then at the bottom and this is something that I kind of do throughout the day is a workout.

So initially I had on this little image here that I wanted to take these body brain breaks where I would breathe hydrate and do something kinesthetic like planks, jumping pull ups, something of that sort.

But I found that that wasn't really working for me and so I had to, I had to find something that would resonate with more that didn't feel like a chore, and I eventually found on YouTube, one of my students guided me.

There are some great workouts on YouTube, and I found a workout.

This really just dancing.

It's, let me see if I can find it.

Don't worry, I get it.

But I wanted to share something with you, and I want to go geeky at this moment in time.


Because I saw this YouTube video where it said the six stretches to do every single day and I watched the six body stretches this guy did and I thought, gosh, those are good stretches, putting your chin back to the bottom of your neck, sort of thing and then stretching your hamstring and I could do all of that.

But because my working memory is just so appalling, I can't remember what to do.

Do you know what I mean?

And so I came across this interesting tech thing.

Have you ever heard of this?


It's called an NFC tag.  It's a little plastic disc. 

Bear with me.

Right, okay.

You can use these tags and you can program them in with different actions that automatically happen in your phone.

Have you heard of these?

I have not.

Well here is where it relates to what we're talking about here, and I think I'm really excited about doing something like this.  Let's say you decide to do a morning routine in a certain way, okay?

And you can't remember it.

Or maybe you can't remember where that YouTube video is or where that book that you're reading through is.

Or often I love to play a piece of music in the morning, you know?

But then I have to go to Spotify.

When I open up Spotify, I see my notifications and then I look at my notifications and then I go, what was I doing?

Oh, oh I was looking at work emails.

No, no, I and I've forgotten.

So the trick is to not go into your phone, but sometimes what you need is in your folks, you need to bypass it.


This is where an NFC tag is.

It's a little plastic white disk That cost 20 cents.


And inside of it is a tiny microchip and you can tap your phone onto the disk just beside your camera.

You tap your phone and the moment you tap your phone; it opens up your phone and says what you wanted this.


And you can program things into your phone.

You can say whenever I tap this particular little disk, I want you to play this song by Nina Simone.

You know, and it will, I want you to turn the volume up to max and play this song by Nina Simone.

And so you go over to the disc, you tap it and then, you know, I got no, you know, and it starts playing and it's loud and you do the song and maybe it's in the hallway and you go to the hallway or maybe it's in the kitchen and you always play that song when you're emptying the dishwasher or whatever and that's your sort of cleaning up song and then you stay right, I want to do those neck routines, I can't remember that.

YouTube video is well you could have six of these stuck up in a certain place and you tap number one, and it opens up the video or the image and you go, oh yeah, that's what it is.

Yeah, I remember now.

Do you get my drift?

Yeah, it's pretty cool.

Can you imagine how helpful this would be for executive function and Automaticity and processes.

If you intentionally did it, you could have these little disks in different locations, location specific and you're like, oh there's that disk and you can draw on the discs, you can put an image on it or a word on it or something where you can print it out through your printer and you can have these for your kids for yourself and they become, wow, that could be great for kids.

Absolutely, wow.

You could just hand them three of them and say, okay, take these with you and bring them back when you're done.


And if I was an app developer and I want to be an app developer at some point in the future, I'm going to be an app developer, I would even add this to a tracking app where I tap it, I do that particular thing and part of the programming is not just to put the music up but play the song but register with habit tika that I did that little task and then you have a little record of how you're doing and you've got a visual record and you've got a streak and you've got all of that Gamification that often some people really love and habit aka is an actual, have you heard of habit?


So yeah, it's an app, I've never really managed to make it work for myself because I'm not completely wired that way.

But it's kind of like the Gamification of habit.

So what you do is you put in the habits you would prefer to have, you would like to have you, you list them and then it gives you points and prizes and rewards for doing those habits and then you've got a little avatar and it gets an extra shield or a sword or a hat or something great for kids.

Absolutely, yes.

And then you can also decide to do something like a morning routine and keep one another accountable through Helvetica.

So you can say to a friend, did you do your walk the dog or your run or reading of whatever, you know, and they go, oh no, I didn't, I forgot, but you can do it through the app, and you can actually see how the other person is doing, not publicly share with other people.

And so, you know, someone else is looking in and, and you can compare and compete and so forth and, and you can also do it where if you don't do it, you can tell it to punish you.

Oh my God.

So what it does is if you don't do the task, it takes away some of the points of your friend or vice versa and things like that.

So you've got like 10,000 points and it deducts 10 because you didn't do that little thing that you really wanted to do.

I mean it could be important, something like taking tablets you know, like for some people, a morning routine isn't just about these particular things as simple as did you pick up those two tablets and take them and if you didn't then you might be in real trouble.

You know, it's interesting and it makes me think of these are some wonderful tools for kids that need to establish good habits or any of us that need to establish good habits.

But when I work with little kids, I often will, I think I've mentioned this before in a podcast, but we'll bring it up again because it's very perfect for this moment, which is that I will tell the parents to buy a bunch of these little beanie babies, or these little stuffed animals and they represent certain things.

They give the stuffed animals to the child. So maybe a beaver represents brushing your teeth. And I remember one of my students had a bear that had a jacket on and that meant she needed to get dressed.  So, when the parents said I want you to brush your teeth and go get dressed, they would hand the two, those two little beanie babies to their daughter and then she would go upstairs and do those things and then bring the beanie babies back.

It's the same kind of concept.

But it's very tactile, you know, for those kids that need something tactical are more real life because technology is virtual.

It's very heavy, you know, it's so such a really good topic because you know, like I used to have more skins and I used to just enjoy the moleskin notebook and opening up and then in the, at the beginning of the day writing my journal thoughts and things like that.

And that tactile feel of the beautiful smooth paper and the ink going onto that paper is so beautifully and so on.

I miss that a little bit actually because I do most of it on my iPad now because I've gone fully digital, which has huge advantages of course, especially with executive function, having everything digital and findable and organization table.

But that tactile side of things often gets lost in a digital world and often a tactile really does.

It adds to the motivation, doesn't it?

For some people it's everything.

I mean I think everybody's different, so somebody's highly tactile, they're going to need that or buy those little dots, those little plastic dots you're talking about that you can put around the house, there's a tactile component to that so that might work.

So that brings the tactile into technology which really appeals to me for that kind of population but really what we're getting at is that sometimes we need support for things to become a practice for to become a habit.

We need those little visuals, we need those little tackles, we need those things to remind us because guess what our subconscious is going to put us back into that old pattern unless we're conscious, so having those kind of visual cues around us can be very helpful, which is why I have this image on my computer to remind myself that if I sit down at my computer, okay, the first thing I have is a picture of myself poking what you need to do.

I'm poking myself.

Did you do your morning light?

Did you give things, did you hydrate?

Did you do your Mark Nepo?


And but I'm at the point where it really is and it's just putting me in a better, better place, it's really bringing out my best self, so that I'm starting my day feeling really energized and really good.

But I did remember this workout that I love is called the studio and they call it Dance Fitness.

And so I'm using that as my kinesthetic brain break.

So sometimes I'll just do a 10-minute leg routine or arm routine, but it's all too upbeat music.

What's fun about it is my coordination is getting better, my speed is getting better and as I get older it's really important.

But yeah, there are other things like stretching, that's something I want to bring in, that's going to be another micro edition.

But I think talking about those micro movements of all right, I'm going to add one more thing and I'm going to focus on that one thing.

So if I'm focusing on five things, I'm going to, it's like juggling, I'm trying to juggle too many balls at once, I have to just take one thing at a time and then add it to the routine and then try it, does it resonate with me.

Oh it does.

I'm going to keep that or not quite, I'm going to tweak it.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

I mean talking more personally, there was a time where I Meditated and prayed a lot more than I do now and I think it was like 15 years ago I just decided how am I going to do this?

And I read this book And it had these 12 practices, that kind of fell under prayer, but it's not your traditional kind of, oh God, please do this for me sort of thing monologue, but it's kind of like watching meditating on things, singing things and the reason I'm bringing it up for me, what was revolutionary was the guy just said spend two minutes doing this little component and you think well okay, I could do two minutes of just sitting there, may be saying thank you for certain things in my life, I could maybe spend two minutes reading a meaningful bit of text but it doesn't need to be 20 minutes or half an hour, I could do that and then I could do a bit of this, I could do a bit of that, I could maybe do a bit of reflection about things, I maybe regret and want to kind of say sorry internally for and just, I can do lots of little things and then you add those two minutes up and you've done 25 4 minutes of deep and meaningful stuff for you And you're kind of like, Oh my goodness gosh, I could have just sat there for those 24 minutes starting to daydream and drift and beat myself up because I didn't actually do anything functional.

But yes, that's right, I mean, okay, I have to confess, I am a bit of a TikTok addict now and that's a bit of a problem right now.

But the point I was going to make was it is quite surprising how much meaningful input you can put into your life within two or three minutes, like two or three minutes is a really meaningful song or two or three minutes is reading a small paragraph of something meaningful.

Two or three minutes could be a breathing exercise, it could be a stretch, it could be going to drink your water, take some supplements and so on.

And I think sometimes we underestimate how powerful two or three minutes can be combined with a bunch of other two or three minutes and that's what I'm really getting from you Erica.

It's kind of making me wake up to that and think Darius, you can actually do this, can you do it for two or three minutes?

Yes, I can do that.

Okay, could you do another thing for two or three minutes?

I could do that too.

But it has to be your practice.

I think happens is someone will be like, oh my God, I have the ultimate daily practice for them.

But you have to find the ultimate daily practice for you and being really mindful that I had a workout routine that I've been doing for 15 years, and I didn't enjoy it anymore.

And now that I've found The Studio and I'm doing these dance fitness routines.  It's bringing so much joy into my life; I'm really looking forward to it. I can't wait to have a brain break, so I can go do a little dance routine really, it's kind of hilarious.

But yeah, and things change and it's okay if they change and an old routine that you were doing, an old practice is feeling a little dollar old.  Then search for something that's going to give you that little boost again where you're like, oh, I love that.

That feels really good.

I think that makes a big difference.

That reminds me of a new routine developing is orphaned genic li or just morphing into another routine.

Because What I did when I was Rudolf Steiner School teacher, I was a primary school teacher, I ended up having a class of 30 for 36 Children in the end has a lot of Children to, to manage of all sorts of different stages.

But one of the things we used to do every morning, we had a 25-to-30-minute morning routine every single morning and it included reciting a poem for a couple of minutes, singing a particular song, doing our times tables, doing some skipping with our times tables, lots of tiny little, those two-minute activities really.

And they all naturally segue wade into each other and I'm trying to remind myself of what I did.

What I did was whenever as a teacher, you started a new term, you would start with two or three activities and that would be it and you repeat it the next day, peter the next day and then on the third day you to introduce the fourth activity and then another day or two and then the fifth activity.

And sure enough, each one you get a little bit more competent at you do it more streamlined, they move into one another.

They all follow from one another.

And it all feed the needs of different needs of the Children.

So some Children are very like routine, and it needs to be in the same order, and it gives them a real sense of strength and stability and security that it's in that order.

And other Children need something new and exciting and shifting, and you could still have it in the same order.

But maybe you say right today we're going to do this, skipping with a different times table, but it's still skipping.

You can do this this.

And what we used to do was you would have a set routine that sync with the seasons.

So the poems, the activities, the movements and so on would be connected to maybe Christmas or easter or some season that's coming along or some particular thing.

And what would happen is you would slide in one little thing at the top and then one would be disappear at the bottom and gradually the Children wouldn't really realize it.

Or maybe some of them would come up to me and Mr. Darius, we stopped doing that little poem.

Why have we stopped doing?

Oh, well that was the Michael, Miss poem we're now moving on to.


And but there was this gradual tide of movement rather than this sudden jerking from one thing, doing lots of things, doing nothing.

You actually actively intentionally built that in rather than all of a sudden, oh my goodness, I've been going through this routine for three months dead, like maybe there should be an active intentional aspect, even in a good routine to start sliding one little new thing in and then maybe facing another thing out.

Do you know what I mean?

Absolutely, yeah, I love that, I'm so glad that you shared that, because I think what I loved the most about that, particularly for Children is that it gives that repetition and repetition helps to create that habit, but also that repetition also creates expertise.

So every time you get better, just like doing the dance fitness with the studio, every time I do a song again, I get better at the dance routine.


And there's something really lovely about that, and what I like about this is that not only am I getting exercise, but I'm becoming more coordinated and I'm beginning being a better I can be a better dancer and that it's fun about doing something with someone else in unison.

But the four-hour workweek by Tim Ferriss right, that's his pattern, right?

That's he created this four-hour work week, that works so well for him, and it might work for other people, but it doesn't necessarily work for you now.

You just have to pop in your own pattern.

But yeah, I think I think we've hit on something here which is it's really those micro changes start off slow start with something that really resonates with you and then add in these micro movements.

But I think you just really realized what would work for you which is doing something that you did with the Children many years ago.

You could bring in a really positive daily practice by doing what you did with the Children which is to start off with something really basic, making sure that you have water in the morning and then adding perhaps a little gratitude or than adding a reading passage.

I just love Mark Nepo because they're so short, they're so short, so condensed and it doesn't have to take me more than I can sit with it for 10 minutes or I can sit with it for one minute.

Well I think bringing this all the way back to executive function is that training our subconscious mind.

So basically our subconscious mind is either working against us or working for us.

And like in previous conversations we had in the podcast we talked about those negative voices or other voices of people in our past that were embedded into our inner voice, our internal voice and we had to consciously retrain that voice or educate that voice or remove that voice, replace that voice.

So it's about our subconscious mind being in sync with our conscious mind what we really want, what our goals and our attentions are, which by the way is the next podcast, isn't its goal settings?

I think so much of inhibitory control is you can only really inhibit your thoughts and focus if you know what you're meant to be focusing in on.


And so really this morning routine, it's kind of like saying I really want to focus in on making sure I'm drinking, making sure I'm coming awake, making sure I'm spending time with my dogs, making sure I've got some a nugget to digest throughout the day and sort of slow release.

And this is a huge amount of intentionality, and it ties in with inhibitory control and you can't have that inhibitory control unless you have a clear thing to focus in on and inhibit the rest of things and exclude them for a while for those two minutes, you're doing it.

And even those little hacks that you know by getting the morning light, it does diminish any kind of Overreactions you might have that there, that physiological support that reach.

But I think the bottom line is the daily practices help to break the old habits, establish new ways to get where you want to be and then to really realize your best self, we do have the power to be guiding ourselves to our best self.

And I also have a little mantra that comes up for me throughout the day and that is that I just want to be soft.

That that's my word, everybody's going to need something different.

But for me just being soft really works for me, it just calms my whole system and really enables me to be more mindful.

But yeah, I think if we can learn to move more through life more consciously versus subconsciously, you know, it really will enable us to improve our executive functioning skills and repeating patterns of block growth.

It can also help us to analyze problems and most of all unleash creativity.

I would like to tie this all up with a metaphor Erica, we like to talk in metaphors in this podcast and that's all of the deals we make with you when you're listening is that we'll take the theory and somehow creatively bring it into some sort of metaphor to try and make it visual.

And in a previous episode we talked about the garden as the mind as a garden, didn't we?

And with permaculture and you're designing a garden often the area you make the most attention to is the pathway out your back door because it is the area that you inevitably pass by every single time.

You don't always go to the far corner; you always don't always go there.

But that area just at your back door that you go and the front door, those are the most valuable areas in the garden for your attention.

And so in a way the morning routine is like going out the back door and placing little things along the back door that bring you joy or planting high value crops that often need a little bit of weeding or a little bit of care and pinching and attention because in the gardening setting, the gardener’s attention is the best fertilizer.

The gardener's attention is the best fertilizers.

So having a person paying attention to that particular plant is they're going by, oh gosh, it needs a little bit of water - it needs weeding or whatever.

That attention is way more valuable than the fertilizer, although the fertilizer important and our morning routines are a bit like that, aren't they?

Making sure that first thing that you come out the door, my wife is great at this.

She makes sure that space where you come out the back door is just a delight to connect with and then it's somehow catapults you into the rest of the garden as opposed to, oh, there's tons of junk just up against the back door and then you kind of make your way through it and then it's a lovely garden.

Do you know what I mean?

And I sometimes think maybe my morning routine, there's a ton of junk at the back door, that okay, it still needs to be in the garden, but it needs to get pushed back to where the shed is and if I need it, I'll go to the shed, but let's put all the really delightful stuff up close at the back door.

Yeah, I think that's lovely.

And I think what you can do to establish that is to really plan the garden right now.

Make a list of what you want to program and your subconscious what you want to plant by the back door, right?

Make a list of what you want to take out of your subconscious.

Perhaps the junk that you have by the back door.

And do you really need it?

Maybe you just need to get rid of it altogether.

It might not be something that you really need and observe yourself, observe yourself and use your wonderful tool of meta cognition to be aware and to be self-aware and constantly evaluate and reevaluate what you're doing on a daily basis to say, does this serve me?

Does that not serve me and be more conscious about really placing those beautiful little nuggets so that you can really help to give yourself a wonderful day every day and be appreciative for your days every day because you're giving yourself the tools to really drop into your best self which was our very last episode.

Well Erica if you've inspired only one person the podcast to listening to this has been me to go out there.

And I think the thing that I've taken away is I do need to make a list and I have a problem with my working memory, it's smaller than others and so try to rethink it through every single morning and ream remember it and so on.

Just assuming I'm going to remember it in the morning.  Oh, it's easy, I'm just going to wake up and go for a walk and then I'm going to drink a glass of water, I'm going to sing this song really easy.

But then you go wake up in the morning, you're like, oh what was it again?

Well, I'll just, I'll sing the song, drink the water, oh yeah, I'm going to go, maybe I'll go, you know, and it all gets higglety pigglety and so on.

But that aspect of working memory, having that encoded into a checklist relieves your working memory from having to constantly re process all that information.


And whether it is a bunch of stuffed animals that you have on your bed that represent the routine that you want to follow or a little checklist by your back door or some little things that you can put a glass on the table to remind yourself to always fill it with water.

I, because I have so many of these books and I have a bunch of them that I think I have three that I just kind of leave around the house to remind myself, oh great, Mark Nepo, but also bringing your loved ones getting them involved because there are those days where something important happens and I don't, I don't get my Mark Nepo boost my little nugget.

But one of my friends will often send me something.

So the fact that I have kind of a community of people where we have our daily practices, and we share our nuggets with each other.

It's, it's really lovely how to bring community into your own practice.

Is also just another thing that I highly recommend, whether it's sharing your floor to shore or it's sharing a quote, share some of these beautiful nuggets with others.

They'll be so grateful.

And then all of a sudden, they'll start to share nuggets back with you.

And all of this is just for a morning routine, isn't it?

And there are so many other routines that can actually, well what I've noticed with different clients, Children and adults is often you need a little thing to trigger you and to sort of engage you in it.

And sometimes it could be a song like I used to do this with my Children when it came to getting them into the wet suits on holiday.

I've shared this song before we had the Nina Simone song and we just played that song and when it played on, they were like, oh yeah, let's put our wetsuits on and it just overcame that discomfort of the cold wet suits being put on and the awkwardness and so on.

And it just triggered some joy to overcome that transition.

And sometimes those threshold moments where you transition from one activity to another need’s intentionality.

And sometimes these morning routines are about moving between the threshold of sleep too awake.

Nous another routine from weakness to sleep.

A nighttime routine may be getting into work.

Maybe you've got another routine for when you actually do practical work in your garage, but sometimes if you've got executive function difficulties, it's often those areas that you can find the hardest to help transition once you're in there.

Yeah, no problem.

Don't you think?

Yeah, I think you're right.

I think that even if you get your morning routine down and it made me really mindful what you were saying is that yeah.

You know what? I should have an evening routine, that if I am mindful, what would help me sleep the best. What will help me really have that night of sleep that could really rejuvenate me for the next day?

So I think as soon as you get a morning practice down say well what else what other practices would help?

Oh before I sit down to write or work, what would be a way, what are what are some tools that I could use that it would help me to optimize my cognition.

So I think start with one whatever is most important for you and start these little micro changes and then grow it into something that really is something that you look forward to and that really empowers you for the, for the rest of the day or for the rest of the evening or whatever, you need to really live your life in a way that suits you.

What I've really picked up from you Erica is that it's been joy that has driven you and carried you in this.

It's kind of like when you come out the back door of your garden, my garden, it's often a joy to see that particular rose there that my wife's put in and it's starting to blow bud and blossom and move and then you move on to something else and there's a nice little ornament and there's a bird table there and maybe there's a bird there etcetera.

And each one of those are just this dopamine hit of joy and I think it's about intentionally injecting joy into these moments.

And that joy propels you and keeps propelling you from one kind of little wave of joy to another.

And if we can make each one of those 23-minute activities, a little burst of joy that moves you on to the next one and the next one and the next one and you realize you've just been carried by this routine into the space you want to be in.

Yeah, I think you just said it beautifully.


So I'm really enjoying having practices and I think what I'm taking away from this discussion is that I seem to have established a really beautiful morning practice, but there's no reason why I can't start to inject more practices throughout my day just to keep me in that same zone.

Yeah, I love it.

I love it.

Do you know what Erica?

This could be like a little micro course.  What we've just done in this little episode couldn't, it's just if someone sat you down and just said, right, let's just sit down and just let's take 23 minutes while we've just said that.

What would that be for you?

What song would it be for you?

Oh, right, okay.


Oh, I really like that song.

What drink would you have and or would it make the grade or not?

Or you could even say here are 10 suggestions of 10 possible micro things.

Okay, rank them 1 to 10 in order of what you think is the more relevant and important to you and then just spend a week on number 10 and then we add in number nine for the next week and, and see how far you get and if you've got three or four of them, then great.

You know what I mean?

Wouldn't that be an interesting little process?


Well, I think we've definitely offered a platter of options here and, and we just encourage you to pick and choose what resonates with you. If an uncluttered garden works for you, great.

If something more concrete, like a specific routine in your morning, grab it.

So just pick and choose through what we've talked about and hopefully there's some nuggets there to inspire you.


So how are we going to wind this one up, Erica?

I think we're just going to tell everybody to have a beautiful day.

Until next time.


Thank you for joining our conversation here at the personal brain trainer podcast.

This is Dr. Erica Warren and Darius Namdaran.

On check out the show notes for links to resources mentioned in the podcast, and please leave us a review and shares on social media until next time.