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Welcome to the Wealthy Wellthy Life with Krisstina Wise. Dr. Ashley Stewart has spent over a decade in clinical education and research in the areas of applied psychophysiology, health psychology, and neuroscience. Throughout her research, Dr. Ashley has found that the body and mind should really be looked at as one entity. Our internal thoughts impact our health on a physiological level and that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
You can also click on the time stamps below to jump to those specific points in the conversation.
What We Covered
- [03:50] – Who is Dr. Stewart and how did she get started?
- [06:20] – What is psychophysiology?
- [07:00] – The mind and body should not be seen as separate entities.
- [08:20] – What new discoveries have come out, indicating the body and mind are meant to be looked at as one entity?
- [11:10] – How can we keep the health of our psyche?
- [11:35] – Psychology is not just about the mind.
- [16:30] – Do you feel like you can’t seem to get out of a certain mindset? Psychology can help you get out of it.
- [19:25] – Your internal thoughts do impact your health and your well being.
- [29:00] – There is a limit! Our brain and body are fragile.
- [30:30] – Although burnout isn’t considered a real diagnosis from a medical perspective, it is still very real.
- [37:00] – What kind of technology is available to help us reach an optimal level of health and wellness?
- [42:05] – Medicine has become much more tailored to the individual.
- [45:20] – There are very affordable apps out there that can help you measure and monitor yourself.
- [48:30] – We really do have the ability to take control of our life and optimize it, especially with how quickly technology is progressing in the neuroscience field.
- [50:50] – Is science starting to prove that there’s something real and measurable to all this woo-woo feelings stuff?
[Tweet “For a number of years people called psychology a ‘soft science’.”]
[Tweet “You can approach your mind from a less of a passive/powerless perspective to a more confident perspective.”]
[Tweet “Your internal thoughts do impact your health and your well being at a physiological level.”]
Evolve Neuroscience Website
Rhythms of the Brain by György Buzsáki
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Read the Transcription!
You are at the intersection of wealth, health, and happiness. Welcome to the Wealthy Wellthy Life.
Hello, this is Krisstina Wise, and welcome to this edition of the Wealthy Wellthy Life, where I interview thought leaders who teach a countercultural approach to money, health, and happiness. Because great riches don’t matter if you’re sick and good health doesn’t matter if you’re broke. Today, I tackle health wealth with my friend Ashley Stewart. Ashley is a PhD in Clinical Health Psychology. She’s double board certified in Neurofeedback and Biofeedback. She has over a decade of experience in clinical education research and business in the areas of neuroscience and psychophysiology. She’s been published in multiple medical journals, and she’s a true expert on the brain especially the study of physical processes in the brain that formed the basis of our psychology. Her consulting business is called the Human Performance Institute where they specialize in neuroscience and neurotechnology for optimal performance.
In this episode, we talked about the nervous system, the difference between sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. We discussed tension and arousal states and why they are so important. We delve into neurofeedback, what it is, how can it be used and who can benefit from it. We have a lot of conversation about the latest in neurotechnology and how modern tech is truly changing the way we understand the brain, and how we can use technology to influence and improve our brain, and we discussed the science about how all of this works and why it’s a game changer. Enjoy this brain bender episode.
Ashley, it is so much to finally have the opportunity to sit down with you and talk. You are one busy woman. You’re travelling the world, you are a neuroscientist, you are an athlete, you’re a speaker, you’re a technologist, you are incredible. You’re my girl crush, girl.
Well, I didn’t know, thank you. Thank you, I’m so happy to be here.
And you’re beautiful to be with. I mean, you’ve got just a perfect package of this brilliant mind and inward and outer beauty. So we met at the Bulletproof conference and what that’s been — it’s been awhile ago, but I wanted to say just publicly how much I enjoyed meeting you. Especially as a woman, you’re so strong, you’re so vibrant, you really are so smart and you’re really leading this new space of neuroscience, and neuroscience with some different aspects. Like the neuroscience, but really moving over neuroscience to neurotechnology, and even blending into the space of neuro-wellness which I’m really fascinated by and curious about. So I’m really looking forward to seeing where our conversation leads us today on some of these new science of the mind explorations that you’re delving into. So, thanks for being with me here today.
Thank you. Thank you, very happy to be here.
So to get us started, give us a little bit of your background. What intrigued you? What got you into neuroscience and this field in particular?
When I was an undergrad, I actually — I mean if you look at the schools that I’ve attended, they’ve all been technology schools. I started out really wanting to pursue engineering. I found that there were solutions to all the questions, at least in my brief experience with studying engineering. I just wanted something where honestly, it continued to challenge me, and so I started thinking about medicine. Someone invited me to a statistics course. It was a graduate level statistics course that was being offered to undergrads. After the first day, I was just fascinated by the numbers telling me a story. The professor was a clinical health psychologist, and a great deal of his work was actually in AIDS. He became a little bit of a mentor to me at the time, and then I began to realize well, even though I really love medicine, what I really enjoy is the numbers that can tell you a story and how that can lead to advances in medicine and technology, in wellness and kind of the interaction of all of these things. Basically more from the physiological and psychological intersection, and that is — when I say psychophysiology it’s more my background, that’s where I stand from. I think that’s kind of where it came from. Me wanting something that was a continual challenge and knowing that — and I can’t remember who said this. Somebody said, “The brain is the final frontier,” and I truly think it’s the case. I think that we’ll begin, we’ll continue to generate more questions and probably never have all the answers. I like a challenge.
Yes, exactly. You found the biggest challenge. Well, you’re a rock climber and an athlete. So yeah, clearly when you’re hanging on the edge of a cliff, you do like a challenge.
Uh-huh. Oh yes. Oh yes.
Mental, physical, adrenal, anyway. So let’s talk about you throughout this term, psychophysiologist. So what is that?
The easiest way to think about it is, it is that intersection of and question of how the mind and the body interact, and that’s different than how the brain and the body interact because that’s more of just the physiology. So then the psychophysiology is the study of kind of that mind body question that people talked about that kind of coin phrase for quite some time. I think that’s the easiest way to think about it.
I think that, for the longest time we’ve really treated the mind and the body as two separate things. So we’re just coming into these discoveries that they’re so interconnected and the more that we understand these connectivities and treat them as such, or organize our lives and our wellness as such that we’ll be healthier physically and mentally, emotionally, spiritually.
Yeah, sure. It only makes sense, right? Like not everything has to be separated as it has been for centuries. That gets back to you needing to separate science from the church. So this is kind of how this, the whole separation came about, and so I think it’s just now that we’ve just been trying to work against that paradigm and just prove that paradigm for quite some time, when reason of the paradigm became kind of widely held in the first place is because it was necessary. Not that it really served to explain very much. It was just because it was necessary at the time.
So what are some of the newest discoveries? What are you seeing from your point of view, and this intertwining mind body that they are not separated, you have to treat them the same or work with them the same, or think about them as joint versus separate?
I think technology is where we’re going to see and where we are seeing the fastest advances, especially in medicine, especially in wellness and I think we’re talking earlier that you actually see new terms coined just because of the advances in technology, and where people are taking the various tractions that people are taking technology and medicine and wellness. Not only we have neurotechnology, but we have — and this is specifically, talking about the brain, but it means I like neurobiological terms that doesn’t just mean the brain, it means other aspects of your physiology too, but neurotechnology and neuro wellness, and neurogaming. So I think we’re going to continue to see major advances in all of these areas and influence of these advances throughout multiple industries from medicine to corporate training, to schools and universities, and learning disabilities within those and how those are address, I think it’s really going to change the phase of how people not only interact with their phone and their computers in a daily basis, but how they interact at the level of their job and at the level of their family and patient care.
So when you use — I think we use the words brain and mind interchangeably, meaning, we kind of — I think most people treat them as the same, but sure you treat them differently, so how do you explain the difference between the brain and the mind?
Yes, because people talk about the body and the mind. To me, I think about just the brain as being the physical organ that we have, and the mind being comprising of more our thoughts, our will, our emotions, but not thinking about where they come from in a physiological sense like what’s driving them. Does that makes sense?
Yeah, and then how do you? — you’ve said psychology, the word psychology a couple of times, well, how does psychology fit into this mix, or psyche, the psychology, our mental health, mental performance, the health of our psyche?
I think that — so my PhD is in clinical health psychology and I specialized in psychophysiology and technologies for progressing that area of research. I think that many people think about psychology for a number of years and now I don’t know if they call this anymore, for a number of years people call that like a soft science. It’s actually one of the most rigorous scientific fields that you can enter into. I learned that, in fact, very quickly. It’s not just about the mind, which is what you think about when people talk about the psyche and maybe more areas of consciousness. There’s a real physiological research perspective to that, and so, I think the psyche and the idea of the psyche falls more into that understanding of what is the mind, but as you’ve talked about before on some previous podcast that there’s really this somatic experience that occurs as a result of what is happening within our mind, will, emotions, and decision making. There’s always a parallel or reaction on a physiological level. So what biofeedback, neurofeedback and technology in general, is it has been doing for a number of years but in more advance ways now, they’re offering a window into seeing the effects of that now. So instead of someone just saying, “I get anxious when I think about X.” You can now hook them up to technology, show them what’s happening when they say, “I get anxious when I think about this,” or if you just say whatever X is, and you can watch them and they can watch in real time, they’re body beats. Some terms or science that they are in fact becoming more anxious, high in sympathetic nervous system activity. People talk about that, kind of that fight-or-flight. We can now see it happening in real time.
So how does that change things? The biofeedback, the ability to observe the physiological responses really, versus just body sensations that you think are happening.
In one way, on one respect, I think it’s actually very confirming to people that “Okay, this isn’t all in my head,” and people say that and people have said that for quite some time. Like, “Oh, it’s all in my head,” and actually tell people, “Well, it kinda is, but just meaning that, it’s like in your brain,” and then the rest of your nervous system. But I think it gives people a real sense of empowerment. If you think about it, one of the most distressing aspects of living a day or a moment in someone’s lives, is feeling that they don’t have control over where they are. Whether it’s their emotions or their circumstances, and the ability to take on a different perspective or manage themselves in those certain circumstances in a different way. So by being able to see your body’s response and manage your physiological responses, it then translates and enables you to better gain, I guess, more a flexible or healthy perspective in general, because you start at the root which is actually changing your physiology. That then allows you — it makes it more readily available to you to have a different perspective. Does that make sense?
It does. It makes so much sense.
Otherwise, we’ve been working kind of backwards. We’re saying, “Well, if you change your perspective about this, if you just let this go or think about this in this way, then you’ll feel better.” So I think it’ll impact and empowers people in a really different way.
Absolutely, and where we can be more aware of this somatic experience, that is not all in our head, and that when we can be more aware of our sensations or the somatic bodily feelings beyond just emotions, but how we feel different true sensations in different parts of our body and touch base with that. Physiologically, it’s true that I think that it becomes more obvious, the mind and body connection, like they are not separate.
A really simple way to kind of get at, whether or not, this can be helpful for you is — and I would do this with almost everyone that I would work with, and even still now, I would ask people, “Okay. Here’s a piece of paper. Write down on this piece of paper what do you think — say and do in a day that you don’t want to.” Inevitably, people can fill in these blanks with something. At some point in the conversation, you realize that we will kick ourselves for things that we think, say, and do in a day that we don’t want to. We will kick ourselves and think this is a problem with my will, this is a problem with my volition. I just can’t stop doing this or I just can’t seem to stop thinking this. I think that resonates with a lot people but that right there to me is the place where you go, “Ah! See? There is something going on that you can probably shift physiologically,” and if you want to say that tappings — happening subconsciously, okay that’s fine, that’s the way to think about it because initially people understand what that means. But just to say, this is not all about your will and your volition. This is about their being some sort of kind of propensity that’s driving that you haven’t tapped into, maybe aren’t as aware of, maybe aren’t as good at regulating, that just needs some help becoming a little more flexible. So having a feedback in real time gives you the ability to build that flexibility, also enables people to see,”Okay. Alright. Okay.” It’s not just because I can’t do it or because I’m not trying hard enough.
So people begin to approach this, I think, from less of a passive powerless perspective to a more confident hopeful perspective of saying, “Oh, wow. Yeah. Look at that, I can decrease my heart rate at will.” “Oh look at that, I can change my breathing and actually enable myself to meditate for longer.” There are a variety of examples but I think that it’s an easy way to get at — or there are things that maybe seemingly are beyond my volition or will that may have more of a physiological root that I haven’t tapped into that I could train, that would enable me to just generally feel better.”
You’re right, and it does give power back. That is not “something’s wrong with me and I don’t have the willpower to change this” but it becomes more of an experiment, like hey, let me test this and see what happens and takes the pressure of that I should or shouldn’t do this, and more of, hey let me be more curious and let me see how I feel if this happens as oppose to when that happens, and then through that connectivity to our somatic experience and our physiology, we become a lot more aware. It brings some things out of the unconscious to the conscious into a point, gives us power back that wow, I can do this, I can lower my heart rate. Like you said, I can control my mind that if I try to meditate, I now notice when it goes out and I have the ability to bring it back. I do know how to focus so… Go ahead.
The other piece that’s really important, and I think that people began to see in a process is how their internal thought really impacts their health and they’re well-being like at a physiological level, and it’s greatly underestimated. Proof says that, something like biofeedback, neurofeedback, is to bring you into very close awareness of those cell changes within your body in response to what’s happening, either in your thoughts, so mainly in your thoughts and emotions that are occurring in it. Because what you’re doing essentially with these technologies is multiplying a signal that may be undetectable to you in everyday life, and you’re magnifying that sometimes even thousands of times to make it a known number, or a known experience to you. Then you began to see how your body changes in very subtle ways to your frame of mind and internal dialogue that you’re having with yourself. Now they have another studies about this. If you think about — I forget the guy’s name who is doing some studies with water and positivity, and there were studies about how food changes if you speak negatively over a food, it will mold and degrade over time and speaking positive — We’ve talked about kind of that whole idea of, woo woo science or woo woo philosophies. Now, science is starting to really approve — maybe we can measure these things.
With regard to the physiology piece, what I would love for you — if you don’t mind, take a minute to talk about the nervous system, parasympathetic, sympathetic, fight-or-flight, and how these responses work and how they can be so reactive and how our stressful life is doing this, in the context of what we’re talking about. I think that helps people too to understand how our nervous system works physiologically, in response to certain stressors or triggers or just an email maybe pinging, and it is very physiological, and this direct correlation between mind body does affect our overall wellness psychologically, mentally, but also like true physical health.
Okay. The autonomic nervous system comprise of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems that we’re talking about. Really measuring and seeing the effects of — I think about it as almost like a gas and a brake system, they kind of needs to be in balance but the parasympathetic nervous system is the braking system. It brings everything back in a homeostasis, and the sympathetic nervous system is a system that is activated when we’re under a threat. Obviously, for reasons of safety and detection of danger, that system is required and necessary within us. But when activated, chronically it has significant and deleterious effects on us, and even mortality. I mean, if you look at — I think the CDC estimates that 90% of diseases are caused and exacerbated by stress. The lack of that braking system and the overly sympathetic activation that people tend to operate in on a daily basis is a root cause for much of what we see and a root cause for the exacerbation of much of what we see in terms of diseases these days, and disease processes. So what ends up happening in the way that I think about it often and explain it to people is that it really needs — your system is made to be flexible and it’s meant to be flexible, that’s when it’s at its healthiest. There’s more overall well-being and there’s longevity in a number of ways. There’s clarity, there’s better restoration, and that’s when your system is flexible. Over time because of how the decisions that we make, the environment that we live in, our level of this coactivity, our nutrition, potential toxins that have been reared into our environment. All of these things begin to create a little bit more of a rigid system with maybe, unhealthy patterns.
Let’s face it, the body and the brain are quite amazing and quite resilient. They will shift into patterns that are unhealthy or more rigid because we’re saying, “I need this of you right now.” I think back to — when I was in graduate school, getting — I don’t know maybe five hours of sleep and up early, and doing research and teaching, and attending classes myself, and I think, “Wow, why did my body not break down?” Well, it did, and really did. I only realize the effects of that once I finished my studies, but it really rose to the occasion and to the challenge of me saying, “Look, I need you to work work work, and I don’t really need you to rest because I can’t afford to rest,” and this is what people do to themselves for a number of reasons whether they love their job, or they just have a very busy life between work and family, or they’re maybe taking care of a sick loved one. You have no idea of what is going on in people’s lives but for a number of reasons it can create this rigidity. Sometimes for many people, this rigidity can come out of just a perspective, or maybe a lack of perspective. If you choose to see the world in this way or in that way, and you don’t allow yourself to consider other perspectives, well then you can create more of a rigidity. You can even see it in the brain. The way that the brain and the body works and patterns can be measured by a number of technologies. You can see less of, one sort of certain brain wave frequency and more of another one, and it can become very characteristic of a person who is either largely anxious or quite depressed, or unable to fall sleep at night. Set a body to manifest in a real physical way that’s detectable, these types of rigidities.
Yeah, and I think it’s so important too. You make such a good point. This happened to me, this part of my big fall, my big break was exactly that, that I was unaware, because I’m so unaware of everything that we’re talking about at the time. As a performer, as an achiever, that’s what the labels I gave myself at the time, I just treated my body like I had no limits. I could push it all the time that I could take on any stress, I could run marathons, trained for Boston, fly all over the country, barely getting any sleep, do these high adrenaline speaking at conferences. I’m in just crazy crazy lifestyle. Mom of two kids, and wife, and all these different roles, and I really was in this mindset that there’s no breaking point, that I can just go like this forever, and they had no connection, no mind body connection or awareness. Until I finally came — it’s funny, my breaking point was right after I give probably the best performance of my life, standing ovation. I thought I’d reach like the total top of the world, and oh my god, this is it, and within 30 minutes, my body gave up, and it just totally gave up. Many months later when I finally started coming in to understanding of a lot of what we’re talking about, and different awarenesses, it’s like, you’re exactly right, my body just kept going and going because I kept asking the question like, “How could I felt so great up until the day that I broke?” It was because I kept, just putting on my body, and my body and my brain were just doing what I demanded of it and just did it’s best and did it all, until finally, it just gave up. Like it was giving me flags and signals but shoot, I wasn’t paying attention, and finally it just said, “Dude, we’re game over. We can’t do anymore. We gave all you asked for and then some, and you didn’t give us a break.” There is a limit. Our bodies and brains are fragile, and it does take this symbiotic relationship between this — you’re all about human performance and that’s what you teach, that’s your business, that’s your technology, it’s really optimal human performance. I think what we’re learning is that through our own anecdotal experience in this very fast-paced lifestyle, and there’s so much opportunity abundance to go after and so many of us are pushing ourselves to the limits. So it’s like, how do we maximize that without going too far? It’s really, I think, learning from a scientific and anecdotal level that we really do have to work on sure optimal performance and achievement, all those things, but how do we counterbalance that with restoration, with bringing people into the parasympathetic? We have to be very thoughtful about that today, because if not, it’s just too easy to fall into this high stress, high adrenal, high sympathetic system that does give — where like you said, very rigid. It becomes our lifestyle, it becomes very rigid and fixed and deeply embedded, that if we don’t have the awarenesses and the practices that help balance it out, probably many of us are doomed for a crash somewhere. Some crashes are recoverable and some aren’t.
Oh yeah. It’s absolutely true. It’s really interesting because — I know this is the case in Germany and Austria. I would have to, maybe do a little bit more research to know what other European countries have this, but over there, they have what’s called burnout. It’s not technically a medical diagnosis, it’s not like an ICD-9 code but what I would equate it to be like a DSM-IV v-code. It is the code of significant distress, but it’s not considered like a disease state or process, but it is called burnout, and there are a number of symptoms related to burnout that are physical and mental. People will have to leave work for a number of weeks to recover from something like this. Of course, we operate very differently here in the states. I think you can argue about having some ability to cover that from an insurance perspective or allow people time off, that can get into conversations of an ailing or something like that, but it is recognized. I think that even because it’s not very recognized here, because people can say, “Oh I am burned out,” or “I need to be better at stress management.” But I’m not quite sure if people actually understand what that looks like and how much of the physical component there is to it other than I’m just — I feel tired.
Yeah, and it’s to start noticing that maybe something’s wrong, something of I am burned-out, so that’s time for a little recovery, whatever that is, and to insert this into our life versus just thinking okay, someday I’ll get around to it or I don’t have the time and just keep pressing and pressing, and something ultimately will break. We’re sacrificing our health one way or another.
I always talk about human performance being, and if you’re operating at a place from optimal functioning or optimal performance, well then, recovery and restoration stays, or just as important as self-awareness and self-regulatory capacities or abilities. They are no less important. I think that it’s been estimated maybe 70 million people have sleep problems. That’s absurd.
What’s funny in now, in some of my coaching calls, that’s one of my first questions, “How’s your sleep?” I would say probably 8 out of 10 people I talked to, which is I think a high number, “It’s not good. I can’t get to sleep,” or “I wake up,” or “I’m up at 4am everyday or 2 o’clock and I always can’t get back to sleep.” But sleep — it sounds like — it tends to be a pretty chronic problem and probably so much going back to our lifestyle.
Let’s move a little bit into some of the technology, because I think that’s what’s really exciting about these times we live in now. It’s scary as hell on one hand, and then it’s very exciting on the other. I think there’s a fine line, it’s a razor’s edge of staying on the more positive side. But the scary side is what technology — so much technology even with where VR is going today and so many just — are computers and mobile devices and HD TV. I mean we’re just constantly bombarded with the technology, the noise, the 24/7 communications, the notifications, the pings. It can be very damaging or unhealthy maybe is a better word, if we don’t have a way to manage that. Even some of the VR, some of that I think, some of the — scary there, technology can replace human connection, and connection with human to human, connection with nature, some of these elements that are so core to our health, our happiness, our overall quality of life. But on the other hand, that’s whole bunny trail we could go down, but on the other hand, what’s exciting to me is the technology that’s at our — it’s accessible now from consumer products to really help us in the biofeedback category like you’re saying earlier, so that we can look at our physiology. We can measure how we’re doing, we can measure baselines and choose some goals for areas of our life in any category of success or wellness, to help us move towards something more optimal. Some of it, it’s more optimal for, maybe more achievement based things or some goals, and some of it might be more restorative that I’m going to measure my heart rate variability, my HRV, to really get more heart centered and to focus on my breathing several times a day, and see how I’m doing.
I’ve done a lot of brain wave biofeedback, to really look at my different brain states, and what I can do to move out of the beta and move more into alpha. Like to your point, be able to notice by watching it if like, wow, and then comparing that to — when I see that show up on the biofeedback screen, I can then compare it to how I feel in that state and start to notice these different changes or sensations, and really realizing there’s this whole different level of experience in our world, our life, our feelings, when we can look at it, when we can see it happening in real time in some sort of measures. So what sort of technology do you see that can be very helpful for helping us reach higher states of human performance, in the category of — not just achievement but just overall wellness?
Well first, I have to say I certainly agree with some of the barriers to seeing technology as more of an answer to some of these issues, because I think for a lot of people, their senses — advances in technology are ruining our lives and maybe creating more stress because it’s just something else that’s bidding for our attention, that I do think that the benefits, honestly, people will begin to see, outweigh the cost. It’s like in anything else, it’s really an issue of choice. Just because it exist, doesn’t mean that it has to be a number one priority and bidding for your attention over family, or over other important aspects of your lives. It’s as simple as putting your phone into airplane mode and easily people will go, “Well it’s not that simple,” but in some ways it kind of is. People have to really make a decision about what they’re priority is, and I think that overall, the benefits of where the technology is going and what people like to call kind of the next generation technologies will be the bridge of teaching us how we can benefit from what it’s going to be, more readily available to us. So the idea of what I mentioned earlier about neuro-wellness kind of this new frontier, and if you think about like wellness digital technology products. Most of these products claim to help us improve our general wellbeing, our emotional health, so there are many meditative apps, if you want to talk about that. Our cognitive health, so maybe prevention of neurocognitive issues later in life, or degenerative issues. General stress reducers, sleep improvement, I think these are the kinds of technologies that wellness or neuro wellness is products that you’re going to see out on the market. A number of them — and you mentioned heart rate variability training.
HeartMath is probably one of the biggest names in bringing the science to the forefront of consumers, and even has a portable heart rate device that an athlete sinks on your phone. Quite honestly, it’s one of the simplest forms of biofeedback with technology that you can take around with you because it’s small, it fits in your pocket, you can access it within a couple of minutes. It ranges. So from something maybe even that simple to doing like a brain wave and to train that with just your headphones, or actually having what we call now, a brain computer interface, which is something that — there are many portable versions of these now that do what you were talking about, and decreasing these very active brain wave frequencies as what we call beta, and helping to augment these alpha frequencies which relate more to a calm, kind of steady or meditative mind state, and also precede good sleep. When people have difficult time sleeping, you will see a lack of that alpha. So it’s very specific what you see happening within the brain and body based on what’s happening with someone and what these technologies do. Many of them, it tailors whatever program to you, and if you think about it, how amazing is that? Because if someone goes to a doctor and says, “Hey, I’ve got this issue,” say they have a sleep issue, and they’re provided with some sort of medication or drug to address that, and help them ameliorate symptoms. That has been — in clinical trials, tested on masses. But even then, it’s not tailored specifically to you. So the fact that these technologies exist and that they’re becoming more readily available to the consumers, some of them quite affordable, and they’re tailored to you. This is maybe a new way of what you might call digital medicine. Other than like Biopharma types of very specific drugs that have hereditary components, that kind of thing, I think that we’re really seeing a tailored medicine of sorts that we wouldn’t otherwise see, because it’s picking up in real time what’s happening with your physiology.
You’re right. You’re exactly right. I think it is such as an important piece. I hope that there’s any takeaway, this is one of them. It really does fit into the quantified self that for us to be more introspective, to set time with ourself, to measure our overall health and happiness components, and to have these baselines. To a point, technology’s making that really easy and affordable today. In many different — across broad spectrum, for example, in 2013 I got really sick and on the verge of dying sick and was right there — it does doer — and so it’s been a journey for me to recover my health back, and really to save my own life. In many instances through just learning about my body and really, this mind body connection of working with my body as crazy as it sounds, it’s healing my body through a lot of mind exercise and visualization exercise, and combined with supplementation and changing my diet and my lifestyle in a very holistic approach.
But the thing is is I had some baseline at the time, those baseline labs done, and I just — this is very recent, because I was with my functional medicine doctor two days ago, so we’re looking at my latest set of labs and we’re comparing where I was two years ago and seeing the journey and seeing the improvement. When it was measured against that and seeing all the measurements against all these different categories, it was very meaningful to see the journey and data, and still there’s still some things I’m working on. I’m not sort of my optimal level of health yet because I was so sick. I still have a couple of things we’re trying to work out, but it’s now we’re cleaning one thing up at a time, and now there’s just — what kind of this last key area. But if I weren’t working with my doctor, I brought the data, I’m looking at it, I’m taking notes, I’m tracking my supplements, I’m throwing things in the app that make it so easy on my iPhone app, to put in all these data points that I can track over time so it’s on my phone. I use HeartMath, so it’s having the heart rate variability and just get very heart centered, and check to see how I’m doing. It’s like a $99 technology and you put it to your phone, and it’s always there with you and it’s so very easy to buy. So, I have them use technology to really facilitate/augment my meditation sometimes, and to be able to track overall just how I’m doing. In the sense like, wow, I feel a lot more stressed now, let me measure that and see if that’s really the case. Well yeah, I’d mock in any birds, what’s going on? Maybe I should shift something here or there, but it’s really cool, and that’s like, I don’t know, it’s a very affordable technology. So there really are these very affordable great technologies hooked up to our mobile devices that when we’re in the mindset of mind body connection, and we want to take some of our own empowerment back and control of our health, and start working, inputting in our lifestyle this desire to be overall healthy and happy and we can use these latest science and technology to facilitate that. It’s just really at our fingertips if we choose to go there.
Oh yeah, I can say I just returned from a conference in San Francisco, the Xtech conference, and it was all about these experiential technologies, and the level of immersion that you can have is honestly mind-blowing. It is mind-blowing, and all of these VR technologies, in addition to some of the other technologies that have existed for quite some time are really maximizing these kind of experiences that you can have. There’s an area called transformative technologies, because that’s really kind of the experience that you’re having. It can be a transforming experience and actually re-shift or shift things and realign things in a way physiologically that otherwise you couldn’t tap into, and you can really see it happening and you can measure it. There’s really interesting work and interesting ideas.
Just prior to the conference, they have what’s called a hackathon, where people kind of lock themselves up for 48 hours and oftentimes, these are young, genius, college kids. They are having — basically a lock-in of 48 hours where they have access to all these software and hardware technologies to build something amazing. Whatever idea they have to write the code and create something that has never been created before. They have this all over the place now, and I’m thinking, when I was younger we have like a lock-in date to eat pizza and popcorn and watch movies. Now, what are kids doing? They’re locking themselves up with a bunch of technology, creating prosthetic arms that respond to shifts and eye movement, or brain wave changes. So it’s pretty great to see creativity that’s entering into this field and expanding it.
Well, I really love the term neuro-wellness, and that there’s so much with the power with the mind, the new science of the mind, the realization of the true mind body connection not just brain, body. Now, with the evolution of technology and where we are today, we really do have this new capacity to take control of our lives, our health, our wellness, and see it, and very affordably, and not have to rely so much on outward opinions. They’re still important, but for us to be very interested in our own self, in our own health, and how to spread that out into the world, I think, will make the world a better place.
Well, we’re reaching at the end of our time, and I could ask you so many more questions because I find your field so fascinating. But, in the neuro wellness side where you and I met, and it was super exciting because like I said early, we met at the Bulletproof conference and you’re working with the pretty fascinating technology called neuromore, and it’s a little bit of VR, and it was such a great experience because as a meditator, consistent meditator, and really focused on mindfulness and these different restored of practices if you will, is that I’d never experienced anything like the neuromore technology which had the visual component in this whole, somewhat VR experience that opened up a whole different, almost. When it came to — I’d say my brain or whatever, a whole different — I don’t know what the word is, but…
Yeah, like in different world. It was really bizarre and awesome and powerful that I want to do more exploration there, because I think what it tap me into was like, wow, there’s a lot more out there that I’ve not been able to connect to yet and there’s something here. So I’d love to — but there was a lot of these imagination pieces and colors, and multi sound and sight and I don’t know, like I said, I can’t even really describe it other than I want more. But can you talk about maybe — maybe there’s even a myth here, but to close this up, is there any sort of — and maybe the neuromore technology sort of part of busting this myth, but i think there’s been this myth that in the sort of the fixed rigid brain and that realities here and now, and sort of this imagination of visualization woo woo stuff really is kind of crazy and woo woo. Is science starting to prove that to be wrong? Like I said, is it a myth that we can’t create our future’s — I don’t know if I’m asking it right, but maybe you can help me there.
Yeah, I think I get what you’re saying and it’s an interesting question, one, because there was a huge push for being present and being in the present. So the idea that now, we might be saying, “Well, let’s just try shifting into, not necessarily the present, but what if we ask you to revisit the past, or to visit the future? What if we enabled you to have more flexibility to take a different perspective on what you want for your life, for your career, how you view your current relationships or your current goals in life?” So it seems contradictory right? It’s good to focus on the present. Well, let’s enable you to focus on the past, the present, or anything in between, or even on a different continuum. One of the things that you were talking about, the VR experience that you had at Bulletproof was neuromore, was something that we built to basically augment a state in a way induce a state if you’re not able to get there. So most people, if you say, “Hey, go meditate.” They’ll sit there for probably two or three minutes. If they’re not practicing meditators they’ll go, “Oh my gosh, I can’t slow my brain down for one minute.” So then what does it do? It creates this moment of failure of “Well, I can’t even sit and quiet my mind for five minutes, how in the heck am I ever going to be able to meditate, or how am I ever going to be able to stop obsessing over the fact that my expectations weren’t met at work today, or with some certain interaction that I had.” But with the technologies available now, we can begin to — almost create a flexibility and allow ourselves to, not necessarily check out of the present, but to engage ourselves in a completely different way, and to lead our minds and our thoughts, and maybe even our will and emotions if that ends up being a consequence of the experience. All because you began to tap into places that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to tap into, because you are changing your physiology on the way. Does that makes sense?
Yeah, it makes complete sense, and that there’s more out there that just because we can’t necessarily see it or it’s not here, hardcore in-front of us, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. I think that’s what the neuromore — I notice that’s really what I left with and again, I’m very eager for more because it produced an experience for me through the technology, that I’ve never experienced before. Like I said, leaving me with this — there’s something else to tap into that I’ve not been able to tap into on my own. So, let’s go with this and see what that next experience is.
I would say for — there’s quite a bit of information out there from anything about — really the background of a lot of these technologies and intentions which has it’s roots and more clinical biofeedback, neurofeedback evidence-based practices that have been used for decades, but just now being applied in new ways that are in a more creative advance technology ways, and to more of, I guess, kind of the layman’s understanding and translation of how this looks to consumers, but for people who are interested in a book that I think really will start to uncover what you were talking about, the myth, is Rhythms of the Brain. It’s a really great book by — I may say this guy’s name wrong — Buzsaki, and he looks at the mechanisms of the brain and how it’s almost the self-organizing entity. I truly believe that’s the case, and so we measure things by what we see and how we understand things to be measured in linear time, and the brain doesn’t do that, instead what I think what we’re seeing at these technologies are ways to uncover how it operates without trying to intervene ourselves, our own will, and we start to see how — once we let it kind of do what it does best, then we actually start to maximize our potential. Then we actually create more flexibility.
Wow. Well, I think that’s a great place to end the conversation. I think that’s a lot of food for thought right there. The brain is — it’s this magical, powerful tool that — I’m not sure, I think we underutilize and there’s a lot more possibility.
Well Ashley, thank you so much and I love, like I said, I really love these new realms that you’re exploring. You as a leader in technology, neurotechnology specifically, biofeedback, and this idea of optimal human performance is such a powerful place to move into. So thank you and I’ll make sure that we put in the show notes the Rhythms of the Brain and link to that book, and make sure that everybody can connect with you, and to learn more about neuromore, and some of the coaching and personal training that you’d be able to help in the field of optimal human performance. Are there any parting words you’d like to share with the audience?
Be good to your brain, wear a helmet. I see so many people riding bikes without helmets. It’s just I want to give everyone a helmet, wear a helmet people.
Wear a helmet, that’s perfect. Alright girl, well thank you so much. I will see you soon. I can’t wait to see you. Thank you.
Okay. Alright, great. Thank you.