What Is Brain Health Coaching


This is a question I get all the time. 

“Brain health coaching is a combination of multiple systems. It combines health coaching, knowledge of personal training and nutrition, as well as behavior change in order to get someone into their ideal cognitive or mental state.”

Individuals may be looking to optimize general brain function or eliminate a specific problem (cognitively, psychologically, or physiologically) that they’re having.

Now, there’s a lot out there in terms of “brain-optimization options”. You may be a health coach, a personal trainer or someone who engages with health professionals. Maybe you’re a life coach or executive coach wondering how this can apply to you. Let me begin by explaining the different ways brain health coaching can help an individual.

How Does Brain Health Coachig Work?

It’s important for someone to be able to explore all the options for brain health out there. When I say brain health, I mean a specific problem or general optimization of the central nervous system. We might also use phrases like “cognitive optimization” or “brain training”. 

We have personal trainers for the body that help us get a physical outcome, whether it be less pain, less weight, more muscle, more power or sports specific goals. 

We also have nutrition coaches, nutritionists, and dietitians that can help us get a physical, physiological, or even cognitive goal with nutritional methods. This involves planning, behavior change, mindful eating, micronutrient, and macronutrient selection. 

Can personal training and nutrition help you with how you feel mentally? Absolutely! In fact, that’s a lot of what the brain health coach leans on, but there’s also a whole field within cognitive optimization of brain health. This includes niche specialities such as “Nutritional Psychiatry”, Cognitively-Enhanced Exercise and Physical Activity, and technological interventions such as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) and Neurofeedback.

Body-Based, Brain-Based, Environment-Based

If you’re looking to overcome depression or anxiety, what combination of approaches is most effective? Brain health coaching takes the goal of the individual, and uses the appropriate combination. We organize this into:

  • Body-based
  • Brain/Mind-Based
  • Environment-Based

For example, a lot of people come to me with attention issues. In today’s world, this can be extremely hard to achieve due to constant exposure to media and the requirements for optimal productivity. 

Whether you play a sport, you’re an entrepreneur, a CEO, a weekend warrior or someone looking to get more attention, this is vital to success and happiness. So how would I help someone as a brain health coach who wants to improve attention?

Bottom-Up

First I would look at their bottom-up factors (body-based).  This may include things like their breath, sleep, diet, and exercise to see how that might affect their brain based on research. 

Top-Down

I would also look at top-down factors (brain-based) such as their mindset; are they doing any meditation, do they keep a gratitude journal, do they see a therapist or engage in some sort of alternative therapy (talk-based, body-based or technology-based). 

External-In

Finally, I want to understand external-in (their environment). I would look at things like their workplace, home life, commute, exercise environment, and relationships.

Results-Based Strategies

After assessing these different areas, I would take the positives and negatives of all those components and identify what they’re doing well that will contribute to good attentional resources in their brain. I would then look at what’s not going so well and determine what could help them achieve a certain level of attention? 

An obvious example would be lack of sleep or poor sleep quality. If you don’t get enough sleep, your executive function and cognitive processes might not work as well, so getting better sleep would be a great option. Digging deeper, how can this individual achieve better sleeping habits?

Maybe they come to you saying they have tried meditation, diet, self-massage before bed, and nothing has worked. Maybe you analyze that they are experiencing an activation issue (their brain is not allowing them to get rest and it’s going too fast). 

Focusing on diet, sleep, or exercise (which might help) isn’t going to efficiently move the needle. That’s where I might refer them to an individual that specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy or a neuro-feedback specialist. I might recommend to them a consumer-based neurofeedback device or biofeedback device.

Well, what if it’s neither a top-down or a bottom-up problem that’s really gonna move the needle for their attentional resources? I might look at the external factors – their environment. What’s their light exposure? How much screen time do they have? What does their work environment look like? Are they always multitasking? Are they constantly bombarded by different people, tasks, and projects? What’s their home life look like? Is it stressful? 

Do they need coping strategies? Maybe they need some coaching on how to augment that relationship in their home so that they can have better attentional resources through less stress. If these things aren’t within my scope as a brain health coach, I might refer them out to a licensed marriage family therapist for example.

I might just coach them in their environment on how to get less light exposure at night and create more of a dark environment so they can have better neurochemical responses, therefore, better sleep.

Behavior Change & Habits

The real coaching comes into place when we reinforce strategies, behaviors, and techniques. So let’s say the strategy that really works for them is meditating right before bed, but you tell them to do it and you never talk to them again. They would most likely not practice this on a regular basis.

Instead, we incorporate different aspects of behavior change and habit creation in order to increase consistency. Only then can we allow them to actually get results with their attentional resources. Maybe instead of attention, they’re looking for more energy levels. Maybe they’re looking for better decision-making or controlling their impulses. Maybe they’re just looking to help with their anxiety, depression, or a mental disorder/condition they have. 

So for example, if you have anxiety, you would come to a brain health coach and say:

“I’ve already seen a therapist, I’ve done cognitive behavioral therapy, I meditate, I’ve tried neurofeedback, I have a great home and work environment, but it can get a little stressful at times, and I do high-intensity exercises 6 days per week.” 

Well, high-intensity interval training can be highly beneficial and any exercise is better than no exercise, especially when it comes to cognitive function of the brain. But let’s just hypothesize that doing high-intensity interval training, six times a week is actually too much of a fight or flight response for your nervous system and can manifest into anxious symptoms. 

The real coaching comes into place when we reinforce strategies, behaviors, and techniques. So let’s say the strategy that really works for them is meditating right before bed, but you tell them to do it and you never talk to them again. They would most likely not practice this on a regular basis.

Instead, we incorporate different aspects of behavior change and habit creation in order to increase consistency. Only then can we allow them to actually get results with their attentional resources. Maybe instead of attention, they’re looking for more energy levels. Maybe they’re looking for better decision-making or controlling their impulses. Maybe they’re just looking to help with their anxiety, depression, or a mental disorder/condition they have. 

So for example, if you have anxiety, you would come to a brain health coach and say:

“I’ve already seen a therapist, I’ve done cognitive behavioral therapy, I meditate, I’ve tried neurofeedback, I have a great home and work environment, but it can get a little stressful at times, and I do high-intensity exercises 6 days per week.” 

Well, high-intensity interval training can be highly beneficial and any exercise is better than no exercise, especially when it comes to cognitive function of the brain. But let’s just hypothesize that doing high-intensity interval training, six times a week is actually too much of a fight or flight response for your nervous system and can manifest into anxious symptoms. 

Summary

A brain health coach might pair different interventions together such as a cognitive stimulus achieved from something like brain training, and a physical stimulus achieved by aerobic exercises. For example, cognitively enhanced physical activity is shown by research to improve executive function better than aerobic activity, physical activity, or mental activity alone. 

By combining them together, we have an augmented effect. Now going back to the client with anxiety, what if we combine a cognitive behavioral therapy technique as we work with a cognitive behavioral therapist (cognitive reframing, cognitive reappraisal) and combined it with a body-based therapy like breath work?

This would be far more powerful than applying them separately. I may teach them separately and then combine them for a more powerful effect. So, a brain health coach is inclusive to other therapies and other approaches. They are science-based and are included for a specific reason at a certain time.

By “stacking” interventions, either from the environment, top-down, or bottom-up processes, we can have a more profound effect on the individual’s goals. This can save time, money, and eliminate the confirmation bias of adopting a singular method.

That’s what a brain health coach does and a snapshot of what Brain Health Coaching is.

Need a Brain Health Coach?

When you come in with a certain goal, we pick the resources and strategies that makes the most sense for you. We then use behavior change or habit change to accomplish your goal. If you’re looking for a brain health coach, we certify coaches that you can work with directly either inside of or outside of SomatIQ. Click here to schedule your free Brain Check call.

Want To Become A Brain Health Coach?

Within the brain health coaching system, we are working off of evidence. This requires that we read a lot of books, do a lot of research, talk with a lot of professionals and experts in their field, aggregate all the information, and organize it.

If you are a health professional looking into adding brain health coaching to your skill set, you can reach out to me directly here, and/or sign up for the brain bullets newsletter to stay up to date.

SIGN UP FOR MY BRAIN BULLETS NEWSLETTER


Leave a Reply

Be the First to Comment!

avatar
  Subscribe  
Notify of