12 Buckets would not exist without the generosity of our volunteer mentors. Our mentors come from many backgrounds and bring with them a wide range of interests, skills and life experiences. But they are united in their shared passion for helping children reach their full potential.
Since mentoring sessions run at various times across several schools, 12 Buckets recognises the need for staff and volunteers to connect with each other and feel part of a team. We also want to equip them with further skills that will enhance their own lives and the children they are working with.
Thus, once a term, 12 Buckets holds a Mentor Development Night, which offers the opportunity to catch up over wine and cheese, hear the latest news and receive input from a guest speaker. The first of these events for 2016 was held on Tuesday, 2 February, when we were privileged to meet Karen Livey, Director of Leadership Keys.
Karen Livey has a background in neuroscience and leadership, and has created simple, but practical techniques to help people 'rewire' their brain. According to Karen, our mind, body and brain come as a 'package deal' and that emotion is contagious. Rather than faking it until you make it, she advocates:
Fake it until you become it.
She then shared a number of tips to see you producing a good balance of the "happy brain chemicals" - specifically, Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin, and Endorphins. These were tips that mentors could use in their own lives as well as passing them on to their mentees.
In the Morning
- Have a big stretch before getting out bed.
- While having your morning shower, enjoy the moment instead of thinking ahead to the day. Singing is a really good way of doing this.
- On the wayto work, avoid listening to the news. Instead, listen to music or uplifting podcasts - anything that will enable you to enjoy the drive.
Try this simple trick: select a pencil in your favourite colour and place it lengthways in your mouth. Your mouth will be automatically shaped into a smile. We dare you to try it for yourself - of just ask our 12 Buckets CEO!
Body posture makes a huge difference to how we are feeling. Slump over in your chair for 1 minute; how do you feel? Now stand up in a 'power pose' for 2 minutes - chest out, hands on hips, head up. What do you notice?
The Danger of Cortisol
Karen Livey explained that cortisol builds up in the body when we face stress and anxiety. If you find yourself snapping at people, then that's an indication there is too much cortisol. Sometimes, you might be able to hold it in while at work but then cut loose upon arriving home, meaning it's those close to you who cop it.
Kept in the body for too long, cortisol can be damaging to the body and organs. But how do we reduce it?
- Laughing can help, even if it's forced laughter.
- Pumping out a happy dance. Being ridiculous is good.
- Exercise. Vigorous exercise and physical play not only helps reduce cortisol, but aids working memory and even tames agression.
Words have Power
According to Karen Livey, social pain and physical pain come from the same part of the brain. Words will impact a person the same as if you punched them. How we say something reflects what is within and therefore our words need to come from the heart.
Dopamine needs to be balanced out by serotonin, which comes from being proud of yourself, and oxytocin, which results from being loved. Trust increases oxytocin levels, with hugs being a short cut to this. Karen describes a study done in an orphanage comparing babies who were hugged with those who weren't shown physical affection. The results indicated a difference in brain development between the two groups.
Karen suggests that if working in an environment where hugs are not appropriate, alternatives can include high fives and handshakes.
Karen finished the evening by comparing our brains to a smart phone. The more apps open, the more quickly a phone battery wears down and the sooner it needs charging. She reminded us to recognise when we need a recharge, and made several simple suggestions particularly relevant in the school or workplace:
- Do not eat at your desk
- Take breaks
- Go outside
- Feed your brain.
Thanks, Karen, for sharing your vast knowledge and practical tips with us. I suspect we will see quite a number mentors and mentees trying out some of these out very soon.
My favourite is the pen in mouth trick. What's yours?