In the latest episode of the Huntsman World Senior Games Active Life, Kyle and Jeff talk about what effect the seemingly endless interruptions from our smart devices have on our brains. We also visit with performance coach, James Garrett, about the power of the human brain and how we can develop long-lasting healthy habits that allow us to be our very best selves. James also graciously offers free access to his online training course entitled HABITS. This is a $200 value, made available free of charge to listeners of the Huntsman World Senior Games Active Life podcast. To access the course, simply text the word "brain" to 44144.

Go and check it out at The huntsman Wold Senior Games

 

Kyle Case:
Hello, and welcome to the Huntsman World Senior Games Active Life. My name is Kyle Case, and I'll be your host on this amazing journey, as we attempt to help you get the most out of your life. Joining me in the studio today is my co-pilot, Jeff Harding. Jeff, how you doing today?

Jeff Harding:
I'm doing well Kyle-

Kyle Case:
Good.

Jeff Harding:
- and how are you?

Kyle Case:
I'm doing good. I'm doing good. It's a great day-

Jeff Harding:
It is.

Kyle Case:
- to be alive.

Jeff Harding:
In the neighborhood.

Kyle Case:
Yeah, there's all kinds of-

Jeff Harding:
Quoting Fred Rogers.

Kyle Case:
Yeah, I remember him. Mr. Rogers.

Jeff Harding:
Yeah?

Kyle Case:
Yeah.

Jeff Harding:
That's the dude.

Kyle Case:
In fact, one year as a Hero Day in our homecoming week, you know, you have different days where you're dressed up for different themes for the day. We had a Hero Day. I actually dressed up like Mr. Rogers. I had multiple sweaters, and I switched every time I went to a new class.

Jeff Harding:
Did you change your shoes too?

Kyle Case:
I didn't do the shoes. I thought that was getting a little too much. My algebra teacher wasn't down with that, but yeah, I know Mr. Rogers for sure. So hey, Jeff?

Jeff Harding:
Yes.

Kyle Case:
We're gonna move past Mr. Rogers.

Jeff Harding:
How can you do that? But, go ahead.

Kyle Case:
I know, I know. Hey, we live in a digital age.

Jeff Harding:
Talking about moving past Mr. Rogers, Yes.

Kyle Case:
Yeah. You know that. All day long, every day, it feels like we're inundated by interruptions. We have alerts from our phones, our smart devices. They buzz when they want to wake us up.. when we want them to wake us up in the morning. We have emails that stream into our inboxes, all those little bubbles that pop up on our screens. It's everywhere. It's pervasive.

Jeff Harding:
Makes you long for a little analog, doesn't it?

Kyle Case:
Yeah, a little bit, a little bit, I think so, and to some degree, we're kind of used to these interruptions, and in our minds, they probably make some sense, because we want technology to help us with our busy lives. We are busy. We want to make sure that we don't miss important appointments and communications, and just there's some logical sense to how we got to this point. The problem is though, Jeff, this is according to an article that I found in Business Insider, the problem is that our bodies feel differently about it.

Jeff Harding:
And, my mind agrees with my body.

Kyle Case:
Yes, these constant alerts, they jolt our stress hormones into action. For some reason that we're not entirely sure why, but when these notices happen, they ignite our fight or flight response. Our heartbeats tend to quicken, our breathing tightens, our sweat glands burst open, our muscles contract, and that response that we receive, that we get, was intended to help us outrun Saber Tooth Tigers. It wasn't intended to be the response every time we get a text message.

Jeff Harding:
Right, so that's why we should have to go back to 'ding, you got mail'. That was so much kinder and gentler.

Kyle Case:
It was gentler, that's true, but it's the same problem, and when it comes right down to it, we're just not built to live our lives like this.

Jeff Harding:
No.

Kyle Case:
Endocrinologist Robert Lustig says that notifications from our phones are training our brains to be in a near constant state of stress and fear, by establishing a stress/fear memory pathway, and such a state means that the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of our brains that normally deals with some of our highest order cognitive functioning, it basically shuts down. Here's the problem, or here's the reality, our brains can really only do one thing at a time. Now, we like to think, as human beings, that we're multitaskers, right? I can do multiple things at the same time.

Jeff Harding:
Some people do, yeah.

Kyle Case:
Well, scientists have really proven that that's not true. We're not very good at multitasking, no.

Jeff Harding:
No.

Kyle Case:
There are some outlier exceptions, but for the most part, we're not very good at it. That means that every time we pause to answer a new notification, a text message, a voicemail, whatever it is that comes in, we're being interrupted, and with that interruption, we pay a price. It's a price, it's called a switch cost. Sometimes the switch from one task to another cost is very minimal.

Kyle Case:
It takes just a very quick fraction of a second to look over at our phone, but in a day of flip-flopping between ideas, conversations, transactions on our phone, or on our computer, our switch cost can really add up, and unfortunately, it can make us error-prone, because we're trying to do all these things at the same time.

Kyle Case:
So Psychologist David Meyer, who studied this effect, he estimates that shifting between tasks can take up as much as 40% of our otherwise productive brain time.

Jeff Harding:
That's a lot.

Kyle Case:
It makes us just much less productive.

Jeff Harding:
I just choose to ignore my phone most of the time.

Kyle Case:
That's the way to do it, right? Here's the problem though. Every time we switch tasks, we're also shooting ourselves up with a dose of the stress hormone cortisol. You've heard of that one?

Jeff Harding:
Yeah.

Kyle Case:
The switching puts our thoughtful reasoning prefrontal cortex to sleep, and it kicks up the dopamine, which you've also probably heard of?

Jeff Harding:
Yeah.

Kyle Case:
And so that makes the-- That's the brain chemical that's for rewarding, you know motivates the rewarding process [crosstalk 00:05:08] Yeah. So in other words, here's the problem. The stress that we build up trying to do many things at once when we really can't do many things at once makes us sick, and that causes us to crave even more interruptions, which spikes the dopamine, which perpetuates just a cycle. You can see the problem here, right?

Jeff Harding:
Yeah. Yup, yup.

Kyle Case:
The problem becomes the solution, becomes the problem, becomes the solution. It's this spiral-

Jeff Harding:
That spiral.

Kyle Case:
That takes us to a bad place. Lustig says though, that he's not willing to go so far as to say that the devices that we have in our pocket, and in our purse are inherently evil, but they become a problem when we're given free rein to let them interrupt us, tugging at our brain's desire for attempting treats, tricking our brain into always wanting more. His hope, Lustig's hope, is that we find a more socially acceptable boundary for our cell phones. In other words, we used to smoke in buildings, we used to smoke inside airplanes-

Jeff Harding:
You may have, but I never did.

Kyle Case:
Well, I didn't, but-

Jeff Harding:
Okay.

Kyle Case:
People did, right?

Jeff Harding:
People, yeah.

Kyle Case:
Yeah, people did, but that's very socially unacceptable right now, you know, you don't smoke in an airplane. You don't walk into most restaurants and smoke. His hope is that we find a place for our cell phones, where it's not socially acceptable to just constantly be grabbing it, pulling it out, using that screen time, and I think there might be something to that.

Jeff Harding:
Well, I think there are places where it's not socially acceptable, but people still do it.

Kyle Case:
Well, and that's the problem, is that we've made it socially acceptable.

Jeff Harding:
We accept it even though it's not socially, yeah.

Kyle Case:
Yeah, and his goal, his argument is that we find that boundary, and then we kind of-

Jeff Harding:
Enforce it.

Kyle Case:
Well, enforce it.

Jeff Harding:
Send those suckers to jail if they get their cell phone out in church.

Kyle Case:
Wherever it is.

Jeff Harding:
Or, at the restaurant.

Kyle Case:
Or at the restaurant, or while you're in the middle of a conversation with someone.

Jeff Harding:
Or on a radio show.

Kyle Case:
Or on a radio show, whatever it is. Jeff, I think today's guest may actually have an opinion on this.

Jeff Harding:
He may, he may.

Kyle Case:
James Garrett, for over a decade, has been studying and teaching the psychology of success, and unpacking the brain science behind what makes human beings thrive. His goal is to turn academic knowledge about the human brain into practical tools that anyone can use to change their life, or even the world. And James, we've had you on the show before. We're glad that you could come back. Welcome.

James Garrett:
Thank you. I'm so glad to be here.

Kyle Case:
What do you think about the cell phone thing? You're a brain expert, does any of that ring true? Is that what you're seeing in the research?

James Garrett:
Yeah, what you said is spot on. The thing about the way we interact with our digital devices is they're not-- really not designed to help us be well, happy, and sort of thriving. They're designed to hijack our attention.

Kyle Case:
And, that is what they do.

James Garrett:
And, so very practical, so what do you do about that? I want some very concrete things. One of the things that I do on my cell phone is I have an iPhone, and so, I pull up the main menu from the bottom, or from the top, depending on which version you have.

Kyle Case:
Which phone, which version you have.

James Garrett:
And then there's this little icon, it looks like a little moon. You click the moon, and it's a Do Not Disturb function.

Kyle Case:
Beautiful.

James Garrett:
So, that will silence all of your notifications, all those buzzes, and pings, and-

Kyle Case:
Little bubbles that pop up.

James Garrett:
Things that are causing you little bursts of stress.

Kyle Case:
Yes.

James Garrett:
They don't-- They don't-- It doesn't ping you all the time. It doesn't distract you in that way, and for me, it's a total game changer. When I did this, I was shocked-

Kyle Case:
At the difference.

James Garrett:
At how much more focus I had, how much calmer I felt.

Jeff Harding:
So the next great advantage needs to be that when you walk through the door, it does it for you automatically.

James Garrett:
Yeah.

Kyle Case:
Think about it, whether it's your living room, or your place of business, or church or wherever you are, there are no cellphones on.

Jeff Harding:
Your place of business, or church, whenever you walk in, it's a no cellphone zone. It's gone.

James Garrett:
There is a company in San Diego working on that very technology.

Kyle Case:
They probably stole from me. I'm on the radio saying that it was my idea right now, right?

Jeff Harding:
That is right.

Kyle Case:
Awesome. Well, James, we're not really gonna spend all of our time with you talking about cell phones, but I love that idea, that idea of being mindfully aware of what your challenges may be, and then, finding a solution for it, and oftentimes the solution is there. You know, in this case, the technological solution is provided by technology, but I love that. I love that. I know that you spend a lot of your time talking about habits, so let's dig into that just a little bit, and maybe from a holistic standpoint. I think it's very easy when it comes to our health, and wellness, to compartmentalize things.

James Garrett:
Sure.

Kyle Case:
Today I'm gonna do cardio tomorrow, I'm gonna do strength, today I'm gonna ... the next I'm gonna focus on my brain health. It's very easy to compartmentalize, but there is a bigger picture, right?

James Garrett:
There is.

Kyle Case:
And, our brain plays such an obviously pivotal role in this concept of health and wellness, and habits can be such powerful tools in the middle of that. Let's dig into that just a little bit. Let's talk about habits.

James Garrett:
For sure, yeah, so habits are really the foundation of behavior. Scientists estimate that 40 to 50% of our behavior in a given date comes from a place of habits.

Kyle Case:
Yeah, which is a ton.

James Garrett:
It's a ton.

Jeff Harding:
Or maybe higher.

Kyle Case:
Depending on, depending on--

Jeff Harding:
when you're old like me [crosstalk 00:10:30] much higher percentage.

Kyle Case:
Old dogs, new tricks, those kinds of things right?

James Garrett:
Well, I love that you bring that up because these sort of cultural notions we have about human change or behavior change, don't necessarily map under brain science. Let me tell you what I mean. That even that particular phrase, "can't teach an old dog new tricks", ends up being pretty untrue when you look at how our brains work, and lemme just give you a data point on this, they did a study with 57 to 72 year olds and they found that even the 72-year-olds were giving birth to up to 500 to 1000 new neurons every single day in their hippocampus alone.

Kyle Case:
Wow, see, I love that. And I've heard that before, and I maybe have heard it from you, James but we've kind of bought into this idea that once you're old, that everything's sad, your pathways are sad, there's not much you can do--

Jeff Harding:
When you get old you take comfort in that.

Kyle Case:
Yeah and maybe you do find comfort in that. But I love the idea that that is not true, and I'm glad that science has been able to show that, "Hey there's still growth happening, there are still connections happening, there's still learning going on, we can teach old dogs new tricks."

James Garrett:
That's right! No, we really can and part of the problem is that belief is what determines what you do. So you believe you can't change, you won't take the necessary actions to actually create the change. So brains are used dependent.

Kyle Case:
What does that mean?

James Garrett:
It means your brain doesn't care who you are it only cares what you do.

Kyle Case:
Right.

James Garrett:
So if you start forming new positive habits, your brain will literally start rewiring those particular pathways, scientists call this neuroplasticity, so it is reforming those pathways, strengthening those pathways. And if you don't take action, you know whether its an exercise routine in the morning or whether it is meditating for 10 minutes a day or whatever that habit is for you, it just simply won't. Your brain is a use it or loses its principle and so the more you use your brain in a particular way, the stronger it gets. Your brain is just like a muscle, it is just like your bicep.

Kyle Case:
Right.

James Garrett:
So if you work that bicep out again and again and again, it just gets stronger. So the brain is exactly the same, so this is especially true in older age where you know a lot of people are worried about dementia or Alzheimer's or cognitive decline, and what scientist find again and again is that these things are very much delayable and some are arguing preventable.

Kyle Case:
Wow.

James Garrett:
So the biggest differentiator between those who-- There's a lot of factors that play into cognitive decline so it's a complex picture, no question.

Kyle Case:
Right, right.

James Garrett:
But you do have a lot of control over it and the biggest way you have control over it is how much you challenge your brain. So what does this look like practically, well looks like the people with, who have a model of, sort of, positive brain health into old age? They're playing all sort of card games regularly, they have an active social life--

Kyle Case:
Yeah.

James Garrett:
They're exercising regularly. So exercise is one of these things that spur new neuron growth.

Kyle Case:
We know that what's good for the heart is good for the brain. They're so connected, so getting up and walking or jogging, whatever it is that you do for exercise, you're probably thinking, "Oh this is making my heart so strong", and it is, it is great, but its also helping your brain. I love it, I love it. You're listening to the Huntsman World Senior Games Active Life, and we're visiting with brain expert James Garrett.

Kyle Case:
We're talking a little bit about the way brains function and the importance that habits can play into that. Let's talk a little bit more. What are some habits that are positive, that we want to get into, and maybe more importantly that what is how, James, how?

James Garrett:
How.

Kyle Case:
How do you form that good habit? I know how to do the bad habit, we don't need to spend any time on those.

Jeff Harding:
Yeah.

James Garrett:
Well, let me teach this principle called Habit Stacking.

Kyle Case:
Okay.

James Garrett:
It's a really powerful way to build habits. So remember this sentence, "After I blank, then I will blank." So...

Kyle Case:
Okay.

James Garrett:
After I brush my teeth then I will meditate for 10 minutes. After I wake up in the morning then I will go for a walk around the block. After I, you know, sit down at the breakfast table then I will say one thing I am grateful for.

Jeff Harding:
After I eat lunch then I'll have my dessert.

Kyle Case:
And after desserts, I'll have seconds.

James Garrett:
The brain is really good at linking things, so like I'll just call this pairing. And so you don't want-- You wanna stack a new habit, on top of something you're already doing.

Kyle Case:
That you're already doing. I love that.

James Garrett:
And we eat three meals a day, we get dressed, we take a shower, we brush our teeth, we get in our car, we sit down at a desk, we do again our routines are very consistent. So you just wanna stack a new baby habit on top of that. It doesn't need to be big, this is where people get tripped up, they think they need to go exercise for an hour at the gym, that's they're really gonna be serious about their exercise routines. Start with five minutes.

Kyle Case:
I like that idea. I love the idea of tagging it onto something you're already doing, right. Because I think that what becomes really difficult is the starting from scratch model, right? Don't you think-- Don't you agree with that? It is hard to just be like, today's the day that everything in my life changes. Like that's pretty hard to do.

James Garrett:
Yeah, and it's really a recipe--

Kyle Case:
For disaster.

James Garrett:
No, no, no, it's a recipe for failure. 92% of our New Years resolution fail collectively right? And the reason is that we try to tackle too much, too soon. All at once. You know what they have discovered is willpower is a limited resource. It's exhaustible, it's like your cellphone battery. So if you use too much up, you literally run out in a given day.

Kyle Case:
Of willpower?

James Garrett:
Of willpower!

Kyle Case:
I can attest to that, I've seen that in my life.

James Garrett:
So you wanna take those, you know, six new habits that you wanna start January 1st and you wanna do one every 2 months around the calendar. One in January and February, one in March and April, it's a much more spread out and more effective way to deploy your limited mental energy.

Kyle Case:
Now speaking of the New Years resolutions, do you recommend, as you said, say you've got six, you wanna do one every two months. Do you continue the January and February into the next two months or do you take a little break from that one and start a new one. What's your recommendation there?

James Garrett:
No, you do continue it because at that point it's no longer reliant on willpower, it's automatic.

Kyle Case:
It's become a habit, which is what we're talking about right.

James Garrett:
It's become a habit. It's just getting over that hump. And a habit takes an average 66 days to form so you wanna think about two months. If I'm gonna forma new habit I need to do it daily and be a little bit unreasonable about hitting it every single day in those first two months, because it's fragile right. And then at the end of those two months, I can move on to a new habit.

Kyle Case:
I think that makes a lot of sense. I like that, and I've maybe unintentionally done some of these stacking. I saw you do a presentation a while ago, where you talked about push-ups, and I loved that you used that as an example because I've done that before. I'm not doing it as well right now as maybe I'd like to, but when I was doing it at work, every time I stood up for whatever it was, to go to the water cooler, to go to the coffee machine, whatever it was, when I came back I would do some push-ups. Now, I was doing a few more than you recommended two or three, but I was seeing a benefit. So I don't know why I stopped, but I loved that idea of stacking. Every time you stand up, every time you do something, then you add to it.

James Garrett:
It's a good question why we stop.

Kyle Case:
Yeah.

James Garrett:
Part of it's this idea if you want to create a-- You wanna make progress visible. So what I do, I print out a blank calendar, I literally type into google, "Blank calendar", and I click on printacalendar.com and I print a calendar for that month, and every day I do my goal or habit, I put a big X on that day. And so I have, now this wall of calendars that creates this big chain of progress that I can see with my eyes.

Kyle Case:
Yeah.

James Garrett:
And now I don't want to break the chain.

Kyle Case:
Right, and there's something really powerful too, even if for whatever reason, you're sick or it got away from you, whatever, you do break the chain. You can see visually, all these great days, all this success, everything. Because I think it's very easy to fall into the idea of, "Oh I messed up, might as well quit now", right? But if you could look at all those X's, yeah in 30 days maybe I hit 25 of them and you missed 5, our tendency might be to focus on the 5, but if you can see the 25, isn't that powerful?

James Garrett:
It's amazing. And the idea I think here is we all have bad days, just try to make one bad day not turn into two bad days.

Kyle Case:
And if it's two, don't let it turn into three right?

James Garrett:
That's it.

Kyle Case:
Right? You just keep going, you just keep going there.

Jeff Harding:
You know, you always talk about habits if only there were some kind of a course available to help somebody form good habits. If only somebody had something like that out there available, that would be amazing.

Kyle Case:
Wouldn't it though?

James Garrett:
Yeah so I do have a--

Jeff Harding:
That's shocking!

James Garrett:
I do have a whole course-- an entire course on the science of habits, of the skill set of how to build positive habits in your life, and I talked with Jeff and Kyle about this before the show because we like you, as listeners, I actually wanna give that course-- It's a $200 course and I wanna give that course away for free. And so the way to access that course if you just text the word brain, B-R-A-I-N, brain, to the number--

Kyle Case:
Not Brian, but the brain.

James Garrett:
Not Brian, brain. To the number 44144--

Kyle Case:
So we all know how to use texting, very simple, type in the word "brain", text it to 4414--

James Garrett:
No, 44144.

Kyle Case:
Thank you, thank you. 44144 and they're gonna get access to this free course that helps you build healthy habits.

James Garrett:
That's right.

Kyle Case:
That is awesome, thank you so much! That's incredible.

James Garrett:
Absolutely.

Kyle Case:
Is it gonna come digitally? What can they expect?

James Garrett:
That's right, so it is a digital course, so you watch videos, it has exercises for how to apply it, it also has audio so you can listen to it, it has suggested reading, so it's a full robust kind of experience.

Kyle Case:
This is, I think this is incredibly valuable, once again, text "brain" to what's that number?

James Garrett:
44144.

Kyle Case:
Excellent, excellent! Okay, we got just a couple of minutes left. Brain health, habits, 2 minutes. What would you share in 2 minutes, that's the most important thing.

James Garrett:
The most important thing I think is that there's more hope sitting in your brain that you may have realized. We tend to forget how much dormant or latent, or sort of sleeping potential, is inside of our brains. Our brains are so powerful but you have to use it, to access that power.

Kyle Case:
And one of the ways, one of the most efficient and effective ways that we can and do use it, is this development of habits.

James Garrett:
That's right.

Kyle Case:
I love it, I love it. And again, I wanna go back one more time to that stacking concept, because I just think, "what a perfect pathway to success. Every time I do blank, then I'm going to do blank."

James Garrett:
That's right.

Kyle Case:
I love it, I love it. Very very cool. Well, thank you so much, James, for joining us today. Hopefully, we'll get a chance to have you on the show again. One more time, text the word "brain" to 44144 and get access to a free course on how to build habits that can be applied in any area of your overall health and wellness view, from exercise to just, as you mentioned several times, meditating. Whatever it is, whatever changes that you wanna make, it can be done by developing positive healthy habits, and this course will allow you to have some tools to help you do that. Awesome. James, again, thank you so much.

James Garrett:
Absolutely.

Kyle Case:
Jeff?

Jeff Harding:
Kyle.

Kyle Case:
Let's talk about registration for just a second.

Jeff Harding:
Boom, it's gone crazy.

Kyle Case:
Registration for the Huntsman World Senior Games is open and it has gone crazy, well over three thousand. We're coming up on three thousand five hundred registered participants. Our goal for the year will be about eleven thousand total athletes so we're easily a third of the way there. If you are interested in being part of the Huntsman World Senior Games--

Jeff Harding:
And help us reach our goal.

Kyle Case:
And help us reach our goal. And we hope that you're interested! Then now is the time to get registered, get it on your calendar use that motivation to help you really live the active life throughout this entire year. Registration is very easy to do, all you have to do is visit seniorgames.net, click on Register, the process is simple, it's fast, it's secure, before you know it you'll be ready to become one of our more than eleven thousand athletes who will compete this year.

Jeff Harding:
And if it'll help you, you can use our-- What we learned today, you can stack it. After I get up I will register for the games.

Kyle Case:
That's right after you stand up I will register for the games. I love it. The dates for the 29th Huntsman World Senior Games are October 7th through the 19th, so put that on the calendar. Remember to tune in live next, and every Thursday, at 5:30 PM mountain time, on AM1450 or FM 93.1 for the Huntsman World Senior Games Active Life. You can also subscribe to our podcast pretty much anywhere that podcasts are found. Once you've subscribed give us a rating, write a quick review, you can really make a difference in helping us spread the word. You can also find this as well as previous shows right on our website, once again, that website is seniorgames.net. So go and check that out, Jeff, our inspirational quote for today.

Jeff Harding:
I'm ready.

Kyle Case:
Discipline is just choosing between what you want now and what you want most.

Jeff Harding:
Right, that's great.

Kyle Case:
Until next Thursday, stay active, bye everyone.