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Building a Brain Healthy Community Starts with Motivation

Brain health matters, and it can begin as early as childhood as the brain develops.

Presented by Brain Health Initiative November 12, 2020

The Brain Health Initiative (BHI) is a new, cutting-edge approach to protecting brain health, optimizing brain performance, and fighting brain illness across the life span. The BHI is creating a culture that promotes brain health protective factors and decreases risk factors, thereby improving brain health and optimizing brain performance outcomes for the Florida Suncoast region and beyond. Join the brain health movement, because brain health matters, and lifestyle makes a difference.

We are lucky here on Florida’s Suncoast. Our community is rich with active, engaged citizens who support our individual and community well-being. As the Brain Health Initiative works with the region to build a brain healthy culture that proudly promotes and protects brain health, our success will depend, in part, on motivation: the motivation of our residents and the greater community to increase brain health outcomes, and to work together to achieve the goals of increasing brain health protective factors, fighting brain illness, and optimizing brain performance across the life span.

We also need to be motivated to work together as a community at the best of our potential in order to help the next generation of residents. We need to motivate them so they may flourish in lives where brain span and life span are congruent and where striving for well-being and living a brain healthy lifestyle is considered the norm.

This motivation to move our community forward is housed in our brain and in our mind. It is a complex set of intertwined social and biological factors that influence us to participate actively and productively in all aspects of our lives, and to persevere in the face of challenges and the unknown. The mechanism in our brain that supports these factors begins to develop during childhood, building the foundation for our later, lifelong motivation.

Certain actions trigger the release of chemicals to regions of our brain that connect emotions, memory, and the sensations of pleasure and reward or avoidance and fear. The pathways for those chemicals are established very early in our development. As infants, we are quick to link those actions that bring rewards, and we are motivated to repeat those behaviors.

By understanding motivation, as parents and caregivers, we can support our children by assisting them in building the brain architecture that nurtures optimal development, learning, brain health, life achievement, and community participation. We can encourage their motivation and help them experience the rewards of their actions.

Here are five suggestions for setting your child on the path that leads to being motivated and a strong supporter of living a brain healthy lifestyle and their community and family values as an adult:

  • Let baby take the lead. Babies are naturally drawn to things that are new. Notice what they pay attention to, and engage with them around their interests.
  • Encourage curiosity. Give your baby plenty of opportunities to interact with new objects—and let them lead and learn through all of their senses!
  • Support playtime. Playing with other children is motivating. It represents novel experiences and learning from others. It requires active engagement, and it can strengthen social bonds and reduce stress.
  • Make social interaction a priority. Studies show babies learn more when face-to-face with a teacher or caregiver than when watching a video. Apps can’t replace real-life social interactions.
  • Model living a brain healthy lifestyle. Children learn by observing behaviors, words, actions, and values of those they trust. Guide them by demonstrating the value you place on living a healthy lifestyle. Explicitly and implicitly make brain healthy living known as a core family priority.

The Brain Health Initiative needs your participation!

There’s still time to participate in the Brain Health Initiative Pilot Study. If you received one of the invitations sent to randomly selected adult residents from Lakewood Ranch, we encourage you to complete the online survey. The pilot study examines the ways you function mentally, socially, cognitively, and overall, as well as the factors in your life that present risk or promote resilience in brain health and performance. Community participation is critical to the study’s success.

To learn more about the Brain Health Initiative and to become a Brain Health Champion, visit brainhealthinitiative.org.

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