Dr. Andrea Furst: “Shake up your clever, but lazy brain”

Shake up your clever, but lazy brain: our brains like patterns and trends to conserve energy — so to make behavioural change you will have to direct your brain to dedicate the effort and work required to achieve your goals. As a part of my series about “5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”, I had […]

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Shake up your clever, but lazy brain: our brains like patterns and trends to conserve energy — so to make behavioural change you will have to direct your brain to dedicate the effort and work required to achieve your goals.


As a part of my series about “5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr Andrea Furst.

Dr Andrea Furst’s experience working with World and Olympic Champion teams and individuals from a variety of sports has meant she has been ‘in the corner’ for some incredible highs, and some woeful lows. She’s malleable, resilient, honest, and herself a high performer.

Specifically, Andrea has been involved in five Olympic and Paralympic Games campaigns (2004, 2008, 2012, 2016, 2020/21), with Great Britain women’s hockey, Australian sailing, sprint canoe-kayak, 100m hurdles, long jump, triathlon, as well as Singapore sailing and swimming, combined with consulting for Singaporean and Australian state and national sporting organisations, schools, private academies and individuals, has provided decades of experience improving performance and mental health, for an enormous range of athletes in team and individual sports.

A new survey by Gibsons — the British jigsaw puzzle and board game company — shows how elite athletes from the worlds of tennis, hockey and rugby are turning to performance-enhancing jigsaws to unwind.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the story about how you first got involved in fitness and wellness?

I grew up on a farm in rural South Australia and my parents were incredibly sporty. Living in the country sport is often the central activity and it definitely was for our family. I played tennis and swam in the summer and played netball in the winter. However, it wasn’t just sport, it was keeping fit and healthy. My first memory of fitness and wellness was when I was around 6 or 7 years old and participating in 1980’s aerobic classes taught by one of the mums from a neighbouring farm. There were leg warmers! And, quite a bit of ‘Beat it’ by Michael Jackson!! Also, I used to drive our car up our driveway, which was approximately 2.5 kilometres while my mum ran alongside. Mum would also make us banana smoothies with eggs and Sustagen on the morning of tennis or netball. This was in the early 80’s! I had great role models when it came to fitness and wellness.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

This is a really hard question…

The ‘best’ part of my job is being fully integrated into the team surrounding an individual athlete and/or a team of athletes and then being present at the world’s biggest events in their sporting calendar. Two examples would be (1) The Open Championship in 2017, often referred to as The Open or the British Open, the oldest golf tournament in the world, and one of the most prestigious; and (2) the Olympic Games in 2016 for hockey.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

This is an easier one… It wasn’t when I first started out — it was about 4 years into my professional career as a sport psychologist. I was caddying for one of my professional golfers at the British Open Qualifying event at Sentosa Golf Club in Singapore. We were on the third green and I went to tend the flag. The flag was stuck and I was using my left hand (non-dominant) to lift it out. However, it was a not budging so I started to twist it slightly. As I did so, I was causing grass around the hole to lift. Very quickly the caddies and players in the group were shouting at me to stop. We then had to get the rules officials to come to the hole to ensure that there had not been significant damage to the hole. This meant all of the groups behind us had to wait. When my player went to take his put, all that I could do was pray that the green had not been effected to influence his putt! I didn’t want to be the reason for sub-standard performance, I was meant to be helping his performance!! Luckily, it did not and we all walked off the green having a good laugh about it. We still laugh about it when we see each other.

Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?

I am unsure if I am an authority in the fitness and wellness field… I have 20 years of practical experience working as a sport psychologist with elite athletes from all different sports, ages, cultures, countries. My authority would include being an applied, hands on psychologist with elite athletes in high performance environments, travelling internationally.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Dr June Canavan was a Sports Physician in one of the first sports medicine clinics that I worked out of in private practice. She was a doctor who was passionate about the psycho-social aspect of athlete health and well-being to perform at the highest level. I learnt a lot from her in the time I worked alongside her. She unfortunately died in a plane crash in 2009 however her ways of working have stuck with me.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, exercise more, and get better sleep etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?

Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman — It was introduced to me while I was an intern at an army aviation centre in Australia as a clinical psychologist. It cemented my approach as an applied practitioner with very practical ways to learn to change or fine-tune your thoughts and provided the stimulus for more research into optimism, which I did in my PhD dissertation.

Can you please share your “5 Non-Intuitive Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”? (Please share a story or an example for each, and feel free to share ideas for mental, emotional and physical health.)

  • Train your mind like a muscle: adopt the same approach to training your mind as you do your body’s muscles. Take the time to learn about yourself and your mental approach, to then enable the improvement to your mental skills.
  • Shake up your clever, but lazy brain: our brains like patterns and trends to conserve energy — so to make behavioural change you will have to direct your brain to dedicate the effort and work required to achieve your goals.
  • One. Thing. At. A. Time: slow your thoughts down by focusing and engaging on one task at a time, multi-tasking typically results in a very busy, exhausted brain!
  • And breathe: learn how to breathe effectively as breathing techniques will give your mind something to focus on and in turn, relax your mind and body.
  • Be present: find activities to be fully engaged in, such as jigsaw puzzles as they can help quieten the mind and be in the present moment. When your attention is on shapes and pieces, rather than split every which way, it creates a calming effect and can help reduce stress and anxiety.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

Learned Optimism by Martin Seligman — It was introduced to me while I was an intern at an army aviation centre in Australia as a clinical psychologist. It cemented my approach as an applied practitioner with very practical ways to learn to change or fine-tune your thoughts and provided the stimulus for more research into optimism, which I did in my PhD dissertation.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I have a couple that are floating around in my mind…

Minimize the need to compare in a self-destructive manner. This would mean some serious changes to the world of social media and the way humans use social media.

Reduce smartphone use. The human race has gone nuts on the use of smartphones — limiting the ability to being present with the world we live in — relationships are being affected as is our ability to take in the natural world around us.

Develop a greater sense of responsibility for the communities we live in — how people can start to ‘look up and around’ a little more vs be so concerned with their own lives.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“The harder you work, the luckier you get.” I had this quote pinned to my notice board throughout my postgraduate studies and at least the first five years of developing my private practice. It was also very similar to the mentality instilled in me by grandparents and parents.

What is the best way our readers can follow you online?

I have a few social media channels that I irregularly post to:

Instagram: @drandreafurst

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/drandreafurstsportpsychologist/

Twitter: @AndreaFurst

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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