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“Focus occurs when we eliminate all other options and concentrate on one.” With Natalie Hardie

Focus occurs when we eliminate all other options and concentrate on one.Creating a habit of being organized is crucial.Disconnecting from technology as well as using a space that is designated for work and creativity are also great habits to adopt. As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, […]

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Focus occurs when we eliminate all other options and concentrate on one.

Creating a habit of being organized is crucial.

Disconnecting from technology as well as using a space that is designated for work and creativity are also great habits to adopt.

As a part of our series about “How Anyone Can Build Habits For Optimal Wellness, Performance, & Focus”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Natalie Hardie, an award winning holistic mental health practitioner, keynote speaker and director of NH Neuro Training, an organisation which specialises in consultancy and training on the neural and cognitive mechanisms which underlie behaviour.

Natalie is renowned for her eloquent style of creative non-fiction writing on neuroscience and mental health.

Natalie is a prominent and influential leader in the alternative education sector, with an expertise in reducing school exclusions.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I grew up in a close knit family in which education was paramount.

I was always encouraged to read. I enjoyed immersing myself into non-fiction literature.

My Dad gave a book from the series how my body works — I was hooked!

Being exposed to the underlying mechanisms of my body; I was mind blown, fascinated beyond measure and waited in anticipation for a new topic release every fortnight.

In school I excelled academically and was always determined to be a high achiever.

I remember feeling bewildered to receive a lower grade than I had expected and challenged the teacher by writing a detailed breakdown of the grade boundaries. I stated citations from the assessment manual which supported my reasoning of why I qualified for a higher grade. Impressed with the lengths I had gone to; the teacher agreed to change my grade.

I was always full of determination!

I went on to formally study Psychology, English literature and Science.

I took a keen interest in the biological basis of behaviour; especially psychosis.

What or who inspired you to pursue your career? We’d love to hear the story.

Despite having studied mental health; my true calling came when I was due to attend a hospital appointment.

I got out of the elevator onto the incorrect floor, onto what I now know is the acute inpatient ward.

I remember my brain being engulfed with numerous questions about mental health and the possible imbalances within the intricacies of the human brain.

One question specifically being — what triggers the transition from mental wellness to mental illness? I was genuinely fascinated and my inquisitive journey into mental health was well and truly on its way.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Was there a particular person who you feel gave you the most help or encouragement to be who you are today? Can you share a story about that?

I grew up with an amazing support network within my family.

The women in my life were both hardworking and focused.

My grandmother and my mother assisted in moulding me into who I am today, they instilled the concept of working hard and not being afraid to step out of my comfort zone.

They constantly elevated me, expelling my self- doubt by reaffirming my strengths and limitless capabilities.

Never underestimate the power of words, the words of my mother and grandmother literally spoke blessings into my life which has made me the woman I am today.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting mistake that occurred to you in the course of your career? What lesson or take away did you learn from that?

After a year or so of anonymity on my social media accounts; someone booked onto a mental health first aid course with me and arrived astonished that I was a woman; they said that they expected to see a male professor! It was very humorous!

I think the lesson in that situation was one for them!

The road to success is hard and requires tremendous dedication. This question is obviously a big one, but what advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?

I would advise them to ensure that they are doing something which they are passionate about. They should only do work that they sincerely and avidly believe in.

They should never stop learning and relearning. Learning is a lifelong process.

They must invest in themselves, read more, enhance their skills and expand their knowledge.

Embrace their mistakes and utilise intentional time to decipher valuable lessons from their mistakes. It is crucial that they surround themselves with good people who will encourage and support their vision.

Keep current, read expert blogs, know the latest trends, find a niche in their industry and own it; attention to detail is paramount!

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I’ve read so many inspiring books, but one that has always stuck with me is: Strangers to Ourselves by Timothy D Wilson.

This book made a significant impact on me as it offers a compelling tour of the unconscious mind; it unravels its power and sophisticated mental processes; at the same time in which we are consciously thinking of something else!

This book resonated with me as it offered hope and encouragement.

If you desire to change an aspect of your adaptive unconscious, you can do so by making intentional changes; deliberately conducting yourself like the person you want to be.

The evidence presented in this book challenged both my self-perception and my introspection. The choices we think are primarily driven by our rational mind are actually underpinned by a vast amount of activity below the surface of our conscious mind.

Can you share your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Why does that resonate with you so much?

I have always particularly liked “You can’t go back and change the beginning, but you can start where you are and change the ending”.

The optimism of these words offers a clear sense of hope. It reminds us that no matter what happens; we must take charge of our present and our future.

The past is out of our control, but the present and the future are within our control. Therefore, success, happiness, achievement and emotional healing are ours to embrace.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?

I’m currently working on research into youth mental health and school exclusions. As school exclusions continue to soar — young people with mental health difficulties are more likely to be excluded. Prompt access to effective early intervention for young people experiencing poor mental health may improve both their mental health and access to education whilst avoiding the negative trajectory that accompanies school exclusions.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. This will be intuitive to you but it will be helpful to spell this out directly. Can you help explain a few reasons why it is so important to create good habits? Can you share a story or give some examples?

Your life is essentially the sum of your habits. We are what we repeatedly do therefore it is vital that we create good habits.

Majority of the time our habits are created unconsciously and executed automatically, however our habits can be intentionally cultivated.

Consistently adopting good habits will help to strengthen neural pathways in our brain ensuring our good habits become our primary choice.

Creating good habits are the foundation for achieving our goals, the more consistent we are the more likely we are to accomplish our goals.

Developing good habits can serve as a form of motivation as it creates routine which can establish good time management.

The brain hardwires everything that we repeatedly do, so implementing good habits is a prerequisite to success.

A few good habits to incorporate include waking up at least an hour earlier than you need to. Use the time to focus, say your affirmations and set your intentions for the day ahead. Then create a plan to ensure you use your time productively throughout the day.

How have habits played a role in your success? Can you share some success habits that have helped you in your journey?

Top of my list has to be paying attention to detail, it really matters! It is what sets you apart from everyone else. I view the quality of my work as a reflection of me which in turn affects my reputation.

I am highly organised, I create a daily detailed plan to ensure I achieve everything needed for the day.

An indispensable habit which has also helped in my journey is daily positive self-talk. Sometimes things can become psychologically strenuous and we can feel dismayed, so it is important for me to speak positively regarding myself, my capabilities and my limitless power. The conscious refining of my words to accurately support my goals has been pivotal in my journey.

Speaking in general, what is the best way to develop good habits? Conversely, how can one stop bad habits?

The best way to develop good habits is to commit to the decision by being consistent.

Small specific actions which already fit in with your established routine are more likely to become habitual.

Continue to practise persistently regardless of how many times you fail; your consistency is key to breaking old habits and solidifying new neural pathways.

Your brain has to override default wiring in order to implement a new habit, so it is easier to replace a habit, rather than attempting to eliminate an old habit.

Neuroplasticity enables the creation of new neural connections and also the removal of unnecessary connections. If we are intentional and consistent in revaluating our thinking and behaviour; our habits can assist to create productivity and success.

Let’s talk about creating good habits in three areas, Wellness, Performance, and Focus. Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimum wellness. Please share a story or example for each.

Habits that can lead to optimum wellness include physical activity.

Exercise can help to increase cerebral blood flow which exposes your brain to more oxygen and nutrients which is needed for optimum wellness.

Sleep is also an important factor to achieving optimum wellness, a good habit to create is ensuring that you are getting adequate quality sleep each night for around 8 to 9 hours.

Creating good nutritional habits such as incorporating whole foods, probiotics and super greens into your diet can lead to optimum wellness. Food is fuel for the body and good nutritional choices can help to support our mental health and wellbeing.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

In order to create good sleeping habits you can limit the amount of caffeine you consume in the day and avoid screen time an hour before you go to sleep.

If you are in an office environment or working from home, incorporate physical activity by ensuring you are away from the screen for five minutes in every hour.

If you struggle to eat adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables; start the day with a smoothie consisting of green leafy vegetables, nuts and fruits.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal performance at work or sport? Please share a story or example for each.

Setting deadlines for your tasks at work is a good habit as this will ensure you maximise your time and enhance your productivity. This helps to add an element of accountability whilst creating a visual representation of how efficient you are.

Managing your energy is imperative to your performance. Being aware of when you are most alert and when your energy peaks will allow you effectively manage your time to be aligned with your energy.

Establish frequent breaks within your working day to recharge and rejuvenate your mental state and reduce stress.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

After you have set your intentions for the day, write down what needs to be achieved and assign a deadline for each task.

If you fail to meet a deadline, you should reassess what needs adjusting in order for your time management and performance to be more effective.

Practise mindfulness to understand and reconnect with your body, paying attention to what is occurring in the present moment. This will facilitate in managing your energy so that it is harmoniously aligned with your required performance.

Can you share three good habits that can lead to optimal focus? Please share a story or example for each.

Focus occurs when we eliminate all other options and concentrate on one.

Creating a habit of being organized is crucial.

Disconnecting from technology as well as using a space that is designated for work and creativity are also great habits to adopt.

Can you help explain some practices that can be used to develop those habits?

In order be more organised you can create a plan of what activities are required to achieve your goal. This helps to ensure that your time is used productively which makes your goal more likely to be achieved.

To help disconnect from technology you can place your phone in a different room or switch it onto airplane mode. Focus means dedicating your time to doing one thing — so constant alerts on your phone will only serve as distractions.

To create a dedicated working space for optimal focus you need a purposeful environment that promotes mental freedom — the colour, amount of natural light and temperature are all factors to be taken into consideration.

As a leader, you likely experience times when you are in a state of Flow. Flow has been described as a pleasurable mental state that occurs when you do something that you are skilled at, that is challenging, and that is meaningful. Can you share some ideas from your experience about how we can achieve a state of Flow more often in our lives?

A state of flow is more likely to occur when the activity is aligned to your skills and expertise. So choosing an activity which you enjoy and are good at is fundamental as sustaining a state of flow requires you to actively enjoy the process.

The mesolimbic dopamine pathway is important in the state of flow. Our reward system is involved with our motivation helping to keep our attention in the present, submerged into the activity which is intrinsically rewarding. The activation of the reward system will help to strengthen our habits which increase the likelihood of achieving a state of flow more often in our lives.

You can achieve the feeling of elation when your imagination and focus creates effortless momentum by being intentional. Make a conscious choice to dedicate quality time to achieve a state of flow.

It is important to eliminate or minimize distractions, creating a dedicated calm space.

Do not try to multitask; put all your concentration and focus into the single activity. If you lose concentration you will disrupt the state of flow.
Do not overly concern yourself with the outcome, this will allow you to live in and enjoy the present moment.
If you are consciously doing all of this yet are still struggling to experience the state of flow; take some time to be conscious of your energy, mental state and emotions.

Emotional dysregulation can affect the likelihood of you achieving a state of flow.

Ok, we are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I would love to inspire a movement where we focused on nutritional healing.

Enhancing our cognitive abilities by consuming whole foods designed to support our brain functions and wellbeing.

We are comprised of elements; remnants of stars and massive explosions in the galaxies. Eating foods which support and enhance these elements would help us to function at our most powerful level!

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them 🙂

Top of my list would have to be Michelle Obama, she is a true modern day revolutionary woman who takes practical steps to make social changes for causes close to her heart.

I would love to enjoy some breakfast whilst discussing her reach higher initiative.

I would also squeeze in some lunch with Dr Joe Dispenza, his passion for epigenetics and neuroscience is quite phenomenal!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Find me on social media platforms @nhneurotraining

Thank you for these really excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success.

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