SMART is a structured program scientifically proven to decrease symptoms of stress and anxiety, and increase well-being, resilience, self-regulation, mindfulness, happiness, and positive health behavior. SMART addresses two aspects of human experience – attention and interpretation.
Research shows human attention instinctively focuses on threats and imperfections. Since a considerable amount of threat exists within the domains of the past and the future, attention inordinately gets engaged in the ruminative mind. The human brain has a default mode (dominated by default network) that hosts mind wandering. Scientists have recently uncovered that we spend half our day with a wandering mind. Excessive ‘dwell time’ in the default mode correlates with symptoms of anxiety, depression and attention deficit.
Human interpretations are guided by prejudices and principles. Invariant rigid biases that one is unwilling to renegotiate despite evidence to the contrary disengage the mind from the novelty of the present moment and increases reward (happiness) threshold. These biases prevent the individual from fully engaging with ‘what is.’
Instinctive functions of the brain and the mind thus lead to excessive thinking, ineffective efforts toward thought suppression, and avoidant response, all predisposing to stress and anxiety.
As a first step, participants develop a pragmatic understanding of the brain processes underlying human attention and interpretations.
The training elaborates on the information about the brain’s default mode of mind wandering where we spend half our day (or more), and the mind’s focus on threats and imperfections. The workshop explores reasons behind the mind’s restlessness and irrationality, and the paradox of thought suppression causing recoil of the same thought. This is shared in a scholarly evidence-based fashion while keeping the format simple, participatory, and fun.
The self-awareness that emerges from these understandings empowers the individual to take the first step toward more fully realizing the potential of their brain and mind.
The program offers two sets of core skills – Engagement and Emotional Intelligence.
Engagement – Positive engagement entails authentic, undistracted and intentional presence. SMART fosters such engagement by training attention, a process that helps you discover greater novelty and meaning in your world. Trained attention finds a deeper, more nurturing connection with people (friends, strangers and loved ones alike), fulfills greater purpose, and helps one direct and sustain deeper focus. Such an attention is flexible, relaxed, yet passionate and purposeful. The outcome of positive engagement is less fatigue, greater creativity and productivity, and a more empathetic disposition.
Emotional Intelligence – SMART offers individuals a disciplined yet flexible focus to reframe their thinking with a more adaptive and pragmatic perspective that is conducive to calm temperament as well as passionate engagement. Such perspective helps enhance gratitude focus, nurture greater compassion, creatively work with ‘what is,’ explore life’s higher meaning, and strengthen forgiveness skills. The result is greater emotional intelligence, which in turn fosters more rewarding relationships, better emotional regulation, and thus enhanced ability to deal with adversity.
The workshop shares application of these skills to daily life, both personal and professional. The program has been tested in ten completed research studies at Mayo Clinic and elsewhere, with the results showing improvement in stress, anxiety, resilience, mindfulness, self-regulation, happiness, and positive health behaviors.