SMART (Stress Management and Resiliency Training)

A structured approach to enhance engagement and emotional intelligence based on cutting-edge advances in neurosciences.

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Background

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.

Proposal

SMART workshop helps its participants with two closely integrated steps:

    1. The Basics – 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.
  1. The Skills – The program offers two core set of 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 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.

Learning Objectives

  1. Learn the neuroscience and behavioral aspects of human experience, particularly with respect to stress, resiliency, performance and wellness.
  2. Learn practical approaches to enhance engagement and emotional intelligence and thereby decrease stress and anxiety, increase resilience, enhance performance, and improve relationships.

Instructor

The program is taught by Dr. Amit Sood, M.D., M.Sc., F.A.C.P., Director of Research at the Mayo Clinic Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program, and a Professor of Medicine with Mayo Clinic College of Medicine.  Dr. Sood teaches this program to patients, fellow physicians, other staff members at Mayo Clinic, corporate executives and others.  He has held several national workshops to teach this program and has led multiple research studies involving both healthy volunteers and patients at Mayo Clinic and elsewhere incorporating the principles covered in the SMART course.

Plan

  1. Introduction
  2. The Basics

    Stress, Good Bad & Ugly
    Resilience, the four pillars
    The Brain’s two modes
    The Mind’s Imperfections
    SMART Model
    Q&A

  3. The Skills Engagement:

    Engagement and Attention
    Joyful Attention
    Kind Attention
    Emotional Intelligence
    Perceptions, Thinking and Behavior
    Gratitude
    Compassion
    Acceptance
    Meaning
    Forgiveness
    Relationships
    Contemplative Practices

Reference Book

Sood, A. The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living. DaCapo Life Long Books. December 2013

Tuition

SMART is available in two versions: a shorter two hours program and longer full day workshop.
Please email us for details about pricing.

Interested in a SMART Workshop? Click here to contact us.

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