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What our kids can teach us about our brains

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Recently I was delivering a keynote at a conference in Serbia after lunch. Before lunch was an extremely funny and creative leader from a Bank called Sava. He had a fancy title for his keynote, but then said it was more 'lessons from his kids about leadership'. That really got me thinking about what my own daughter reminds me on a daily basis about my brain.

My daughter loves moving around. From the moment she's had her breakfast in the morning and is refueled she is off. She runs and leaps through the living room with boundless energy. She shows us twirls and ballet leaps in the kitchen. She'll even race down the supermarket isles and jump up and down at the other end shouting 'I won, I won'.

Now, I know exercise is good for us. I even enjoy it. But rarely is it a priority above ensuring my daughter has what she needs, my business what it needs and my friends what I want to give them. Having reflected recently though on just how alive it makes her appear, combined with the neuroscientific research I'm going to make it a higher priority.

When you think that exercise increases levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor - which is essential for maintaining healthy neurons and creating new ones - it really is essential.

The other day I took my daughter out shopping and bought her some new skirts (I was a bit fed up of the tired looking peach coloured one that she wore repeatedly as it was closest to her beloved pink). With some tights and other pink articles she was set and I thought we would reduce the occasional morning meltdown when the desired pink item was in the wash. How wrong I was!

When out at the Sea Life Centre with a friend she asked to change her outfit. This had already been agreed with Daddy (I would encourage a different agreement in the future as changing a whole outfit in a toilet isn't the most fun). However, the surprise came when about 15 minutes later she asked to change again. When I explained that wasn't practical the biggest tantrum I've ever seen ensued.

It had been a long day by this point, with heaps of stimulation. The likely scenario was that the new outfits meant a lot to her and that she was mentally fatigued. Her ability to regulate her emotions is still developing at this point in the day was compromised.

When my daughter feels down about something, or when she feels full of joy, she'll often come over to me for a cuddle. Sometimes it will be a huge-arms-stretched around me big energetic cuddle. At other times it will involve her curling up onto my lap, wanting me to engulf her with my arms and body.

Some organizations have a hugging culture. Others not so much. Personally I think that in the future it will become more acceptable. Hugs can reduce social anxiety, reduce stress, lower your risk of heart disease, relieve pain and boost your immune system. All thanks to oxytocin.

So from my daughter this week I have been reminded about the importance of getting up off my chair and moving around some more. Resting so I don't snap at those around me and offering more cuddles!