Jill Hewlett - Brain Fitness Authority Toronto - Brain Health and Exercises


This time of year can get quite commercial, with an emphasis on purchasing gift items for friends and family.  While there can be a lot of joy in this experience, it can also be draining– emotionally and financially; vying for parking spots, decision making, waiting in checkout lines.

Also, if you are like me, you may not want or need more stuff that’s just going to take up space.

My real desire is for experiences: getting out there and doing fun, interesting, and creative activities with friends and family. Turns out, this is a good plan; according to the latest research, experiences have longer lasting value than ‘stuff’ and are an ideal gift-giving gesture!

If you are interested in focusing on non-tangible items this holiday season and would like to invest into the wellbeing and brain power of those nearest and dearest, then spending quality time, doing things you mutually enjoy, may be a priceless solution. 

Best of all, rather than giving people more ‘things’ they really don’t need, you will be gifting them with something more crucial…their ‘essential’ needs.

You have probably heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs, right? It’s a motivational theory in psychology comprising of a five tier pyramid model of human needs.

Basic survival needs such as food and shelter are at the base and are mandatory before we can seek any higher level of self-actualization. This makes sense — ever been ‘hangry’? It’s impossible to think clearly (never mind cleverly) when one is fatigued, famished, or fearful.

Between survival and self-actualization is the ideal operating space for learning, healthy living, and leadership.

This is where you can access your SMART STATE – higher order thinking and executive functioning skills, such as planning, decision making, problem solving, innovation and creativity.

Did you know that in order to get there, you must not only feel safe, you must also have a sense of belonging and know that you matter?

Belonging, and Mattering are essential to your brain and your ability to perform at work, at home, and in life overall. While they may not be necessities for surviving, they are crucial to thriving. Without these essential keys you can’t access your Smart State zone, which means you can’t think, perform, innovate, engage, be agreeable, or move forward effectively.

Safety is being in spaces where we know our well-being won’t be compromised, so we can actively participate, take risks, stretch, and grow. Ask yourself, is it safe to take risks, try new things, go out on a limb (figuratively) in your classroom, home, or workplace?

Belonging is being where we feel and act as a cohesive tribe: we are all equal and rowing in the same direction, supporting each other to reach our goals. Do you feel a sense of belonging in the environments in which you spend your time?

Mattering is being in situations where each of us contributes individually in a unique way. We all make a difference, and we’re appreciated and acknowledged for it. Does your learning environment, family setting, or company culture do this?

Your sense of safety, belonging, and mattering happen in real time, with real people.

The greater the feeling of Safety – mentally, emotionally and physically, the more you show up, the more risks you are willing to take.

The greater the feeling of Belonging – that sense of connection with others, and feeling that we’re in this together, the more cooperative, compassionate, and caring you will be.

The greater the feeling that we Matter – knowing that you make a difference and you are an important contributor, there is greater success of the whole – in relationship, families, teams, and companies.

In every communication, in every exchange, in every conflict, you are either reinforcing or looking for Safety, Belonging and Mattering. It’s a primal coding that has been with us since the beginning of time as Homo Sapiens roaming the earth.   There is nothing you can do to erase or override this subconscious programming.

To truly be effective parents, teachers, and leaders, we must behave in ways that have our children, students, and employees feel that they are Safe, that they Belong, and that they Matter. This will gift everyone with the opportunity to be their best and to excel in their endeavours. Isn’t this the greatest gift of all?

If you are looking for gifts that are not material in nature this holiday season, setting the intention to create experiences and environments where Safety, Belonging, and Mattering are the norm could very well be the BEST gift you could give someone — and, of course, you will benefit, too.

To your Essential Needs,