A Day withThe Yes Brain

Despite horrendous traffic and the occasional shifting of the earth, living in the Los Angeles area has it’s perks.  One of those is proximity to UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center.  This past Saturday I was lucky enough to spend the day taking a MARC workshop from my professional (and now personal) hero Dr. Daniel Siegel and is oft coauthor, the inspiring Dr. Tina Payne Bryson.  The workshop was entitled The Yes Brain, coincidently (not at all coincidently) the title of their new book.

Let me start by saying that I was nerding out in a big way about seeing Dr. Siegel in person.  I have read so many of his books (although he seems to write them faster than I can read them) and listened to even more of his talks online. I have used his “handy” model of the brain in more sessions than I can begin to count.  More than anyone else, this man has influenced the way I practice therapy.  And, if you recall, which of course you do because you are a faithful reader of my little blog here, I wrote my first blog post (which became my second when I decided to introduce myself first) about his book Parenting from the Inside Out.

Even with all of the build up of meeting my hero, this workshop did not disappoint.

The workshop was a synopsis of the book and was for everyone, not just for professionals.  Dr. Siegel and Dr. Bryson had such a great rapport, which made the talk feel like a conversation.  Dr. Siegel is the consummate expert at explaining the neurobiology in an accessible way, and seeing him demonstrate the hand model of the brain in person was, for me, like seeing my favorite band play my favorite song.  Did I mention I am a huge nerd?  Dr. Bryson masterfully took all of the science and applied it to real life parenting. They used examples from their own lives, which made all of it feel so human.

Since it took them 3 plus hours to break down the book, I won’t even try here, but I can give you a little peek.  The difference between a Yes Brain and a No Brain is a great place to start.



Shut Down

In Fight, Flight, Freeze, or Faint Phase



Recoils from failure

Unwilling to try new things




Open to learning and connecting


Able to hold on to curiosity and creativity

Socially engaged

Willing to try new things



How do we know if our kids (or ourselves*hint hint) are in a Yes Brain state.  The authors call this the Green Zone.. Physically speaking the Green Zone looks calm, regular breath rate, relaxed muscles, clear thinking, and the ability to respond by making rational choices.  A No Brain can be seen in two different zones, the Red Zone looks a lot like the fight and flight response; increased heart rate, breath and blood pressure, tense muscles, shaking, and reactive.  The Blue Zone looks like the faint or freeze states, limp muscles, markedly decreased heart rate, collapse, and playing possum.

So how do we keep ourselves and our kids in the Green Zone.  The authors use a cheesy acronym:





~Did you get the pun???  We’ve already established that I love a good pun!~

How do we establish the BRIE in our kids?  That is the heart of the book.  There is no way I can do it justice here, so I won’t even try.  But, I will speak to my hint above.  In order for our kids to have a Yes Brain, we have to have one too.  We can’t expect our children to learn something that isn’t modeled to them, it’s like saying “here, I expect you to know all about reptilian anatomy without ever reading a book or laying eyes on a reptile.”  It doesn’t sound super realistic when I put it that way does it?  So get ready to get your yes brain working, because you’ll need it to help your child develop one!  And enjoy the read, you may become a Siegel/Bryson fanatic like me!


New Year, New You???

This phrase is ubiquitous with the month of January. And like many colloquialisms, it seems harmless, it’s just part of the vernacular right?  I’m not going to get all sensationalist here.  This blog isn’t titled “The seemingly harmless phrase that could kill you!”.  I just want to take a closer look at it, maybe challenge it a little bit.

So many things we see in the media focus on changing us; making us skinnier, our hair thicker, our face prettier, etc… If that isn’t enough, every January we get smacked in the face with ads about resolutions, mostly about working out and eating better.  None of these things are terrible, in moderation.  It’s great to be in shape, some folks love the art of makeup, who doesn’t want picture perfect hair?

But what if we are good enough, just the way we are?  Seriously.

Somehow in our culture, we have developed the idea that shaming ourselves pushes us to be better. Turns out it doesn’t.  Brene Brown has done some amazing research on this. In a shocking turn of events, shaming ourselves is actually quite discouraging.  I know, shut the front door, right!?!

So back to the phrase, “New Year, New You”.  Please listen to me when I say this


I hear the “buts” coming already… “but, I need to lose a few pounds”, “but, I lose my temper sometimes”, “but, I need to kick my sweet tooth”.

Those things may be true, but those things aren’t you.  They are pounds of weight, they are feelings, they are habits.  They aren’t you.  YOU ARE ENOUGH.  So pick one thing to work on at a time.  Set some realistic goals.  Start small so you experience success, success is reinforcing.  For goodness sakes, when you reach your goals GIVE YOURSELF CREDIT!  If I even sense you discrediting yourself, if I hear something like “well, normal people don’t eat a pint of ice cream a night so I don’t deserve credit for not eating a pint of ice cream tonight” I will come to your house, grab you by your shoulders, and tell you that you did a good job until you can no longer stand the site of my face.  Too aggressive?  Sorry.  I’m passionate about this one.  Your struggles are your own, so when you make progress don’t compare, own it, give yourself credit, and keep moving forward.

So this new year please note: you don’t need a new you.  Please continue to be you, and continue to grow, improve, heal, learn, and challenge yourself.  But stay who you are, you are awesome.




If you’d like to read some of Brene Brown’s work on coping with shame and challenging your imperfections check out these two amazing books

I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough”

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are