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Harnessing The Power Of The Brain With Dr. Hayley Nelson

Updated: Jan 25, 2022

FYP 32 Jennifer Thoma | Mental Health Hypnosis

There is so much power in our brain that we aren’t using on a daily basis and our brain holds the keys to peak performance in our careers and in our lives. Harnessing the power of the brain is Dr. Hayley Nelson's expertise. She is passionate about making neuroscience approachable for everyone. She loves working with wellness professionals, coaches, teachers, and counselors who are ready to stand apart and show up as true leaders in their field. In this episode, she joins Hayley Foster to discuss her learnings through the years and how she started putting her practices to play in her everyday life. How do you shape your habits? Stay tuned to gain valuable insights.


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Harnessing The Power Of The Brain With Dr. Hayley Nelson

Neuroplasticity And Peak Performance

Welcome back to the show. I am here with another Hayley. I love meeting other Hayley’s that spell it the same way that are around the same age as me because it’s so fun to talk about how you felt as a child with the name of Hayley. Before we get into that, I want to give you a great introduction here. You are not a Hayley but you are a Dr. Hayley and you have studied Neuroscience. I can’t wait to dive into this conversation with you and talk about how people can learn from you and start putting your practices into play in their everyday life.


Dr. Hayley, welcome so much to the show.

Thank you so much, Hayley. It’s so weird whenever we email each other and I address it, “Hi, Hayley. Dear, Hayley.” I’m like, “It spelled the same.” It’s so unique. I love it. I’m so glad that we met.

Let’s jump into this because I love having this conversation with people. Were you named after somebody?

Hayley Mills.

Me too.

I didn’t even know that you know who Hayley Mills is. Hayley Mills is the original The Parent Trap.

A lot of people that may read this will not know who she is. My mother is British and she needed a name that started with an H. One of her aunts said, “How about Hayley for Hayley Mills?”

Younger generations than us are like, “Is it Hailie like Eminem’s daughter?” The young ones now don’t even know who Eminem is so that doesn’t even work anymore. I usually say, “It’s like the comet except with two Ys.”

I say the same thing. People are like, “What’s your name again?” I’m like, “Think of Halley’s Comet.” They’re like, “That’s good. I got that.”

Except we pronounce our name correctly.

As a kid, I have to admit I had a huge problem with this. It was a hard name and I used to make my friends introduce me because I didn’t know how to say it. I was always Hayley to my mother with her British accent. All my friends would call me Hailee or Hail, which makes you think there’s an I in there but there’s not. I never knew how to say my name and Hayley sounded weird to me for whatever reason. It was a hard name as a kid.

Be willing to learn and grow. Partner with people who know a lot in certain fields who can help you be the best version of yourself.

I would say, “Hay is for horses and then Lee.” My mom’s name is Leanne and people always shorten her name to Lee. People would come up, “Hey, Lee,” and then both of us would turn and look. That was always confusing as well.

You’re another Hayley named after Hayley Mills. Since that’s where you began, give us the short version of how you became Dr. Hayley.

I have my PhD. I’m not a medical doctor or clinician. I have my PhD from Johns Hopkins University in Psychological and Brain Sciences. That’s how I became a doctor but I didn’t know what I wanted to do as a doctor. Honestly, when I started undergrad, I had my blinders on. I was like, “I’m going to medical school.” I was a Biology pre-med major, “That is what I’m going to study. I don’t want to take any extracurricular or do anything else.” I picked the college that I went to because I also had a strong passion for performing arts. I did a lot of musical theater and dancing. I was a tap dancer. I went to the college that I chose because it had good academics but I was also able to minor in Musical Theater.

I had to pick an elective and I picked Psychology as my elective. I’m like, “Shut the front door. This is what I want to study. I love the brain. This is what I want to do.” From that moment on, I was like, “I need to know as much about the brain as possible, how people do what they do, why they do it and all the ins and outs going from the cellular level all the way up to more philosophical approaches and evolution.” I’m studying it all. After undergrad, I thought I wanted to go into clinical work and I did some research with the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health, and National Institute on Drug Abuse.

I realized quickly that I didn’t want to research with human subjects and instead switched over to animal models where I could poke and prod the brain and delve deep into understanding how things happen. We can talk about motivation and the dopamine reward. I was able to measure dopamine release, the timing of it and how that all happened, which got me into my PhD program, where I studied motivated behaviors. Specifically, I studied sexual behavior but I don’t study sex behavior anymore. That’s a whole another episode.

I did a couple of different stints doing some consulting work with some engineering firms. I was an expert testifier for a little bit and fell back into academia as a professor. I’m in front of the classroom instead of sitting in the seats, which I have been doing since I was four. That’s where I truly found that my passion was teaching. Once you understand a lot of those nitty-gritty details to be able to explain it to other people is when you hone your skill and become a master in your field. That’s what I’ve been doing for a long time. I love it. I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else other than teaching, harnessing the power of the brain, and being able to instill that passion and knowledge in other people.

Take us through a little bit about what you are teaching other people. You have a course coming up in 2022 in Academy. Can you talk a little bit about that to give people an understanding of how you implement all that education into the day-to-day?

I’ve been teaching in college for so long and people were coming up to me and asking me, “I want to take a class with you but I don’t want to take a sixteen-week full semester-long course and have to re-enroll in college. I want to sit down with you for a couple of hours.” This idea where I started Be Well with Dr. Hayley came about because people wanted to talk to me and learn more from me.

I have consulting services where I can work with businesses and individuals as well as groups of people to consult on whatever problems or situations that they might need a neuroscientist for to be able to understand how the brain works. I also do live seminars for continuing education credits. Those are mainly geared towards clinical social workers, psychological counselors, school counselors, and things like that because they need to get a certain number of continuing ed credits each year.

I realized there is a whole group of people who would like a bigger and more foundational understanding. It’s not necessarily Master’s and PhD-level people but it’s people who have a Bachelor’s and maybe some didn’t even go to college, but they’re working with other people. It’s coaches like yourself or anybody who is working with others but wants to understand more about what the brain is doing so that they can help other people.

That’s where this idea of the Academy of Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience came about. I’m in the process of developing it. That’s going to be a self-paced course with several modules and you will have a certificate of completion at the conclusion of it and there will be office hours opportunities. There are going to be a lot of fun activities and workshops, both live as well as pre-recorded. It’s going to be fun and worthwhile. I’m super excited about that.

I love the acronym ACBN for the Academy of Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience. That’s how it all came about. I’m able to open up and reach more people from a variety of different needs and people who want to understand more about the brain and how it can help them help other people. It’s a trickle-down effect. By teaching one person, I can impact hundreds, if not thousands.

FYP 35 Hayley Nelson | Brain Power
Brain Power: Neuroplasticity is the fancy word for being able to change our brain and when we're creating new habits and we're doing new things.

I love how you took your education and turned it into teaching and brokering that knowledge out to other people. This is a trick question but I’m curious. Did you see The Social Dilemma?

I did. I was thinking of The Social Network but it’s The Social Dilemma.

One of the first books I read was called Neuromarketing and it was written by a neuroscientist who spent years studying the brain. One of the biggest things I learned from him was what’s the trigger response that’s going to get somebody to respond to what you’re saying. One of the stories that he tells in the book and he told in this talk where I first met him was about a homeless man on the street. He was holding up a sign that said, “Could you spare any change for a hungry, homeless man?” I don’t know if this is the real story but I love that he told it in the story.

He walked back to the guy and asked him how much money he had made with his sign. He said, “I haven’t made much. I made about $2 or $3.” He said, “Let’s change your sign and see how it does for you.” He changed the sign to say something along the lines of, “What if you were starving?” He put it into that position where it’s going to evoke that feeling for somebody else. He checked back in on the guy the next day and he’s like, “I made $150.”

As far as The Social Dilemma is concerned in terms of how we’re so marketed to this day and age, I’m curious and laughing to myself. It’s like, “Are you using those emotional response triggers in your marketing to put your course out there?” I’m reading the Russell Brunson book from ClickFunnels on Expert Secrets. You have to tell that story so that people can have that a-ha moment and you’re going to hit them at the core of their emotion because that’s the first trigger as opposed to processing the words. I’m curious what your thoughts are on this and if you’re using your education to your benefit.

I’m not using my education to my benefit but what I do is teach others how to do that. One of the key things that you pinpointed was emotion. We’re talking about neuroplasticity, which is the fancy word for being able to change our brain when we’re creating new habits and doing new things. If you’re working with a client and they want to do X, Y and Z and you’re trying to motivate them to get there, there are a few things that you could do.

One is to attach an emotion or emotional value to whatever it is. In the story that you beautifully told, whether or not it’s true or you were ad-libbing, that idea of adding emotion to it increases the neuroplasticity. It makes it easier for the brain to change and once the brain has changed and you have this pathway established, it becomes automatic, and people are more likely to behave, do or produce in that way.

Other ways that you can increase neuroplasticity would be to create a unique and novel environment. That’s why when people immerse in a culture and travel, it’s so much easier to learn a language than if they’re sitting at home, looking at the same four walls, wearing the same clothes, eating the same foods, and trying to memorize words. They’re involved and immersed. Novel environments are also good to increase neuroplasticity and aerobic activity.

There are three different things that you can use to your benefit to allow your brain to change and make that neuroplasticity stronger. Am I using those techniques for my own benefit? I am doing them for other motivational things that I want to get done. However, doing the marketing is where I reach out to pros and people who study that and then we can have an intellectual conversation. They will say, “You want to end your sale with a number seven. People are more likely to buy.” I’m like, “Show me the research on it.”

We have a conversation about it and I’m like, “I didn’t even think about that.” That’s all psychology. It’s hiring coaches and people to help me who are the experts in that field and letting them teach me what to do. I am a teacher but I’m also a student. I’m willing to learn and grow. I am a lifelong learner. I love partnering with people who know more than me in certain fields who can help me be the best version of myself or my business.

I have the same mindset in terms of lifelong learning. I’m always striving to learn something new every single day. What’s interesting that you said and I have not ever thought about this is what I found in July 2021 when I had COVID. Because I couldn’t go to the gym and I didn’t want to infect everybody, I started walking and I listened to books while I was walking. It’s an exercise mixed with the audio and the education. I remember saying to my husband a couple of days into doing this, “I feel like my retention is so much greater when I’m exercising and listening to an audiobook than if I’m sitting in the car and trying to absorb.”

It’s a task that you can’t do while exercising. Increasing 30 minutes a day of aerobic activity a few times a week will help. What ends up happening is as you’re exercising and doing an aerobic activity, you’re increasing the release of a chemical compound known as BDNF, which stands for Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor. It’s this chemical that protects the brain cells, keeps them alive and prevents them from dying but it also helps speed up neurogenesis or the creation of new neurons. That’s what we’re doing with neuroplasticity.

Start to meet new people and make new connections.

We’re creating new connections and sometimes that means forming new neurons but then it also means weeding out some of those old bad habits that we want to get rid of. We need that flexibility and plasticity in our brain. A great way that you can do that is by increasing BDNF. Aerobic activity is one of the best ways that you can increase naturally BDNF in your brain, especially in areas like your hippocampus, which is involved with memory. That’s why you were able to retain that information and process it better because you had more BDNF. You learn something new every day.

If I drink wine while I’m working out, will I kill brain cells?

A little bit of wine is quite beneficial for you, but you don’t want to drink ten bottles at once a day.

How long have you been on this journey? Is this the first program you’re putting out there in 2022?

It is. I dabbled with network marketing and owning a small business as a side hustle. I loved the products and the community. It’s a why not situation. The idea of it began out of necessity. Due to the pandemic, my husband had lost his job. We sat down and we were thinking, “What are we going to do?” He said, “I can’t work for another person ever again. I’m not a good employee. I want to own my own business.” We both put our entrepreneurial hats on and said, “What are your superpowers? What are you good at?” We came up with some great ideas for his business.

At the same time, I’m like, “I have some superpowers. I want to play along and do some of this stuff too.” That’s where Be Well with Dr. Hayley came about. It was the same time I joined Clubhouse and started meeting new people and making these new connections. I’m like, “This is something that could take off. Why not put my all into it?” I got approval for my college. I’m still a full-time professor. They said, “Go ahead. This is fantastic. It’s almost promoting the college even and putting you out there.”

I’m writing a book in spring 2022 on the motivation of habits, motivation in general, drive and what gets people to do things. I’m partnering with somebody who I met at Clubhouse as well. We’re also in the talks of putting a course together. It’s all of these different things. It’s all about being open to trying new things and seeing what ends up happening. My husband ended up getting a job, so I didn’t end up needing this business. I sat down and said, “We don’t need this anymore.” That’s when I realized, “I want this for me, my family and the people whose lives I’m able to touch.”

That’s why I continue to do it and have fun with it. If it ever stops becoming fun, then I’ll stop doing it. That’s the beauty of owning your own business. You get to call the shots. I’m super excited about it. I’ve seen a lot of transformation, even in a short period of time. Some of my students have come back to me, completed certificates and said, “That was so enlightening. I feel like I’m back in college again. I wish I had you as a college professor.” They learn stuff and then be able to use that with their clients and practice. It has been rewarding so far. The sky is the limit. I’m excited to see where it all goes.

What has been the biggest challenge for you since you started doing this?

As a lifelong learner and a type-A/perfectionist, I want to understand everything. I designed my website. I want to learn how to do it all. There are only 24 hours in a day. It’s balancing that self-care because there were some times where I started feeling some burnout. If it stops becoming fun, I’m going to stop doing it. I said, “When did this stop becoming fun?” It was a couple of weeks period.

I’m like, “It’s because I’m trying to do it all and take on too much. I need to step back and think about why I am doing this. It’s for my family and me. If it stops becoming about that, then I need to start delegating, asking for help and being okay with that.” That has been the hardest. I’m so used to having the mother role. I run my household and the classroom. All of a sudden, I need to start giving those tasks out to other people and trusting that they’re going to do at least as good but hopefully, better than what I would have done on my own.

For women that are type-A, that’s a difficult thing to do. Have you done your Enneagram?

FYP 35 Hayley Nelson | Brain Power
Brain Power: Adding emotion increases neuroplasticity. It makes it easier for the brain to change.

I have not. Give me some information on that.

It’s a personality test. It teaches you how to focus on the areas where you’re strongest, how to build up the areas where you’re not as strong, and the things that you should be doing. It’s an eye-opening. It’s a similar Myers-Briggs type of thing. I’m curious as to what Enneagram you would be. I find that I surround myself with sevens.

If we were the same number and spelled our name the same, that would be too odd.

As women with type-A personalities, we want to do it all. We realize quickly that doing it all does lead to burnout. One of the things that I help women with is to figure out how to best manage their time, delegate the things that need to be delegated, automate the other things to give you more time and focus on the fire starters or the things that light you up. Those things that don’t light you up, I call them fire extinguishers. Those are the things that you should stop doing and figure out a way because when you stop doing those things that don’t fill you up, you find time for more of the things that do.

I’ve found my voice for saying no. I was always at the parent-teacher conferences. I wanted to be there. For those things, I’ll be there but, “Let’s do a bake sale.” I’ll go to the store and buy some cookies because that’s not something that lights me up. Other people, if that’s something that you enjoy doing, make an extra dozen for me, please.

Being able to say no is one of the best forms of self-care because when you’re saying no to things, it’s opening up so many more opportunities and possibilities for other yeses to come your way. That’s something that I’ve learned because of the pandemic. It’s being able to relinquish some of that, release it and say, “Not right now. I’ll get to it.” People appreciate that as well because then, you’re not giving them a subpar version of yourself. The things that you say yes to, you were giving 100% to.

When you start saying yes to things that you don’t want to do, you end up not giving it the attention or the love behind it that it deserves. One of my favorite sayings is, “It’s not getting the best of you. It’s getting the rest of you.” That’s one of the things that I impart on all the women. When I first started this business, one of the first books I read was The ONE Thing by Gary Keller. There is a sign at the back of it that says, “For all those times you can’t say no, use this sign to do it for you.” It was a placard that said no. I cut it out and kept it on my desk. Any time I needed to remember that, I would look over at my sign and be like, “No. I’m so sorry.” It’s truly empowering to be able to say no to things.

When I became a mom, they became my whole world. I’m slowly starting to realize. I hate that analogy but it’s so true. If my cup is not filled, I’m not able to pour into them. It is a cliché statement but it’s so true.

I’m not opposed to the clichés. A lot of people that read this are women that are either on the entrepreneurial journey or looking to get started. They may be here for inspiration. What would you say to somebody who is reading that is considering starting a business or getting started on their journey towards some form of entrepreneurship?

Surround yourself with people who are going to uplift and support you but also keep it real. If you have a bad business idea, have somebody to be able to say, “Maybe you should try going this direction. These would be better ideal clients. Let’s work on that.” One of the best things is to surround yourself with honest people who truly have your best values at heart. I wouldn’t be here. I had mentioned to you my business coach happened to be the reason why I have my business. I would never have thought of it.

We were friends from high school. We were chitchatting and she was planting seeds for about eight months. She told me afterward she was planting little seeds. All of a sudden, I miraculously came up with this idea for Be Well with Dr. Hayley. She was like, “I’m finally glad you came around.” It was surrounding myself with people who have the best values for me but aren’t going to try to push me. I would say the same thing for other people. Be around honest people who aren’t going to be out there for getting money and getting paid.

They truly want to see you succeed and are willing to stick their neck out for you like you’re willing to stick your neck out for them. Go for it. Life is short. If it’s fun, try it and be smart with your money and time. Those are the two most valuable assets. As long as you are not spreading yourself too thin, then go for it. What’s the worst that’s going to happen? At least you know that you tried and gave it your all. If it didn’t work, I’m sure you learned some lessons along the way and the next journey will be even stronger.

The beauty of owning a business is you could continue having fun doing it. And if it ever stops becoming fun, then you can stop doing it.

I was listening to some Bob Proctor motivation while I was getting ready. First of all, if you’re not starting your day with motivation, you are doing your whole self a disservice. I found that there is a room at Clubhouse. It’s run by this guy, Evan Carmichael. I always see every morning that he’s got some other person that he brings. He does all these motivational clips and focuses on a different person. Maybe he does it weekly. When I do see that he’s on there and I jump in, I get such great motivation from him.

If it’s not him that I’m listening to, then I’ll try to find a podcast or a book while I’m getting ready to give me that daily dose of motivation and inspiration to start my day. I’m sure there’s a neuro side but it sets my day on this different energy. I am being pulled into having a better day. The Bob Proctor comment was, “Look at who you’re surrounding yourself with.” If you look at those people in your top five and say to yourself, “I want my kids to turn out like A, B, C, D or E, and if your answer is no, then you should find new people.”

I love that because it’s so true. I talk about it in a different way but it was a great reminder. I always say, “You can tell who the strong women are. They are the ones lifting each other.” If you are surrounding yourself with the Negative Nellies of the world and the people that are always down and have negative self-talk, you’re surrounding yourself with the wrong people.

Those are not the people that are going to get you to the next level. Anyone you listen to in the motivation space, whether it’s Tony Robbins, Dean Grasiozi, or Ed Mylett, all of them talk about your tribe and make sure your tribe is strong, smart and where you want to be. If someone is in your tribe and they’re ahead of you, you can learn from them and look up to them. If they’re a go-giver like you are, which both of us are, then you’re surrounding yourself with people that are going to help you on this path and journey.

If you find yourself in a room and you’re the smartest or most successful person, you’re in the wrong room. You have to go because there are people to motivate you to aspire and become. You don’t want to be in a room where it boosts your self-esteem for a little bit because it’s like, “I’m more successful than this.” What are they offering? How are they filling you up in any way? Gratitude is another big one that I love to incorporate in my day and positive affirmations. There is the neuroscience behind all of this and neuroplasticity with that repetition.

It is something that I’m trying to instill in my kids as well. Every night before bed, when we’re brushing our teeth, I have them do their affirmations in the mirror so that they’re looking at themselves. It’s a fun game that we do. In the beginning, my oldest was resistant and hesitated to do this. I was like, “Charlie, repeat after me. I’m Charlie. I’m strong, smart and loved.” There was something else that we threw in there. Sometimes I let him pick another thing. At first, he’s like, “I’m not going to do this. That’s stupid.” I said, “Let’s pretend that we’re a superhero. Which superhero do you want?”

“I’m Captain America.” “I’ll be Captain Marvel. Let’s stand in front of the mirror and start saying it as our characters.” On his first day of second grade, like every other mother in America, I’m out there taking pictures of their cute little outfits. I said, “Charlie, do a fun pose.” He looks and does this Superman pose and goes, “I am Charlie and I am loved.” I’m like, “I won. I did something right.” All summer, we were working on our positive affirmations. I’m like, “If every child in America could go to school on their first day knowing and believing that they are loved, it’s huge.”

I saw the neuroplasticity start working with him with such a little task. We made fun with it. We’re running around the house upstairs, getting ready for bed, pretending to be our superheroes, and saying our affirmations. I’m going to start introducing gratitude and things like that. The brain starts automatically thinking that way. It’s the same with visualizations. You start thinking about who you want to be and start tying those emotions to it. All of a sudden, your brain is functioning as if you’ve already achieved those things.

Your brain is automatically going to be filled with gratitude. The decisions that you have to automatically make, thousands of them each day, are from a place of gratitude, those positive affirmations and motivation. If you’re waking up every day and that’s part of your daily routine, getting that daily dose of motivation, then I bet those decisions that you make throughout the day that you don’t even give two thoughts about having something about what you learned and how that made you feel in the morning to motivate you and push you towards that journey.

There are scientific facts behind it. That’s what I love working with people on as well. They have these little tricks and tips. I’m the type of person that’s like, “If I don’t see the data and research behind it, I’m not going to wholeheartedly jump in on any program.” I love being able to give people the tools because I’m sure you’re going to encounter people like me who are going to say, “Show me the facts and research.”

I can come in and help people like yourself or whoever might be reading. It’s like, “I have this one resistant client who doesn’t want to do gratitude journaling.” It’s like, “Let me give you some science behind how gratitude journaling works and show you some imaging studies of the brain, what happens after practicing it and things like that.” There are some physiological hard scientific data to back up a lot of these “fringe” or froufrou-type activities that people use that are effective.

Let’s talk about this because I have teenagers with who I did not do the superhero poses when they were little. I did have some pictures of my little one. I let her watch the Amy Cuddy video about the power pose. I taught it one night at one of the talks that I did. She was there and she was little. For a couple of weeks, I’d be like, “Show me your power pose or power stance.” My little one is a little bit more amenable to following some of mommy’s tips and hacks, whereas my big one, who is fourteen and so in it. I bought her a journal because I need her to start talking through some of the things she’s going through instead of it being like, “Here’s a blank journal. Start journaling and entering your stuff.” I bought her journal called Zen as F*ck.

FYP 35 Hayley Nelson | Brain Power
Brain Power: What we're doing with neuroplasticity is we're creating new connections. Sometimes that means forming new neurons, but then it also means weeding out some of those old bad habits that we want to get rid of.

My boys are teenagers and they can swear. My youngest is like, “What’s the F word everyone keeps talking about?” I’m like, “Let me know when you figure it out. I’m not going to be the one to tell you but I will confirm.”

I bought it for her, thinking, “If she’s going to journal, I have got to give her some fun prompts.” The book is crass and has some fun prompts in it. We were lying in bed and she’s like, “I journaled for a while and it didn’t do anything.” I need you to send me the data so I can present that to her or I can have her read this. She will probably kill me that I even talked about her. Thankfully, her friend is watching me on Instagram but don’t read this. Is it too late at fourteen? If not, give me some tips.

It’s never too late. The adage “you can’t teach old dogs new tricks” is not true. Anybody can learn something at any age. Kids are a lot more resilient and amenable. It’s easier to do that. Neuroplasticity can happen and it’s worth it. Sometimes it’s changing the phrasing. Instead of calling it journaling, come up with something that resonates more with her so that she can have more of that buy-in for what she’s doing.

It depends on what she’s into. It could be something like, “Wouldn’t it be cool ten years from now to look back and make fun of your thoughts. Let’s try it and see what happens.” It’s worth it. The thing is I teach people this but then I don’t always practice it myself because you can get easily caught up in these bad habits. Sometimes you need a kick in the rear to get you back on track.

I wrote an article for Kuel Life. I don’t know if you’ve met Jack Perez along the way. She runs a platform called Kuel Life. It’s for women over 45 and all the conversations that aren’t being had with women over 45. I love her platform. It’s a $4.99 a month membership. In all of the issues, all these contributors are writing articles. She asked me to be a contributor, so I wrote an article. I was like, “Here’s a couple of title ideas.” One of them was, “Are You All Dried up? How to Reignite the Passion for What You Do.”

For women over 45, some things start to dry up but your passion doesn’t have to be one of them, which is the second title, “At Our Age, Things Start to Dry Up but Your Passion for What You Do Doesn’t Have to Be One of Them.” I talk about the pivot after 40 because I’ve pivoted multiple times in my career. What I did talk about was I went through major life changes in my 40s. I got divorced and got bought out of a business that I had built for twelve years.

One of the things that I did during that time as a recommendation from my rabbi was to start a daily gratitude practice. It changed my life. If there’s one thing that anybody can walk away from this with is if you are not practicing gratitude daily, even if it’s opening your eyes and thinking of positive thought. Hal Elrod talks about how it should be the last thought you have before you go to bed. If you go to bed with gratitude, the chances of you waking up with gratitude are 99% because we wake up with our last thought.

It’s not too late to teach an old dog new tricks. I didn’t start doing daily gratitude until I was in my early 40s. It completely changed my life and the trajectory of my life. I could have gone down the like, “Woe is me. I’m single. I have two little kids. Life sucks.” I didn’t. I was like, “I’m grateful. I choose happy.” That was the other thing. My power statement was, “I choose happy. I am happy.” I saw myself getting through this divorce and business breakup and being a happier person. I believe in the whole neuroplasticity side of things.

It works. Using my gratitude as an example is baby steps for some people who might be looking at you like you have five heads. Think of something and then work your way up to writing it in your journal. It works better in the brain if you’re pen to paper and not typing it in your phone. That’s another step. The final step would be writing it in a journal. You don’t even have to ever go back and read it. It’s the act of writing it down and thinking of it.

It’s that critical thinking. You’re involving different parts of your brain and starting that connection between different areas and pathways to get the ball rolling. You will see that your life and the decisions that you make are all with that gratitude. I first learned about it from Oprah Winfrey. She was talking about it in one of her shows. I’m like, “If it’s good enough for Oprah, it’s good enough for me.”

I watched something that Oprah recorded back in 1995 with Deepak Chopra. That was all about longevity. I was like, “I can’t believe they were talking about this in 1995.” I was amazed. I’ve been on this longevity kick. I was like, “This has been a conversation for many years. He is so far before his time.” What an amazing thing to look at many years later and be like, “Finally, people are starting to study.”

Neuroscience has a ton to do with longevity. You think you’re going to live longer. You want to be healthier and start picturing yourself that 70 is the new middle age. I don’t look at myself as middle age. I’m going to be 50 in 2022. I’m like, “I still have 70 or 80 be my middle age because I certainly don’t feel in middle age.” I feel better than ever. I’m excited that we have had such a great conversation. Thank you.

There's only 24 hours in a day. You need to balance your self-care and make sure that you don't get burnouts.

It was a lot of fun. Thank you so much for having me on. Anytime, I’m always happy to come back and we can continue these conversations over on Clubhouse. I’m here to serve, help and support.

I love that idea. Let’s get a Clubhouse room on the books. Is there anything that you want to end on?

My tagline is, “I make neuroscience approachable.” That’s because I am an approachable person and I don’t want people to feel intimidated. Even the word neuroscience can be scary for some people. There is no such thing as a dumb question. I have heard some pretty interesting questions in my years but any question, big or small, ask me. Anybody is welcome to book a complimentary discovery call.

You can find that information on my website. Shoot me an email, message me or reach out to me on Instagram or Clubhouse. I’m happy and I welcome all questions, ideas, and topics. I look forward to continuing our relationship with Hayley’s but also meeting some of these other foster women and other people with both of our networks to be able to work together. I’m excited that we met.

Me too, Dr. Hayley. This was amazing. Thanks, everybody, for reading. We will see you next time.

Thank you.

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About Hayley Nelson

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Dr. Hayley Nelson is passionate about making neuroscience approachable for everyone! She loves working with wellness professionals, coaches, teachers and counselors who are ready to stand apart and show up as true leaders in their field. Dr. Hayley earned her PhD in Psychological and Brain Sciences from The Johns Hopkins University, is a full-time tenured professor of Psychology in the Philadelphia area, and is an international speaker and founder of Be Well with Dr. Hayley. She has several peer-reviewed research publications and has previous research and faculty appointments with The National Institutes of Health, The Johns Hopkins University, and The University of Pennsylvania. In addition, she is a wife and proud momma of two very active young boys.

You can learn more about her by visiting her website ( There you can also sign up to stay in the loop for upcoming live seminars, courses with the Academy of Cognitive and Behavioral Neurosciences, and to book a complimentary discovery call, and to download a free course!

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This was absolutely 🔥

I also have a 14 year old girl, and turning 50 next year. I took notes. So fascinated by the brain, as someone living with cognitive decline from multiple sclerosis. Navigating is the name of the game. Yay to gratitude and daily affirmations. Have them on my daughter’s mirror but she‘s been resistant. She does journal however. We keep working on us, them, and strive to be better today than yesterday. 👌🏾

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