The science behind the ‘woo’

Today’s episode of the podcast is a solo episode all about why I’m no longer going to be using the word ‘woo’.

As you know, I am a huge advocate for all things spiritual and the benefits that it brings to running a business. However, recently I have decided that I want to stop referring to it as ‘woo’, because that implies it’s silly, or based in fantasy – and it’s really not!

I have been doing a lot of research into the scientifically proven benefits of this work, and I am so excited to share it with you and can’t wait to hear what you think.



●     The science behind spiritual practices

●     The connection between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala in managing stress

●     What manifesting is and the science behind it

●     The science behind vision boards

●     The benefits of journaling and how writing improves your health



The more we try to bring our brain into focus, the more it will look for opportunities for us to fulfill our dreams.



●     What neural plasticity is and how it changes our brain

●     The importance of having a positive thought

●     How meditation and gratitude can change your brain




Hello, and I really will welcome to this week's episode of the podcast. How are you doing? I hope you're having a good start to your week or have had a great week whenever you are listening to this. So, this week I want to talk about the world of Woo. Right, now don't switch off if you're thinking, no, I can't bear this stuff.

Recently, have kind of come to a thought that I want to stop using the word Woo. Cuz to me that word implies silliness, not real fantasy, flippant. Just not, yeah, it just doesn't, say like what it is really, it just kind of makes it like it's a silly, stupid thing. And I've been doing, as you may know, I've been doing a coaching qualification, a spiritual coaching qualification, and during the process of doing that and during my own process of going through things and looking at things, there is actually a ton of science behind this woo stuff.

So what I've been doing over the past week or so prior to putting together this recording, I've been googling and searching and looking and looking at case studies and reports and various other wonderful things to kind of understand the science behind some of this stuff. And I want to go over with you today how this stuff is scientifically proven even if you think it wasn't, and I've picked a few of the obvious things that we will look at or that people might describe as woo. So buckle in, we're about to learn some stuff.

Okay! So the first thing you need to know is there's something called neuroplasticity. Now this is, this happens, right most of the things I'm gonna talk about David, which is why I'm talking about it first. So it's known as brain plasticity and it's basically the brain's ability to change and adapt. As a result of an experience, and this is important because actually so many of the things that we do, this is where it is changing our brain. So this isn't just a, oh, that's nice to do, and is it really doing anything? A lot of this stuff is changing our brain and it's doing it through this thing called neuroplasticity or that's what's happening to our brain.

So for instance, let's start with meditation. So I did some research and I found a study that basically scanned the prefrontal cortex. So the prefrontal cortex is where we have cognitive control over things such as memory organization and executive decision making. And the brain is made up of gray matter and white matter. And the gray matter is the bit that serves to process information and it's where most of the brain's cells are. So, it has been proven that as we get older, our brain shrinks and the gray matter shrinks, and the prefrontal cortex obviously being part of the brain also shrinks.

And a study was done with people who meditated. And it showed that a 50 year old had the same gray matter as a 21 year old, so the 50 year old that meditated had the same gray matter as a 21 year old. And the same can happen with things like gratitude. It helps your brain deal with resilience, it helps change the brain through that neuroplasticity and helps your brain reshape itself and helps you become more resilient.

Now, another part of the brain is called the amygdala. These names like, I'm not good at reading these names. So the amygdala is responsible for emotions, emotional behavior, and motivations. It's the fight or flight, and basically what they showed was according to neuroscience research, mindfulness, are a sort of meditation, gratitude, practices dampen activity in the, I'm gonna say it again, amygdala, and increases the connection between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. Both parts of the brain help us to be less reactive to stresses and recover better from stress when we experience it. So, Meditating and being grateful actually can change your brain so that you deal with stress better so that you don't forget things that you can make decision making, you have better memory. So these all proven things from research that I found online from like real places.

Okay, so let's talk next about journaling. Okay? So obviously one of things I talk about, I didn't explain meditation cause you know that one of the other things I do is I journal. And there's a few different things it's also sometimes called morning pages if you've read the artist's way. And journaling is basically, it almost comes from like writing a diary, but you tend to talk about more emotion led things when you journal or figuring things out. So I found some research on the science behind journaling and it said keeping a diary has a big impact on the, on your overall happiness. As well as supporting conditions like depression and anxiety, it, this has a knock on effect like your general stress levels and your quality of sleep. So not only will you be a bit calmer, but apparently you sleep better if you journal. There are many cognitive benefits from journaling for those looking to boost their memory function. The habit of expressive writing has a strong link to increasing memory capacity, and there's also a link to personal performance on a kind of how self-reflection can help boost your productivity. So doing that self reflection and that's what it is. And in fact, that for me, that's what kind of the mindfulness stuff is and the practices that I do. It's all about the awareness of self and awareness of you and what you do and how you do it.

It also went on, another study went on to say that basically a groundbreaking study of writing. Writing's physical effect appeared in the Journal of American Medical Association. Three years ago, the study led by Smythe basically took 107 asthma and rheumatoid arthritis patients and basically asked them to journal out on their emotions. And they asked them to journal about their most stressful events of their lives. And then with another group, they basically got them to write about a neutral subject. And then four months after write, after the writing exercise, 70 patients in the stressful writing group showed an improvement on objective clinical evaluations compared with 37 of the control panel, which were the people who just wrote about their day neutral stuff. In additions to those who wrote about stress improved more and deteriorated less. So basically he wrote that, so writing helps patients get better and also keep them from getting worse, which is just insane to think that writing can actually improve your health.

Okay, another study also showed that writing could help cool down our brains and therefore, control our state of worrying and that we wouldn't worry as much. Okay. What else have I got here? So the other thing I did some research on was manifesting because that I think can be fairly seen as a fairly woo thing and you know, is manifestation really a thing.

So what is manifestation? So it basically means that you turn an idea into reality. So research by Carol Dweck clearly shows that believing you can do something makes it more likely that you'll successfully do it. And then another research said that ultimately the science suggests that our beliefs can bring about behaviors that will lead to the outcomes we desire. So if we believe that something is gonna happen, I, we manifesting it, then that can help bring about behaviors that will then bring about the results.

Research shows that our expectations, positive or negative, tend to be confirmed. This is known as a self-fulfilling prophecy. So if we expect to bring our idea to life or reach a goal, we are more likely to. So it's that whole thing and I always give the analogy, which is a good one, that basically says, the whole thing of like, you know, when you are looking to buy a particular car in a particular color, suddenly you see that car and that color everywhere. And it's not that suddenly there was more cars on the road, it's just that your awareness is heightened to it. So because your awareness is heightened to it, it means that you are looking out for those things. The same way is if you do a vision board or if you have, if you manifest, if you do any of those things, then you are basically going to be looking out for more opportunities to be able to fulfill those goals.

Then there was some research by Dr. Barbara Fredrickson showed that positive emotions enable us to think more creatively. Similarly, another doctor has shown that happiness leads to success and not the other way around. So people who are generally happy and positive attract more opportunities and have better relationships and seem to be able to manifest what they set their minds to more easily.

So again, it's that whole thing of, you know, when you think about, you know, positive mental attitude, manifesting, dreaming, imagining, you know, I, I think I've told the story. I definitely told it on a few podcasts that go, but it was last week. How funny is that? When I was talking to Dan about when I took that first class flight, like I dreamed and imagined and saw every single thing of it, it was so clear in my head, and I'm not saying that's what got me onto the flight or whether it was just really quick processing by the esta people, but I really love the idea of having that positive thought. And this morning Phil and I had a executive club coaching call and we were talking about this, we were talking about what's going on in the news at the moment and what's going on in the world. And, and I'm very cautious when I talk about stuff that's not to belittle it and not to make out, like it's not a real thing and it's not important that, you know, the UK are having a bit of a financial crisis.

However, I personally don't watch any of it because the only thing I can control is me and whether, you know, living in my little bubble of the world that I choose to see is real or not, or has an effect or not, it actually just feels nicer. So that's why I decide to stay there. Whether it's doing the thing that it should be doing, I, if you're manifesting and I'm dreaming of big amazing things, whether it actually works or whether you just do it so you're not worrying and you're not thinking about those things. I mean, either way, I am happy.

Okay, so then what else have I got? I also did some research on vision boards, so just in case you're not short, a vision board is basically, it's a bit like. Well, you can do it various ways. You can either do it digitally in something like canva and basically you find pictures of the life you want and things you want and you know. So on my vision board I had that, I wanted to do a TEDx and I did do a TEDx and I had like, I wanted to speak it inbound and I did, and then, not that I admit this to her, but on there was a picture of Force Field and I was like, I wanna become friends with her and I did. Like, and I'm not necessarily saying it's all down to the vision board, but this is the science behind vision boards. So basically you imagine what you want your life to look like or what goals you wanna achieve, and you physically either cut out images from magazines or print them off and stick them onto a board, or you create a digital board of like what your, your vision is for the future.

So the research that, this all might sound quite mystical, but vision boards are in fact rooted in neuroscience. Neuroscience is so clever. So, tara, swart. Swart? Is that what you say to the name? I dunno. S W A R T. I guess so. Explains Looking at images on a vision board, primes the brain to grasp opportunities that may otherwise have gone unnoticed. This is because your brain has a process called value tagging, which imprints important things onto your subconscious and filters out unnecessarily information. Your brain assigns a higher value to the images than written words on a to-do list. And the more you look at those images, the more the images move up in importance.

And then she goes on, say, and there's a way that you can boost this activity. For example, if you look at your board right before you fall asleep every night, the images will be imprinted even further. That's because your brain is very impressionable as it rest into sleep. And so if you focus your attention on something during that period, particularly on something new, those images are more likely to feature in your dreams and thoughts.

So again, it's the same kind of thing as when we talk about manifesting and it's very similar, it's just two different methods that basically the more we try and bring our brain into focus and think about these things, the more they will look for opportunity for us to try and, and find them and actually fulfill them.

There was also a really interesting study that basically took some pianists, some people who played the piano, brought 'em into a, into a lab, and got them to play the piano, and while they were playing the piano, they scanned their brains and they saw what part of the brain lit up for the point in which they were playing the piano so they could see when they played the piano, this part of the brain lit up.

Then they got 'em back in and they got them to sit there and imagine they were playing the piano. Imagine they were doing the same thing, but just with their hands flat. Just sat there with their eyes closed, and the same part, their brain lit up as when they were actually playing the piano. And the reason this was so powerful and the reason that this was so important was because of the fact that it proved to a degree that your brain doesn't know the difference between imagination or reality.

Now, I'm sure there's some brain scientists out there who would go a bit deeper and, and explain a bit more about that. But what this means is the more that we can imagine, the more that we can dream, the more that we can visualize, the more that we have a chance of actually getting there. Whereas if you never dream about it, never think about it. And that's why things like we do goal setting, that's why you have things like vision balls. That's why we meditate and journal and manifest and do all of those things.

So, I wanted to give you just a real quick overview of some of the science behind some of the practices that I talk about. Which I will be trying my absolute utmost not to call Woo, from now on because there is proper science behind why these things work. So it's not as silly and as frivolous as maybe people once think. Okay, I'm gonna leave you to it. I'm back next week with a podcast interview. Until then, have a wonderful week.