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Summary:  Learn how having these 7 daily needs met can keep your brain and mind functioning optimally, and experience a motion to help you find ease in your body and help you feel safe.


  • Neuroplasticity
  • The Healthy Mind Platter from Dr. Dan Siegel
  • The Motion – FACIAL SWEEP
  • The background for the motion



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[00:00] Introduction

Hello, my friends. Pamela here. Today is the first episode of my four-part series on mental health because May is Mental Health Month. And in this first episode, we’re going to be learning about something that is called the Healthy Mind Platter. Similar to what we may have learned about how to eat healthfully, we have the different food groups and so forth. It’s kind of a spin-off on that. And this was developed by a psychiatrist named Dr. Dan Siegel who also has a mindfulness research program at UCLA, which is actually where I graduated from, so there’s a little relationship there. And in the Healthy Mind Platter, he describes seven things that are necessary for optimizing brain health and the health and wellbeing of your mind. And I wanted to introduce this to you today because, if we could have one of each of these seven things daily, kind of like this daily food group that I was talking about, then we can have a healthy mind. And I think this is very important. He came too label these pieces and to discover these pieces and include these pieces by poring over the DSM. The DSM is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the world of psychology, and it is useful for people to give a diagnosis for the insurance companies to have something to process. Not all people in psychology consider this to be an important book, except for the fact that it is helpful to lay out what diagnosis, what number, you can give it so that insurance companies will pay the claims. What he discovered in poring over the DSM was that to have a mental illness or disorder or a syndrome, one of these seven pieces or more were missing. And that’s how he came up with this Healthy Mind Platter. When we have all seven, our mind is functioning well, our brain is functioning well. We produce neurons daily. Up to 7000 neurons a day can be produced, and this is helpful because when we are including these things, we’re actually creating some neuroplasticity. 

[02:22] Neuroplasticity

We’ve talked about neuroplasticity before. This is where the brain can actually change itself based on experience. The type of neuroplasticity that we’re talking about is positive neuroplasticity. There’s also negative neuroplasticity, which is what happens if we are under stress or if we do something repetitively and thereby not needing as many neurons, and so things will get pruned back. But in these, with these practices of this Healthy Mind Platter, you will be creating positive neuroplasticity, which will increase the ability for your brain to function optimally. So what are these seven things? Well, he broke them down into components based on time, so if you spend a little time in each one of these areas every day, you will have a healthy mind and brain, an optimally functioning brain. 

[04:14] Healthy Mind Platter

This includes Physical Time, which is movement. And, in my opinion, movement should be gentle. It shouldn’t be injurious. And I believe that Dr. Siegel is talking about movement that is not going to hurt you. Another aspect is Play Time which is, by his definition, the “spontaneous exploration of life without competition or judgment”, so we’re not talking about sport when we say Play Time. Think about a child who would go outside and dig in the dirt, and look for bugs and worms, and pick a flower petal, and make a little mudpie—things like that. That’s Play Time. It’s spontaneous, it’s an exploration, there’s no judgment, and there’s no competition. Another component is focus time, and this is when you are doing only one thing. And we talked about the ability that we have to focus on something and then switch that focus, which may feel like we’re multitasking but we’re actually not able to multitask. I brought that up in a previous episode you can check that out [See Episode 026 Multi-tasking is a myth] But what we’re talking about here is where you are doing one thing and one thing only. You are focused. You are in that place where nothing is coming in at you except for what you’re doing. Another component of the Platter is Down Time, and this is very interesting. I don’t know how many people do this regularly, but this means doing nothing, and by that I mean nothing. What it does for us is it allows us the possibility for processing information. Our brain takes in all kinds of information, all kinds of sensory information:  smell, touch, taste, sound, you know, all of the pieces. But we don’t need it all and so there’s processing that needs to happen, where those bits and pieces that are considered to be vitally important for our lives will get put into a particular part of the brain. Other parts that we don’t need to necessarily remember or know will get pushed away and that’s important. This Down Time is important to have to allow our brain time to do this. What happens if we don’t have Down Time? When we go to sleep—when we’re laying down and we’re getting ready to fall asleep—now our brain has an opportunity to start processing, and thoughts will keep coming and coming until we can settle ourselves and finally fall asleep. So if we have the Down Time sometime during the day–just five minutes where you are doing nothing, allowing your brain a chance to process, when it comes time to sleep you won’t need much time to do that processing and you will fall asleep more easily. Another part of this Healthy Mind Platter is Connection Time and what this means is connecting with nature or with other human beings. We could connect with nature simply by taking a walk in the yard. It could be that simple. It could be looking at a vista. It could be thinking about something from nature, even if you weren’t there. But connecting, knowing, and remembering that we are also nature allows us to feel more connected to ourselves and to others. But of course, if we have the opportunity to connect with others, Connection Time is very good for our nervous system. We are a social species. We’re wired to connect. And I know right now we are in a situation in our world, in our history, where we may not be able to connect as easily with other people and that will come. So in the meantime, you can connect with nature. You can connect with others. Well actually, you can connect with others even if you’re not in the physical space with them. You can connect over video calls or even a phone call or even a text. Another part of the Platter is Time In. “Time in” is a term that was created to describe when we notice the sensations of the body as perceived from within. There’s a longer word for this called “interoception”. This is where when I ask you when we’re doing these motions on this show, and when I ask you to notice how your body feels, notice what you feel inside, notice the sensations of your body, that’s what we’re talking about. That’s Time In. So the motions that we do on this show would qualify for this part of the Healthy Mind Platter. And the last piece of the Healthy Mind Platter is Sleep Time. All the stages of sleep are vital to our wellness. So as we have been sort of programmed by society that it’s OK to be sleepless, it’s OK to not get enough sleep, to have, you know, four or five hours of sleep and say “oh, I’m good”, but then drink our coffee and take sleeping pills at night. That’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about all of the healthy stages of sleep and getting a proper number of hours of sleep, including dreaming time. I think I’ll talk more about sleep in another episode, so we’re just going to leave it at that:  making sure you get enough sleep. So that’s the Healthy Mind Platter. And the reason I like that so much is because Mindful Motion, which is where I’m bringing these motions from for this show, Move Into Coherence, they are able to help you meet all of these daily needs. So we have Physical Time—we’ve got the movement piece. We’ve got Play Time:  these are somewhat playful as you may have noticed. We also have Down Time where we are just doing nothing:  we’re taking a pause and we’re letting ourselves breathe and just take a pause after doing a motion. We have Time In where we are investigating our sensations:  what we’re noticing in our bodies after we do a motion. We have time to connect, but this is a different kind of connection. We’re not necessarily connecting with others in a physical space, but by hearing my voice and following along we’re actually connecting. If we were in the room together doing a Mindful Motion practice, that would be more realistic. But over the airwaves and watching a video could suffice as Connection Time. Although we’re not sleeping during this show, the motions that I’m teaching you will help to generate better sleep. And you may have noticed that if you’ve been a patron of the show. If you’ve been listening and doing the motions you may notice that you’re sleeping better. I hope you are because sleep is vitally important for optimal functioning. [Inadvertently left out Focus Time here, but we also use this when we are doing a motion and focusing on doing it.] So this is why I like this Healthy Mind Platter so much—because it addresses all of these pieces that I have included in my programs.

[13:55] The motion:  FACIAL SWEEP

The motion that we’re doing today is called FACIAL SWEEP. This comes from the Mindful Motion program and it’s very simple. I’m adding a little different piece to it to make it more playful. Let’s begin. So let’s bring our hands to our cheeks. So your palms are on your cheeks and your fingers are somewhat around the sides of your eyes. And then we’re going to just give our face a little jiggle. So wiggle your hands and let your face jiggle a little. This is our Play Time. And then s-l-o-w-l-y let your hands slide down your face, down your cheeks, so that your fingers “drip off” your chin. And then notice the sensations in your face in your jaw and maybe even down to your pelvic floor. Breathe, turn off all your efforts, and just notice. And let’s do that one more time. So we’re going to bring our hands to our cheeks, our palms are resting on our cheeks, fingers around the sides of your eyes. And then give a little jiggle. And then slowly, over the count of about 5 seconds, let your hands slide down your face. You can close your eyes if you like. And then let your fingers drip off your chin. Tongue is soft, jaw is soft, your eyes are soft. And take a pause. This is our Down Time. And now notice the sensations. Notice how your face feels. It may feel loose or expanded, soft, or warm—many different descriptions fit that, the sensations. Great.

[16:22] Background for FACIAL SWEEP

I wanted to explain this a little bit. The FACIAL SWEEP is actually allowing you to connect with yourself in a way that addresses what is called the Social Engagement System. This is something from Dr. Stephen Porges, who came up with the Polyvagal Theory. And this part of it is helpful because there is a nerve that runs through our face that connects into our System and allows us to know that we’re safe, if it is stimulated in that way, in a gentle way. So we’re being tender. We’re being kind to ourselves by using our face this way (our cheeks). When the jaw is soft and the tongue is soft, the floor of your mouth becomes soft. And what’s interesting about this is the floor of the mouth and the pelvic floor are kind of like cousins. And so when the floor of the mouth is soft, the pelvic floor can also soften. And when our pelvic floor is soft, we are in that place that we’ve talked about before called calm readiness or soft power, and you can listen to another episode of mine about that. [Episode 007: Alignment and Soft Power] When we have this soft power, this soft pelvic floor, that sends a signal a back up to the brain that says “All is well. You’re safe.” So this one motion, this FACIAL SWEEP can do a lot. It’s stimulating that facial nerve, which sends a signal that all is well. If your floor of your mouth is softened, now the pelvic floor can be softened, which says you are safe. And when we feel safe, this is what allows us to feel emotions. Once we feel safe enough, we can feel our emotions without concern for “oh, if I start crying, I’m just going to melt into a puddle,’” Or “if I get angry, I’m going to hurt somebody.” It calms that part of us down enough to know that we can process these emotions and let them move through us. And then on the next level up—so we have safety and we have our emotions—the next level up is connection. And so if we can feel safe enough to feel our emotions, we can easily connect with others and something like social anxiety will just melt away. So a lot of benefits from this one little motion. You can do this on your own anytime you like. Well maybe not while you’re driving, but you could do one hand. And if you’re going to do one hand (here’s a side note) if you’re going to do one hand, use your left one because that will touch the left side of your face which stimulates the right part of your brain. The right part of our brain, the right hemisphere, is known to be related to emotional wellbeing, so if we are touching the left side of our face, our right brain is stimulated in a nice way,  and that will soothe that emotional part of our brain.

[20:21] Recap

That’s what I have for you today. We have talked about the Healthy Mind Platter from Dr. Daniel Siegel and the seven components of that Healthy Mind Platter. We talked about each of the pieces just a little bit, but knowing that if we meet all of these seven daily needs regularly, we will have a healthy mind and we can optimize our brain function. Thank you so much for joining me today. And send yourself some appreciation for joining in. This has been Move Into Coherence. I’m Pamela Stokes. Take it easy.

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