As we start to pivot to in-person events again, it’s important to schedule wellness breaks for your attendees, especially as we continue to live through such challenging times. Dr. Shimi Kang recently spoke at IMEX America’s Smart Monday event, where she shared three ways event planners can help boost their attendee’s health and happiness, while also encouraging creativity and innovation.
An award-winning medical doctor, Shimi is a researcher and expert on the neuroscience of innovation, leadership, and motivation. Humans, she said, actually have three brains — head, heart, and gut — all of which contribute to our overall well-being. Each are clusters of specialized neurons that receive, process, and store information. Engaging these highly intelligent and interconnected systems are key to maintaining general wellness as well as healthy social connection and growth.
Below are Shimi’s recommended brain-boosting activities to help improve and prioritize your attendees’ well-being throughout your event. They incorporate downtime, others, and play.
Downtime helps to calm our gut brain, Shimi said. This brain controls our primal emotions of fear, insecurity, and stress. When we’re busy, it senses an immediate threat and jumpstarts our freeze-fight-flight stress response. Downtime counteracts this.
The most effective way to reduce stress, Shimi said, is through slow, deep breathing. People often get into the habit of shallow breathing, encouraged by poor posture, prolonged sitting, and stressful environments.
Through breathing slowly and deeply, we can reset our lungs and diaphragm to breath deeper and expand bigger. This expansion signals to our nervous system that we’re okay, and, as a result, shuts down our stress response, releases endorphins, and moves us into growth and recovery mode, Shimi said.
A great way to incorporate this into an event is to create a well-being lounge or space for attendees. We saw this in action at IMEX America with the Relaxation Reef, Shimi said, where attendees could follow guided meditations and learn about mindfulness in the workplace with an expert. Other ways to do this is by adding a few mindful minute prompts to a workshop or presentation agenda.
2) Connecting with others
The human heart is so much more than a mechanical pump, Shimi said. It contains roughly forty thousand specialized, intelligent sensory neurites that affect our emotions of connection, trust, and bonding. Through connection with others, these neurites release neurochemicals, like oxytocin, directly into our bloodstream.
Connection is a powerful coping skill and brain optimizer, Shimi said. Whether it’s a friend, colleague, or community member, social bonding helps us feel safe and settled.
At your next event, Shimi recommends that you schedule plenty of time and space for social connection and networking. Welcome receptions, mixers, and ice-breaker exercises are all worth the extra effort, especially during this pandemic era, she said.
For more spontaneous connections, take inspiration from Poland’s “happy to chat” park benches, Shimi suggested. Installed in Krakow, these benches were an initiative to combat loneliness and the mental health issues it causes by inviting people to sit down and engage in conversation with strangers. This can be a simple way to encourage conversation and connection at any event.
Play corresponds with our head brain, Shimi said, which relates to our cognitive processes of memory, planning, innovation, and strategy.
Our prefrontal cortex is engaged when trying new things or through hobbies. When this happens, it moves us from survival mode to growth mode, igniting curiosity, exploration, and fun — the antidote to our stress hormone, cortisol. It’s impossible for a body at play to be stressed at the same time, Shimi said.
To incorporate play in your event, some activities could include encouraging movement with chair yoga, or, as we saw at IMEX, Shimi added, a fun run to start the day. Hands-on activities, like Lego — or building something together — can create a sense of community and growth as well. She recommended looking into local community organizations where your event is taking place to see if you can partner with them to enable your attendees to create something amazing.
In a world of increasing disconnection, loneliness, and stress, Shimi said, the event industry can play a large role in boosting the health and happiness of everyone involved. By showcasing ways people can engage and prioritize their three brains, attendees can leave with skills that will help them through challenging times.
With 20 years of clinical experience and extensive research into the science that lies behind optimizing human intelligence, Dr. Shimi Kang provides practical tools to cultivate the key 21st century skills of resilience, connection, creativity, and more.
Interested in learning more about Shimi and what she can bring to your next event as a keynote speaker? Email us at [email protected].