1- In less than a minute, tell us who you are and why we keep hearing good things about you?
I am a tenured full professor of Neural Science and Psychology at New York University, specializing in brain plasticity, and a thought leader who believes that the next frontier in global wellness is optimized, individualized cognitive performance.
You may have heard me speak about my passion for the transformative effect of exercise on the brain, including on mental health, in my popular TED talk (34 million views and counting). More recently, you might have heard me talk about the fact that in extraordinary times like we are all going through right now, anxiety and depression levels are at an all-time high. So, it’s even more important than ever for us to harness the power of simply moving our bodies (including in a wonderful Warrior Flow yoga class!), which neuroscience tells us is one of most effective and immediate ways to decrease feelings of anxiety and depression.
2- What were the pivotal roadblocks and challenges you encountered along the way that helped you define your path?
I have certainly encountered many roadblocks and challenges along the way—too many to count! One of the biggest was when (due to my own actions), my work-life balance become so completely unbalanced that I realized one day how miserable I really was: I’m talking about no close friendships (because I worked too much), high levels of stress (because I worried about work so much), and a twenty-five-pound weight gain (because I didn’t move my body at all and ate way too much takeout food). That low point in my life sent me to the gym to at least try to get the weight off. Realizing how much my regular gym workouts not only boosted my mood and energy but also (eventually) seemed to improve my focus, attention, and memory ended up inspiring me to change my entire research direction to focus on understanding exactly how exercise was changing our brains for the better.
3- Why did you choose this field? Who were your role models? And what pushed you to learn and become who you are?
I met my career-defining role model the first day of my freshman year at college. Her name was Professor Marian Diamond, and she was a groundbreaking bad-ass female neuroscientist who was also an extraordinary teacher. She showed me how much the brain could change and respond to the environment to which it is exposed—the definition of brain plasticity. I have studied that fascinating ability of the brain ever since.
4- What is your legacy? Do you care about leaving a legacy?
I believe my legacy will be in the new technologies I am developing as CEO of the company BrainBody Inc. that allow people to actually quantify the effects of exercise on their brain functions and use that information to improve their lives. Better brain, better life!
I care about finding out how I can best harness my own particular set of talents to contribute to the world in the most meaningful way. Whatever that turns out to be will be my legacy.
5- What can we all do right now to make this world a better place?
My answer: An altruistic mindset. I believe this is the moment to look around and ask yourself what you can give the world from your own unique and deep well of talent. The world needs all our best selves right now. From a neuroscience perspective, we also know that altruism is one of the most powerful ways to release dopamine (the “reward” neurotransmitter) in our brains. So, by helping each other, we are also rewarding ourselves at the same time!
6- In less than a minute, without sounding like a used car salesperson, tell us where to find you and what is the next big thing that everyone should be anticipating from you?
The best place to find out about me is at my website www.wendysuzuki.com. The next big thing will be the publication of my second book, Good Anxiety, Bad Anxiety, scheduled for early 2021. I am so excited to share my take on how to flip your bad anxiety to good anxiety and then leverage that good anxiety into a set of superpowers that everyone needs to thrive in the unique times we are living through now.
Warrior Flow Insiders is a series highlighting leaders and change agents in yoga, movement, mindfulness, mental health, social justice, and community outreach. Subscribe to our newsletter to receive future Insider profiles and other news from Warrior Flow. Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Warrior Flow offers dozens of weekly online, donation-based classes in support of The Warrior Flow Foundation, including Vinyasa yoga, meditation, HIIT, Pilates, Barre, full-body workouts, Yin yoga, Restorative yoga, and much more.