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Corinthia Hotel London + Dr Tara Swart

Food for Thought

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Does breakfasting at five star hotels make you cleverer? Yes is the answer, if you’re starting the day in Corinthia London’s Massimo Restaurant. In a world first, the hotel has appointed a Neuroscientist in Residence. “We’ve 500 workers and one quarter of a million guests walk across our threshold each year,” relates Matthew Dixon, General Manager of Corinthia London and Commercial Director of Corinthia Hotels. “We want to understand more about ourselves to help and encourage the wellbeing of our guests, whether they’re spending £6 on a cappuccino in the Crystal Moon Lounge or £18,000 in one of our penthouses.” Enter Dr Tara Swart, lecturer at MIT. Throughout her residency, she’s advising on all aspects of hotel life including this morning’s brainpower breakfast:

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The Massimo is reassuringly grand – 10 columns (Corinthian, of course) rise like slender palm trees to the coved ceiling – but calmingly decorated in shades of grey and beige and cream. “Can a leopard change its spots?” asks Tara. Yes is the answer she explains, taking the peppered moth as a literal example. Pre Industrial Revolution, these insects were mostly pale but as trees grew dark with soot they were no longer camouflaged and made easy prey. Brown moths soon outbred their more conspicuous relatives. What about humans? Yes is the answer. Deeply entrenched methods of behaviour can be changed. “It’s ever more important to ‘learn, unlearn and relearn’,” she believes, quoting the futurist Alvin Toffler, “especially given Artificial Intelligence advances and recent geopolitical events.”

One neuroplastic tactic is choice reduction. It lowers stress levels and allows you to concentrate on more important things. Apparently Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg wears the same type of clothes every day to avoid wasting brainpower. “Move away from the fixed mindset: criticising yourself and others; avoiding challenges; identifying failure with stupidity. Embrace the learning mindset: acknowledge your imperfections; enjoy challenges; view mistakes as learning opportunities.” Tara continues, “Be curious, play about, seek feedback. Interact with people who think differently from you. Spend time with people who are 20 years younger or older than you.”

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Can you change your luck through neuroscience? Yes is the answer, by altering what your brain sees. “What you see isn’t actually physically real; it’s based on what you choose to see and think. Be careful what you present to your brain,” Dr Swart warns. “Consciously change 10 small habits for the better to reconstruct your reality. Make sure your internal language is positive. Say to yourself ‘Today’s going to be a good day!’” And it is.

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