With the rise of the always-on 24/7 culture we can be forgiven that we incorrectly extrapolate that humans can function in the same way as technology: always responsive, deliver the same quantity and quality of output and with the same level of enthusiasm each time. OK, I succumbed to humanisation of machines there: it is not just me, it is an actual thing with many people referring to their gadgets and devices with specific genders… don’t get me started on the she (it!) that is Alexa!
However, even mechanized devices need recharging! Despite this awareness, it seems the higher up corporate and business life a leader travels, they forget that they are not invincible and that regular breaks throughout the day are essential for achieving peak performance.
Therefore, a big part of my work with clients is helping people to learn how to break for their brain. Here are five brain-friendly ways that you can incorporate into your working day – you probably used to do some of them:
LUXURIATE IN A LEISURELY LUNCH
I agree with the French that lunch is not supposed to be a rushed, wolf down at your desk whilst attempting to do something else kind of affair. Interestingly, the many studies on mindfulness and weight-loss reflect that taking time to savour and enjoy your food and indeed make it an occasion e.g. sitting at a table, using utensils, crockery etc that please your eyes is more beneficial than lunch on the run. Plus, those who lunch away from their desk or place of work report enhanced productivity in the afternoon than those who don’t. As a leader, you set the culture so model this habit and you will experience a happier and more industrious team.
ENJOY A DAILY DOSE OF GREEN
Not to be confused with any sort of pill, prescription or otherwise, I am becoming renowned for my advocacy of getting outside and enjoying a walk in natural surroundings every day. The human brain responds to nature and the Japanese even have a name for this type of activity: forest bathing.
Shown to lower blood pressure and cortisol levels in the blood, you do not need to rush to the countryside to receive the benefits. Simply diverting your commute through a park will help decrease your stress. Apparently, hearing a variety of birdsong also does wonders for relaxation and focus.
LET’S GET JIGGY WITH IT
A few minutes burst of whatever type of music or particular tune that uplifts you will serve as a motivational boost. Moving your body to the song (and perhaps even singing along!) will deepen the stress reduction benefits plus fights the sedentary sitting disease too. Granted this may be easier if you are working at home rather than in a busy office, however why not get the whole floor involved enjoying a fun dance break at their desk? Imagine if every workplace did this…
MEDITATE FOR A MINUTE
Meditation and mindfulness are such buzz words you may be sick of hearing about them however there appears to be no drawbacks to brain or body from allowing yourself to sit with your eyes closed and focus on your breathing for a few minutes a day.
Persuaded by actually giving it a go, even my most skeptical of CEO clients feel much, much better following practicing this punctuation mark during the day. There is no need to think that you need a long time, silence or a special place to sit: even one minute’s mindfulness will be beneficial.
NOTHING X 15
I have left what could be considered the most challenging break for your brain to the last. It is the easiest yet for some, will be the most excruciating (at first). All you have to do is sit somewhere away from your desk and do nothing. Absolutely zero. Nada. This means no listening to music, no fiddling with your ‘phone, no chatting, no television, no reading or anything else that constitutes ‘doing’. Yes, it is just you and your thoughts.
Allow your mind to wander, to daydream. This is not attempting to focus on your breath or other meditation. It is enabling your brain to do whatever it likes and focus on wherever in your surroundings. Yes, you may not like where your thoughts go at first, however you might also discover that doing nothing will help you solve work problems, make new connections, have ideas, encourage other creative thinking etc.
If experiencing no direct stimulation is novel for you, start slowly in increments of a few minutes at a time and work up to fifteen minutes. I promise you that you will be able to do it and eventually an hour of nothing will be normal.
Rachel Bamber is an expert in using powerful, brain-friendly strategies to deliver peak performance. She has helped people all over the world to work with their brain to get what they want, faster and with zero stress. Among the pioneering adventurers who have worked with her include people in the public eye, corporate leaders and super-ambitious small business owners. A nominee for the GLE Rising Star Award in business, Rachel is the first person in the world to be awarded the Postgraduate Diploma in the Neuroscience of Leadership.
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I help leaders in the public eye increase their confidence & mojo!