One organ in your body dictates much of your behavior and ultimate success at work. The activities of this organ occur at a level of which you are not even consciously aware.
It’s your brain! While phrases like, “Use your brain!” or “Think outside the box!” are casually tossed around in the workplace every day, we take for granted that our brain can function precisely how we want it to, when we want it to, regardless of how we treat it. There are concrete steps we, as individuals, and as corporations and businesses, can take to optimize the functioning of the brain.
Five factors that can boost your brain’s performance when properly attended to include:
the physical work Environment
Going well beyond casual conjecture, cutting edge neurological findings now tell us we need to address all five factors in order to effectively care for and to boost our brain’s performance, in every S.E.N.S.E.
Stress tops the list when it comes to productivity eaters. Stress hormones directly impact the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain controlling executive function, resulting in reduced working memory and sadly diminished decision-making ability.
Reducing unnecessary stress must be a goal for every work environment. As American scientist and director of the Center for Organizational Learning at MIT Sloan School of Management Peter Senge points out, stress can be likened to a rubber band stretched between your hands. Some tension on the band results in accountability and focus, but too much tension results in the rubber band breaking.
TIP 1: Don’t miss your morning kiss! Start your day by kissing your significant other or giving extra hugs to your children. The very act of caring reduces cortisol and increases the trust hormone oxytocin. Take a short break after lunch to relax. Go outside at least once during the work day and consciously notice the simple things around you – the weather, the scenery and the sounds.
The brain requires a BDNF, or brain derived neurotrophic factor, sometimes referred to as Miracle-Gro® for your brain, which is produced after exercise to improve mood and memory, reduce stress and depression and decrease anxiety.
BDNFs also grow new neurons, enhance learning ability, increase self-esteem, improve body image, and diet control, just to name a few.
TIP 2: Beyond just offering access to a company gym, workplaces that utilize standing desks, ball chairs or walking clubs during work hours can help produce BDNFs and maximize brain function.
Your brain uses as much as 20 percent of our daily calories, but the quality of your food is far more important than the quantity. To boost your brain, you need at least one serving (8 grams) of protein to start the day.
TIP 3: At lunchtime, don’t rush to order fries or offer too many carbs in the cafeteria or break room, as carbohydrates and foods rich in sugar can create highs and lows, resulting in that mid-morning brain crash, crabby employees and more disagreements.
Keep your employee kitchen or break room stocked with low sugar, low caffeine and brain food snacks like strawberries, raspberries, plums, avocados, oranges, red grapes, red bell peppers, blackberries, cranberries, blueberries, and kiwis. Having protein rich foods like yogurt and peanut or almond butter on hand is also recommended.
According to the American Time Use Survey, conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 85 percent of working adults receive adequate sleep, but sleep patterns are still a concern. People go through a series of 90-minute cycles of awareness and rest during sleep, but did you know these same cycles continue to a lesser extent all day long? These cycles create variations in your attention span and directly affect your decision-making ability.
For most, the greatest down period occurs mid-afternoon, when your body just wants to take a nap.
TIP 4: Don’t schedule very important meetings after 3 p.m. Do encourage 15-minute breaks for team building or idea sharing later in the afternoon to encourage movement and stimulation.
Within the first minute and a half of entering a new environment, your brain subconsciously decides how you will interact in that environment, new research suggests.
So the science of environmental motivation should not be an after-thought but should be considered first and foremost. Everything from room colors to wall hangings, signage to lighting, and even odors, can boost your brain at work.
TIP 5: Try changing the photos on your desk regularly or bring a flameless scented candle to work. Change your computer’s desktop image as often as you change your toothbrush. Remember, this is a part of your health regime for your brain.
By Dr. Ron Bonnstetter, Senior Vice President for Research and Development, TTI. This is the organization with which we work to deliver tools for hiring, training, team building and more– including Talent Management Plus, personality assessments, coaching reports. This array of powerful tools will help you be a stronger leader, coach, and managaer. Click here to learn more or call us today at 301-490-5620.