Have you ever forgotten the conversation you just had? Not sure how you got to work this morning because you drove on autopilot?
...Or are you acutely aware of how stressed and distracted you are?
We’re living in a time when our offices are with us 24/7 and the stress to always be on-call takes a toll on our wellbeing as we choose to pull out our phones during family dinners rather than connecting. Or during our breaks, when we should be taking a break.
It is estimated that by 2024, depression and anxiety will be the number one illness. Combined with our information overload, the pace of change and technology distractions, a Stanford study reported that the mind wanders 46.9% of the day.
Not only does this impact those individuals and the world around them but it reduces the overall productivity.
Due to sensory overload, we are taxing our hormones, endocrine, and adrenal systems. Specifically, our sympathetic nervous system which means we are in constant survival or fight/ flight mode. This is a great if you are being chased by bears, but ridiculous when you’re working in a temperature-controlled office, complaining about how you need to lose weight because you have the luxury of eating too much and moving around too little.
Am I right?
When stressed, we are in a state of survival, and our brains focus on doing and thinking as much as possible. When you add that to the never-ending To-Do lists, checking our phone close to 150 times a day (fact), and constantly worrying about things in the name of mitigating risk, it quickly becomes overwhelming to our nervous system. When our brains get imaged during these activities, they light up like Times Square at Christmas.
The sad part is, it becomes a cycle. Our brains produce neurotransmitters encouraging us to keep doing and thinking, because every time we do we get a hit of dopamine, which feels awesome. Keep in mind, dopamine is the exact thing released when you have sex. It’s our happiness hormone. Simply doing nothing doesn’t feel as good as the rush of the adrenaline, cortisol and dopamine cocktail.
Over time, this constant state of multitasking and activating parts of our brain that are best suited for when you are being chased by a bear gets etched into the neural pathways of your brain. Yes, you read that right. Just as a path that is traveled becomes worn into the ground, so too does the pathways in our brain. They get stronger and stronger as they get used more and more, in a process called cortical thickening. The real kicker is that the grey matter in your Neocortex, the part of your brain responsible for rational and logical thinking, shrinks from lack of use.
When your thoughts are overpowered by doing, it’s almost impossible to hear your intuition, which is your body’s natural shortcut to survival and success. In addition, nothing else becomes a priority when everything is going. You can forget creative problem solving or kindness… because who needs that when you’ve signaled to you brain that you’re fighting for your life?
Mindfulness helps us get out of this cycle due to neuroplasticity, which is the ability of the brain to form new connections and pathways and change how its circuits are wired.
Yes, you read that correctly, too, thank goodness.
You can literally restructure your brain through mindfulness.
The negative and harmful side-effects of constantly going are reversible.
By learning to listen to ourselves, by quieting long enough to focus on the present and the now, and by being still, we can repair the harm done to our brains and our ability to focus has huge implications for our performance and wellbeing.
There is plenty of research proving that building a mindfulness practice impacts cognitive function, therefore improving memory, concentration, faster reaction times, increased creativity, and innovation and performance.
In a study by INSEAD Business School, it is reported that practicing mindfulness for just fifteen minutes a day leads to an increase in rational thinking when making business decisions.
In addition, research by Singapore Management University shows that leaders who display mindfulness on the job result in happier employees and increased employee morale. Mindful leaders have better relationships or connection because they are fully present, which makes others feel respected and valued. How valued would you feel if your manager was checking his/her phone during your performance review?
So how do you improve your focus and concentration?
You can check out this FREE training from my 20-Hour Work Week course, where you will learn my proven method for productivity:
After you've established a basic mindfulness practice and using my proven mindful workplace techniques, I encourage you to start developing your intuition. Because I find that while most people are distracted, they are actually just in the wrong job and grind it out. You intuition is the first stop towards finding a job that fuels you, instead of draining you.
No mindfulness program will solve a lack of fulfillment.
And if you need even more support because you're not sure if its you or just that you aren't doing what you love, my 1:1 Coaching program is a great start to get out of the grind and into the flow.