Yawn, Laugh, and Dance. Photo source pixabay.com
3 Positive Contagious Behaviors
Are you feeling stressed out, unproductive, or just plain blah? Neuroscience to the rescue! Tune in for three simple 60-second activities that are scientifically proven to reduce stress while boosting creativity and productivity.
#1 - Yawn
You don't have time to take a nap and there is no nap room at work. You are stressing about your meeting happening in five minutes and you are distracted. What should you do? Go ahead, give a big yawn.
Yawning actually activates an area in the brain called the precuneus, which is involved in mindfulness and memory. Dr. Andrew Newburg and neuroscience researcher Mark Waldman, authors of bestseller How God Changes Your Brain and How Enlightenment Changes Your Brain, share that yawning can help improve listening skills, heightens awareness and boosts empathy.
We were taught as children that yawning is rude and disrespectful, making us seem tired and disinterested. But, yawning is a natural reaction. Scientists tell us that when we yawn, our body is telling us that it needs more blood flow to the brain. This is why after a series of yawns, we feel calmer, more relaxed and cognitively aware.
So, when your co-worker is yawning, it doesn't always mean he's bored. It could just be a sign that he is trying to stay focused and awake. Waldman suggests a yawning (and stretching) session before confronting a difficult or stressful task at work or prior to a long meeting.
Exercise: Yawn 10-12 times in succession. Afterwards you will feel present, relaxed, and highly alert for any business engagement.
#2 - Laugh
Laughter relieves stress and boredom. A good laugh can boost engagement and spur creativity, collaboration and productivity. Dr. Robin Dunbar at Oxford University shares that laughter is also a mechanism to help groups bond. Scientifically speaking, laughter releases endorphins, the brain chemical known for its adrenaline effect.
While most babies laugh around 400 times a day, the average adult over 35 years of age laughs only about 15 times daily. What a dramatically sad difference. Since we know there are benefits to laughing, why not encourage more laughter in the workplace?
Exercise: Here are two sample ways to incorporate laughter into the workplace. Find a comic strip or funny "work appropriate" YouTube video relating to your current work environment that many can relate to and laugh about. If you have an internal social media system, start a humor group.
#3 - Dance
In my upcoming book, Dance of the Business Mind (expected publication date early 2017), I express how you can transform your life, both personally and professionally, through the metaphor of dance. Neuroscience has proven that dancing improves mental coordination due to the need to use many brain regions at once, such as the motor cortex, cerebellum, prefrontal cortex and others. Dancing improves our neuroplasticity and cognitive acuity, which help with memory, pattern recognition, sequencing, sense of direction, and awareness, to name a few. Dancing in groups leads to a feeling of social inclusion and boosts the serotonin, the "I feel good" hormone.
Tony Robbins is a firm believer in the benefits of heightening energy through movement and using music to help his audience shift into a new, more responsive mindset. Dance helps you to be present in the current moment and is healthy because you are not relying on technology to predictively analyze your next move. You have to actually use human senses, awareness, and memory to be fully present and connected. You have to flow - flow with the dance; individually and as a group.
Music, dancing and movement radically shifts a group's energy level. That is why I am a huge activist for dancing in the workplace.
Exercise: Choreograph a special organizational or departmental themed dance - you can even have different ones that represent different themes. Like a special group dance after winning a sale, or a dance that represents your company's attitude towards customers. After everyone has practiced and coordinated activities, these routines will only take 60 seconds to put everyone in the right mood.
60 seconds to happiness
Turn these three, simple ideas into habits at work and see the contagious, positive effect that they have around you. Introduce them during longer meetings to keep people engaged. For example:
• Gather everyone 5 minutes prior to meeting start for a yawn and stretch session.
• 10 minutes in, interject some humor for a good laugh.
• After 25 minutes, have a dance break. Pick a motivated, business-related song, like "Try Everything" from Zootopia, "The Bare Necessities" from the Jungle Book and "Under the Sea" from the Little Mermaid.
• 50 minutes in, stand up for a stretch before wrapping up.
• You might want to include another motivating dance song at the end of your meeting to send people off on a high note.
Feel free to mix it up, find a routine that works for your specific environment. Remember, it only takes one minute to get back on track!
Valeh Nazemoff is the international bestselling author of The Four Intelligences of the Business Mind, as well as an executive coach, business consultant, and co-owner of Acolyst. She is founder of the Communication Transformation Business Workshop.