3 Essential Tips for Staying Productive and Mindful While Working From Home 

Working from home is inevitable for many companies, especially amidst the global coronavirus pandemic, but by no means does it need to be stressful. Working remotely has its perks, such as being able to customize your work space, personalize your schedule, and save time by avoiding long commutes. Of course, the lure of your cozy couch and roommate buzzing about the latest Netflix series may be daunting, but there are indeed surefire ways to stay productive and mindful in your home office. So, whether working from home is a norm or new adjustment, following the tips below can help keep you working at peak efficiency with a peaceful mind during this unprecedented time. 

1. Achieve Laser Focus

Keeping a clear focus on what’s important isn’t always easy, especially if your home office feels like foreign territory. Laser focus is achievable, though, by setting your intentions for the day. Write down the tasks that you have to complete, whether in a notebook or in an email to yourself, and affirm why it’s important to complete those tasks. Perhaps you don’t like feeling lost in the recent chaos of the world, or finally finishing that project makes achieving your goal seem all the more possible. Either way, studies show that setting your own learning and development goals increases motivation and self-efficacy. After all, where attention goes, energy flows.

2. Keep Distracting Thoughts at Bay

While social media and our playful pets are prime distractions, so too are our thoughts. Recent news has especially been alarming, and we are all undoubtedly concerned for our loved ones. Let’s try to set aside our mental chatter because for many, work still calls. When you find yourself getting distracted, walk away from your desk, and engage in some meditation techniques. Take 5-10 minutes to sit silently in an upright position, and acknowledge your incoming thoughts. Focus then solely on your breathing, as you inhale and exhale slowly. Relaxing your mind will bring it back to the present moment, so then you can dive back into work with a well-intentioned mind. 

3. Tense and Relax

If you still find yourself anxious and unable to concentrate in the wake of transitioning from office to home, try performing progressive muscle relaxation (PMR). PMR is a method used to calm the body and tame stress. It involves focusing on one muscle or muscle group at a time by tensing a muscle for 5 seconds, and then releasing and feeling the muscle relax. Before you begin your work, sit upright with both feet on the floor. Relax your shoulders, and close your eyes. Start with the top of your body by raising your eyebrows for 5 seconds. As the muscle relaxes, focus on the changes that you feel. If you feel your mind wondering as you move on to the next muscle, bring it back to the muscle that you’re currently working on. With physical relaxation, comes mental calmness. Your ability to concentrate will be increased as you soon find yourself enwrapped in pure productive bliss. 

To summarize

change is hard for all of us, especially when it involves our work environment. Our daily routines may be altered, but our mental health doesn’t have to be. Following the tips above can help keep you grounded as you make the transition from corporate office to in-home office, so that you can perform at your ultimate best in the wake of any global pandemic. 


5 Healthy Habits to Add to Your Morning Routine

Not a morning person? Me either, but luckily us night owls and early birds alike can achieve a happy and healthy day just by taking a look at our morning routine. The early hours of our morning set the tone for how energized and productive we’ll be, so chances are that the benefits of starting your day off right will flourish way beyond the caffeinated effects of that venti Blonde Café Americano. In fact, embracing routines can positively impact your mental health, as multiple studies have shown that habits are a key to wellness. Habits require little energy, and with them down pack, our brains can conserve its self-regulatory energy for taking on greater issues and making important decisions (Stoewen, 2017). Getting a jump start and beginning your morning with healthy habits can therefore allow you to move more efficiently throughout your day, as you expend less mental energy. So, if you’re looking to not only feel less groggy during those morning meetings but to also improve your quality of life, then look no further than at how you spend the first few hours of your day. Try these positive habits below so that you too can formulate a morning routine that has you beginning each day afresh and anew.

Rewind Time

Let’s rewind and confess that a successful morning routine actually begins the night before (with a good night’s sleep). The average adult needs 7-8 hours, and for good reason. Sleep strengthens learning, consolidates memory, and enhances emotional regulation. Tonight, we challenge you unplug from your smartphone, head to bed an hour early, and catch the recommended amount of z’s. You can thank us in the morning.

Rehydrate

Replace that early espresso with a tall glass of water, to combat the adverse effects of dehydration that often accompanies 7-8 hours of sleep. Water contributes to the maintenance of essential brain functioning, and without it, our cognitive performances become greatly impaired. Rehydrate yourself with an early glass of water as a simple way to boost cognition, and you’ll feel alert and energized to take on the rest of your day.

Clear Your Mind

Set aside enough time in the morning so that you can take 3-10 minutes for deep breathing exercises. Close your eyes, sit upright, and focus on your breathing, as a way to be present and focus on yourself, before you give yourself to the day. These quiet moments are not only calming but can also decrease any mental clutter that may prevent you from performing at your best throughout the day.

Engage in Exercise

Once your mind is clear, engage in 5-10 reps of a fitness exercise, such as air squats or push-ups. If you’d like to go for a morning run, even better, but by just engaging in short movements, you’ll get your blood circulating and be on your way to improving your mood. Exercise releases endorphins, which can boost happiness and reduce emotional stress. Exercising early in the day can add a sense of clarity to your morning that will help guide your mood well past the early hours.

Get Excited

Everyday is a gift, and as such should be treated like one. Write down one thing that you’re looking forward to that day, whether it be finally starting that cooking class, or the office getting new chairs. Little things can be exciting as well, so enjoy the anticipation. By noticing these special moments, you’re priming your mind to always focus on the positive (which is something to get excited about within itself).

As a recap:

Balancing work, school, a social life, and fitness schedule is by no means easy, but starting your day on a healthy note is a proven way to benefit you for the rest of the day. Try adding the positive habits mentioned above to your morning routine, because by changing your habits for the better, you change your life for the better.


3 easy ways to cultivate gratitude

In a materialistic culture of over-stimulation that is evolving faster than the human race, it’s easy to find ourselves in a whirlwind of negative thoughts, especially considering that research has shown that positive emotions wear off quickly (Sheldon & Lyubomirsky, 2012). Our emotional systems favor novelty, so once the excitement of that new promotion, loft apartment, or reenergizing trip wears off, our negative mindset is cued to creep in. Actively practicing gratitude, however, can replenish our minds by savoring those positive experiences as we continue to extract appreciation for them. So, what is gratitude? 

Gratitude is the feeling of appreciation for what one has. It means taking the time to recognize the value of all things positive whether they be past or present. Positive psychology has started to explore the benefits of implementing practices of gratitude into our daily lives, and the results have been endless. Robert Emmons, the leading scientist on gratitude, explains that practicing gratitude magnifies positive emotions, heightens self-worth, and combats negativity (insert citation*). He explains that gratitude is a celebration of the present moment by affirming that there are good things in the world, and that gratitude encourages us to take a step back and acknowledge where those good things came from. Now, let’s discuss the steps that you can take to promote the development of gratitude in your mind.

 1. Keep a Gratitude Journal:  

Positive emotions are incompatible with negative emotions (Garland et al. 2010). Reflecting on the goodness in your life in a gratitude journal will elicit positive emotions that in turn, lessen the attention that you pay to any potential negative ones. Start with weekly recordings of 3-5 things for which you feel grateful. Once comfortable, advance your journaling to daily. Try to be as specific as possible, and go for depth over breadth. By doing so, you will begin to train your mind to always focus on the assets in your life, and not the burdens. 

 

2. Write a Gratitude Letter:

 When Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman had 411 participants write and personally deliver a letter of gratitude to someone whom they never properly thanked, participants immediately displayed a significant increase in happiness scores (Seligman et al. 2005). Gratitude is a social emotion that brings to our attention how others have affirmed and supported us. Expressing gratitude to those whom you are thankful can strengthen your bond and even helps to build empathy. Make a habit of writing one gratitude letter per month, and encourage yourself to deliver it in person. Once in a while, don’t forget to write one to yourself.

 

3. Use a Gratitude White Board:

Not much time to write? Try hanging a whiteboard on your fridge and simply jot down one thing that you are grateful for each morning. If there’s no space on the fridge, try placing your whiteboard somewhere that you come across daily, that way you’ll be reminded to take a moment and recount your blessings as you prepare the coffee, or before you sit in lotus position. At the end of your busy week, reflect on your previous week’s work, and all that enriches your life. If you live with family members or roommates, ask them to join in too. After all, gratitude is a celebration, and celebrations are always fun with others. 

 

To wrap up: gratitude is the quality of being thankful, and research supports that practicing gratitude is a leading contributor to happiness. We challenge you to start letting the positivity in your life blossom by cultivating gratitude with the activities provided above. Let’s start by asking, what are you grateful for today?