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5 Ways To Relax More At Work

5 Ways To Relax More At Work

When work gets stressful, you need all the time you can get to unwind and get back in the swing of it. Studies have shown that self-guided relaxation and imagery is useful for improving people’s sense of well-being even during periods of extreme stress. A 15-minute break or a half-hour lunch can seem like too little time to unwind. These five tips will help you make the most of your short break times and get your game face on feeling as relaxed as possible.

 Take A Walk Around The Building

If your office has a garden or park area, spending your break time sitting or walking through it can greatly increase your relaxation and your satisfaction with your work environment. Employees with access to a garden have reported higher employer retention rates and were even able to higher better quality personnel. If your office has the space or is thinking about relocating, share this article with your boss to encourage them to consider the benefits having a garden or park can provide.

Change Your Desktop Background

If an outdoor space is not available to you at your office, you can still receive some of the positive benefits of nature simply by changing your background image to a nature scene. Scientists have demonstrated that clearing your brain by focusing on nature can help you relax and re-focus in less than five minutes. Find a great nature picture that you love, and when you need help relaxing and focusing, simply clear your screen and focus on the nature image for a few minutes.  Here’s one to get you started.

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    See, you feel better already!

    Try using nature images as your screensaver so that you automatically experience the boost every time you unlock your computer.

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    Tense Your Muscles

    This sounds counter-intuitive. “Tense my muscles? I thought I was supposed to be relaxing?” It’s true however. Tensing and releasing individual muscle groups is a technique called Progressive Muscle Relaxation Training and it has been demonstrated to provide aid in relaxation. In a nutshell, all you need to do is close your eyes, focus on individual muscle groups, and take turns tensing, then relaxing the muscle groups.

    Use of a guided audio or video can increase the effectiveness of this technique according to the study.

    Want to take this a little further? If you’re not worried about co-workers asking you what you are doing, incorporating pushing against during the tightening phase changes this from Progressive Muscle Relaxation to Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PMF). You can read more on how to incorporate PMF into neck and shoulder relaxation at Yoga International.

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    Meditate

    Meditation has been shown by scientists to aid in relaxation and stress relief as well as a slew of other benefits. You can start to gain the benefit of meditation with as little as five to ten minutes – perfect for those short breaks and lunches with time left over. A simple meditation method taught by Bhante Sujatha, a monk from Sri Lanka, is to close your eyes, and repeat this phrase to yourself: “I am well, I am happy, I am peaceful.”

    Depending on how much time you have to meditate, he further advises to spend more time, meditating each section of the phrase and what it means to you. You can substitute this phrase for any quote, word, thought, or verse that is meaningful and uplifting to you.

    Sell Your Boss On The Benefits Of A Relaxing Work Environment

    Studies have shown improvements in employee work behavior and even a decrease in absenteeism when employers provide training and means for employees to be able to relax. Share this article, bring in a book about the benefits of relaxation such as “The Happiness Track” and recommend simple things like adding a comfortable chair conducive for relaxing or meditating in the break room. Bigger office? Think big! Some airports have dedicated relaxation or meditation rooms. Have some outdoor space? A sand pit for drawing in the sand can be both stylish and relaxing.

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    Remember, our bodies are designed for periods of rest between periods of stress. These five tips will help you take a moment from the stress of work to help your mind unwind, enabling you to power through your day with even greater productivity.

    Need more? Check out these 20 Stunning Nature Photos That Will Leave You Speechless and are all great candidates for your new desktop background or screensaver.

    Featured photo credit: Public Domain Pictures / 18043 Images via pixabay.com

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    Last Updated on June 6, 2019

    Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

    Science Says Silence Is Much More Important To Our Brains Than We Think

    In 2011, the Finnish Tourist Board ran a campaign that used silence as a marketing ‘product’. They sought to entice people to visit Finland and experience the beauty of this silent land. They released a series of photographs of single figures in the nature and used the slogan “Silence, Please”. A tag line was added by Simon Anholt, an international country branding consultant, “No talking, but action.”

    Eva Kiviranta the manager of the social media for VisitFinland.com said: “We decided, instead of saying that it’s really empty and really quiet and nobody is talking about anything here, let’s embrace it and make it a good thing”.

    Finland may be on to something very big. You could be seeing the very beginnings of using silence as a selling point as silence may be becoming more and more attractive. As the world around becomes increasingly loud and cluttered you may find yourself seeking out the reprieve that silent places and silence have to offer. This may be a wise move as studies are showing that silence is much more important to your brains than you might think.

    Regenerated brain cells may be just a matter of silence.

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       A 2013 study on mice published in the journal Brain, Structure and Function used differed types of noise and silence and monitored the effect the sound and silence had on the brains of the mice.[1] The silence was intended to be the control in the study but what they found was surprising. The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.

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      The growth of new cells in the brain does not necessarily translate to tangible health benefits. However, in this instance, researcher Imke Kirste says that the cells appeared to become functioning neurons.

      “We saw that silence is really helping the new generated cells to differentiate into neurons, and integrate into the system.”

      In this sense silence can quite literally grow your brain.

      The brain is actively internalizing and evaluating information during silence

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        A 2001 study defined a “default mode” of brain function that showed that even when the brain was “resting” it was perpetually active internalizing and evaluating information.

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        Follow-up research found that the default mode is also used during the process of self-reflection. In 2013, in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Joseph Moran et al. wrote, the brain’s default mode network “is observed most closely during the psychological task of reflecting on one’s personalities and characteristics (self-reflection), rather than during self-recognition, thinking of the self-concept, or thinking about self-esteem, for example.

        “When the brain rests it is able to integrate internal and external information into “a conscious workspace,” said Moran and colleagues.

        When you are not distracted by noise or goal-orientated tasks, there appears to be a quiet time that allows your conscious workspace to process things. During these periods of silence, your brain has the freedom it needs to discover its place in your internal and external world.

        The default mode helps you think about profound things in an imaginative way.

        As Herman Melville once wrote,[2]

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        “All profound things and emotions of things are preceded and attended by silence.”

        Silence relieves stress and tension.

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          It has been found that noise can have a pronounced physical effect on our brains resulting in elevated levels of stress hormones. The sound waves reach the brain as electrical signals via the ear. The body reacts to these signals even if it is sleeping. It is thought that the amygdalae (located in the temporal lobes of the brain) which is associated with memory formation and emotion is activated and this causes a release of stress hormones. If you live in a consistently noisy environment that you are likely to experience chronically elevated levels of stress hormones.

          A study that was published in 2002 in Psychological Science (Vol. 13, No. 9) examined the effects that the relocation of Munich’s airport had on children’s health and cognition. Gary W. Evans, a professor of human ecology at Cornell University notes that children who are exposed to noise develop a stress response that causes them to ignore the noise. What is of interest is that these children not only ignored harmful stimuli they also ignored stimuli that they should be paying attention to such as speech. 

          “This study is among the strongest, probably the most definitive proof that noise – even at levels that do not produce any hearing damage – causes stress and is harmful to humans,” Evans says.[3]

          Silence seems to have the opposite effect of the brain to noise. While noise may cause stress and tension silence releases tension in the brain and body. A study published in the journal Heart discovered that two minutes of silence can prove to be even more relaxing than listening to “relaxing” music. They based these findings of changes they noticed in blood pressure and blood circulation in the brain.[4]

          Silence replenishes our cognitive resources.

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            The effect that noise pollution can have on cognitive task performance has been extensively studied. It has been found that noise harms task performance at work and school. It can also be the cause of decreased motivation and an increase in error making.  The cognitive functions most strongly affected by noise are reading attention, memory and problem solving.

            Studies have also concluded that children exposed to households or classrooms near airplane flight paths, railways or highways have lower reading scores and are slower in their development of cognitive and language skills.

            But it is not all bad news. It is possible for the brain to restore its finite cognitive resources. According to the attention restoration theory when you are in an environment with lower levels of sensory input the brain can ‘recover’ some of its cognitive abilities. In silence the brain is able to let down its sensory guard and restore some of what has been ‘lost’ through excess noise.[5]

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            Summation

            Traveling to Finland may just well be on your list of things to do. There you may find the silence you need to help your brain. Or, if Finland is a bit out of reach for now, you could simply take a quiet walk in a peaceful place in your neighborhood. This might prove to do you and your brain a world of good.

            Featured photo credit: Angelina Litvin via unsplash.com

            Reference

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