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You Only Need 20 Minutes For An Insanely Productive Day (With This Morning Ritual)

You Only Need 20 Minutes For An Insanely Productive Day (With This Morning Ritual)

Picture this: you start the day on the wrong foot. Say the alarm didn’t buzz. So, you take a hurried shower and have burnt toast for breakfast, the kids decide to disappear at the instant your car refuses to start, and basically everything goes south from there. It’s like Murphy’s Law: if something can go wrong, it will. The result: your plans to have a productive day go flying out of the window. The solution? A 20-minute morning routine that lets you have an insanely productive day!

The Harvard-trained happiness researcher and New York Times best-selling author of The Happiness Advantage Shawn Achor recommends a morning ritual that will increase your positivity levels and give you a happiness advantage.

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What is the Happiness Advantage?

When you raise your positivity level, your brain feels happier. A happier brain, drunk on positivity, is better equipped to handle stress as well as everyday situations. This is true simply because the brain becomes more intelligent with a dose of positivity. A happier brain also makes your body’s energy levels rise and makes you move about more proactively. A brain fed on positivity makes your day far more productive, according to Achor. Your productivity can go up by about 31%. So, let’s talk about that 20-minute morning routine that will promote an insanely productive day.

1. 2 Minutes to Relive the Most Positive Moment of the Past Day

The brain can be tricked – it does not realize the difference between experiencing a high and visualizing one. So, take two minutes to write down the happiest moment of your past 24 hours and to relive all its great moments. This will make your brain feel more positive. A more positive brain, as we have just seen, basically makes you far more productive in everything during the day, be it work, chores, or hobbies.

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2. 2 Minutes to Send a Positive E-Mail

Sending someone a positive email full of nice things will make two things happen. One is that it will make you feel pumped because you’ve done a good deed. The other is that it will make you stronger in interpersonal relationships. And being popular will certainly make you and your brain happier, thereby making your brain and you far more productive than normal.

3. 2 Minutes to Express Gratitude

Jot down three new things that you are thankful for on an everyday basis for at least 21 consecutive days. This will train your brain to become more optimistic and to look for positivity everywhere instead of negativity. Thinking of all that you have makes you feel good about your life. Instead of seeing the glass as half empty, this way you can train your brain to see it as half full. An optimistic view of the world is an infinitely happier one. And happiness, as we have seen, puts you on the path towards more productivity!

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4. 10-15 Minutes to Exercise

Exercise affects the brain in two ways. Vigorous exercise, even if it’s for just 10 minutes, floods your brain with endorphins, aka the “happy hormones” that reduce stress and make your thinking tank function optimally. Secondly, by taking a little time to exercise and do something for yourself, you train your brain to think that you matter. The positivity carries through the day and through everything you do. Completing an exercise routine is one way to train the brain to get through something with perseverance, and so it makes your brain more productive too.

5. 2 Minutes to Meditate

Finally, even if it’s just for two minutes, sit and internalize your thoughts, meditating on nothing but your breath going in and out. This improves the focusing mechanism of the brain and makes it more accurate, as well as increasing positivity and lowering stress levels. Sharper concentration means you let your brain focus on the job at hand, and this makes it more productive.

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This routine can be done in 20 minutes a day, or it can be stretched a little more on days you have time. It will make you and your brain more positive, and definitely more productive too.

Featured photo credit: Pixels via pexels.com

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Rima Pundir

Health, Wellness & Productivity Writer

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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