When asked for his #1 productivity tip, Richard Branson paused for a moment, leaned back and said, “Work out.” By his estimate, it added about four hours of productivity to his day.
As entrepreneurs, we often have the burning desire to make our venture succeed, no matter the cost. We’ll stay up later, work longer, go further and push ourselves more than anyone else. We know we need to spend a few years living like most people won’t so that we can ultimately spend the rest of our life living like most people can’t. We’ve read all the “Create Your Own Success” books and have seen all of the motivational quotes, and we’re willing to do whatever it takes. Unfortunately all too often, “whatever it takes” means sacrificing our personal relationships, our happiness, and our health in order to succeed. What we sometimes forget is that it’s easy to earn more money, no matter what our age.
However, when our health is neglected, it can be difficult – sometimes even impossible – to reverse the ill effects. Neglecting our health in order to be successful in our careers leads to infinitely more downside than upside – like having a massive heart attack before the age of forty. But what many of us may not know is that being healthy and staying fit infinitely improves our ability to earn money: it boosts productivity and energy; it accelerates how fast the brain can think and make decisions; it lets us rest and sleep better; and, most importantly, it prevents us from dying from self-inflicted illnesses of neglect. Here’s how eating healthier and exercising more will make you richer and more successful, all while being one of the fittest people at the office.Advertising
#1 It Increases Productivity And Energy – A Lot
Entrepreneurs are obsessed with getting more done in less time. Picture this: let’s say you need to consume around 2,200 calories a day to maintain your body weight. The brain uses up approximately 20% of your caloric intake, which in this scenario means your brain is actually using around 450 of those daily calories to function. That’s 20% of your entire caloric intake fueling the super computer that we call your brain. As an entrepreneur or business owner, your brain is your most priceless asset. So why neglect it?
Picture the day of the average stressed-out CEO: We wake up early, usually after a poor night of sleep. We grab a breakfast to go, along with a coffee or a double shot of espresso. The morning is spent working or in meetings, and lunch might be a quick meal out (or we might skip it due to stress or looming deadlines). The afternoon is spent with more meetings, working, drinking coffee, and the evenings are often more of the same. Skipping meals or eating nutrient-poor meals is depriving our brain of glucose, the energy it needs to function and work optimally. Sticking with the right foods that contain lean proteins and low GI carbs gives us a steady release of energy and glucose, which in turn benefits the brain and ensures it’s firing on all cylinders without getting fatigued.
Of course, watching our diets isn’t the only thing we can do to keep our minds sharp: Exercising also improves brain function. If you’re an older entrepreneur worried about losing your edge, getting your body in motion has been shown to slow down the loss of neurons and brain power. Exercise has also been shown to boost your productivity (alertness, mood) in the hours immediately after it. What’s more, people that regularly exercise show a permanent increases in their baseline level of energy that sticks over time, even after as little as a ten minute walk done regularly.Advertising
#2 It Punches Stress In the Face
One of the biggest, most detrimental side effects of entrepreneurship is the near-constant stress and anxiety we sometimes feel when we’re building something for the first time, wondering where our next dollar might be coming from. Once the lizard brain takes over, it’s game over. Poor decisions are made as soon as emotions begin to enter the picture, leaving us no time to meditate on the decision or consider logical consequences. The irony is that when we resort to drinking stimulants like coffee in excess, it increases the stress hormone cortisol. Obviously this increases our stress levels, but there are serious health consequences ranging from increased belly fat, decreased immune function, poor quality sleep, full-on burnout, adrenal fatigue, and even hospitalization.
We’ve all heard the story of a burnt-out entrepreneur that landed themselves in the hospital with a serious health complication (typically GI-related) due to untreated stress. Jonathan Fields, author of Uncertainty, wrote in a Huffington Post article that after several weeks of hitting deadlines while trying to prove himself as “the rookie,” – which involved drinking way too many double espressos and sleeping under his desk a couple hours a night – his immune system collapsed, and he had a perforated intestine with a baseball-sized mass that required immediate surgery. Here’s the kicker: It all apparently occurred in less than a month.
Exercise and eating nutrient-dense foods also helps lower the anxiety, depression and stress levels that we can feel due to constant time crunches, deadlines and board meetings. Another bonus: If you’re dealing with failures or wildly fluctuating moods, regular exercise has been shown to be more effective at perking you up than the antidepressant Zoloft.Advertising
#3 It Improves Your Memory
An unfortunate side effect of always been frazzled is that it kills your memory. In one study, aerobic exercise was shown to actually increase the volume of the hippocampus – the part of the brain dealing with memory and learning skills. Regular exercise will not only decrease inflammation throughout the body and your brain, but it also will stimulate the release of growth factors that help protect the brain and keep it young. This doesn’t mean spending hours in the gym: Just taking a ten minute walk in between projects or before lunch has actually been shown to boost mood, energy, productivity and more. The above study done that actually increased certain parts of the brain was done on people walking 120 minutes a week – about 15 minutes per day.
#4 It Helps You Make Smarter, Faster Decisions
Picture this: You’re grinding it out one Tuesday morning, and you’re getting a bit foggy so you decide to take a break. You hop on over to Hacker News, look back up at the clock and realize it’s been an hour. “I need to be more focused and disciplined,” we tell ourselves. Well, being healthy and exercising can help with that too.
One study done on adolescents and young adults found that physical exercise dramatically improved executive functions (self control, memory, decision making, learning, etc.). Why and how it works is simple: Moving more increases the heart rate and blood flow, which increases oxygenation of the brain. Sitting fourteen hours a day at your desk staring at a computer doesn’t help.Advertising
Multiple studies have found that after 30 minutes of doing an easy half hour bike ride, subjects performed much better (and faster) on a series of cognitive tests. Maybe the fact that working out (along with meditation) is one of the two most common daily health habits of millionaires says something?
#5 It Prevents You From Dying Young (Seriously)
Consider the life of the average start-up founder, solo-preneur or new business owner. Lack of sleep? Check. Constant reliance on stimulants (either legal or illegal?) Check. An ever-present feeling of stress and anxiety? Check. Skipping meals or eating quick meals that aren’t exactly calorie-dense? Check. All four of these are serious risk factors for metabolic syndrome, the precursor to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and more. In other words, when you get fat and out of shape, your risk of developing pretty much every disease and negative health condition increases – that doesn’t exactly make your life as an entrepreneur easier. And if the other four reasons weren’t a compelling reason to eat healthier and move more, hopefully death is.
Even the symptoms leading up to metabolic syndrome impair your ability to perform at your absolute best. As your weight increases, energy decreases. Men will have higher levels of female hormones, women will have very high levels of female hormones. Productivity decreases, sleep worsens, stress levels elevate.
Fighting the cult of productivity isn’t easy though. Thinking that we should cut corners to save an hour here and there to devote to building our empire can seem like a logical decision, but unfortunately it’s a shortsighted one. Not only will being healthy actually boost your productivity, energy, happiness, mood and more, you’ll also look and feel much better and avoid an early grave. What’s more? It’ll make you a lot more money – with your sanity intact.
Featured photo credit: Happy President’s Day / Bart via flickr.com
Last Updated on August 20, 2019
How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind
Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.
Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality. (And here’s Why Your Perception Is Your Reality.)
I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.
You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?
Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.
When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.
I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!
Table of Contents
Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?
Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.
Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:
1. The Inner Critic
This is your constant abuser who is often a conglomeration of:
- Other people’s words; many times your parents.
- Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
- Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
- The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.
The Inner Critic is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.
Why else would this person abuse you? And since this person is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?
2. The Worrier
This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”
The Worrier is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it. Occasionally, this person is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.
3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker
This is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.
This person can be set off by words or feelings, and can even be set off by sounds and smells.
The Reactor has no real motivation and has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.
4. The Sleep Depriver
This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.
The Sleep Depriver’s motivation can be:
- As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
- Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
- Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
- As listed above for the inner critic and worrier
How can you control these squatters?
How to Master Your Mind
You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.
Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.
There are two ways to control your thoughts:
- Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
- Technique B – Eliminate them altogether
This second option is what is known as peace of mind!
The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.
Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier; and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.
For the Inner Critic
When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.
You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”
For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”
You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:
“Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”
If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:
- They rile up the Worrier.
- The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
- They are often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
- They are a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
- They are the destroyer of self-esteem. They convince you that you’re not worthy. They’re a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get them out!
Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.
Replace them with your new best friends who support, encourage, and enhance your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.
For the Worrier
Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.
Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.
You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:
- Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
- Shallow breathing or breathlessness
- Muscles tense
Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.
If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:
Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):
“Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”
Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.
If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.
Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!
Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.
If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.
“I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.
Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:
“Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”
Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.
For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor
Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.
The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:
- Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
- Shallow breathing or breathlessness
- Muscles tension
I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.
Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.
Breathe in through your nose:
- Feel the air entering your nostrils.
- Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
- Focus on your belly rising.
Breathe out through your nose:
- Feel your lungs emptying.
- Focus on your belly falling.
- Feel the air exiting your nostrils.
Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.
Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.
One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.
Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!
For the Sleep Depriver
(They’re made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)
I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.
Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.
- I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
- Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.
When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.
From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.
For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.
If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!
You can also use this technique any time you want to:
- Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
- Shut down your thinking.
- Calm your feelings.
- Simply focus on the present moment.
The Bottom Line
Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.
You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.
Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!
More About Mental Strength
- How to Stop Worrying About the Future: 8 Practical Techniques
- 40 Ways to Achieve Peace Of Mind and Inner Calm
- How to Stop Racing Thoughts When Your Mind Won’t Let Up
Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com