How to heal our smartphone-addled, overworked brains…

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The biggest casualty of everyone being so connected is productivity. No one is getting much done at the office. A few ways you can maintain a healthy brain at work.  By David Rock

FORTUNE — When cars first became popular 100 years ago, there were no road rules or speed limits to begin with. Inspired by the freedom of their speedy new toys, drivers zoomed around as fast as they could. Crashes were a constant.

Today’s speedy new toys, the smartphone and tablet, help people work when, where, and how they want. Excited by their newfound freedom, people are staying connected 24/7, working as fast as they can. The crashes this time are less obvious but still producing pain.

A creative team that used to debrief with their client by video once a week from the office is now on video daily from their tablets. A software project that took six people a few months to complete is now broken into hundreds of parts for micro developers to finish in a week. While these ideas may sound enticing, there are implications to moving this fast, as HP (HPQ) discovered with tablets and Apple (AAPL) with maps.

Traveling at the speed of confusion

Perhaps the biggest implication of our new speed is what this is doing to our lives, and in particular to our brains. Recently, I was in the boardroom of a government organization outside the U.S. that was in charge of regulating what should be a slow-moving industry. They were decades old, with around 10,000 employees and mountains of money. Their biggest challenge? “Our people are so overwhelmed, no one has any time to think, it’s all too much,” their executives explained.

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The fire hose of information was driving folks more than a little crazy. This was a wake-up call for me. I often hear firms, including my own, fantasizing how much better life would be once they had years to get organized, better systems, the right number of employees, or plenty of capital. Yet here was a firm with all that and more, with the same chaos I see at startups.

Ironically, the biggest casualty of everyone being so connected is productivity. No one is getting much done at the office. One survey of 6,000 workers by the NeuroLeadership Institute found only 10% of people do their best thinking at work. “I have to go home and work at night to get anything done” is a phrase I hear all too often. Working nights and weekends leads to less time with families and friends and even less sleep, with 30% of Americans not getting the sleep they need today.

We won’t let people work 20-hour factory shifts anymore, but we’re okay to let them respond to emails 24/7. We organize workplaces to minimize physical injuries, yet we expect people to process huge volumes of data for hours on end. We mandate that people have vacations, yet more people are connected on vacation than ever. We are not respecting the needs of the brain largely because they are not obvious. Maybe it is time we made them more so.

In a recent edition of the NeuroLeadership Journal, UCLA psychiatrist Dan Siegel and I, along with Jessica Payne and Stephen Poelmans, outlined the deeper science behind the “Healthy Mind Platter” that Siegel and I launched in 2011. The “platter” outlines seven types of mental activities the brain needs for optimal healthy functioning.

Shutting down

One activity we all need is sufficient down time, when the brain is refreshed through being non-goal focused. Like other organs, our neural circuits benefit from a period of recovery after being stretched. Down time is also a critical component for complex problem solving. The incessant beeping of mobile devices raises our ambient neural activity too high to notice the quieter, non-conscious brain providing a solution to everyday (or really big) problems. With the “buzz” always on, we drown out the so-called eureka moments in the morning shower, on the walk to work, or the drive home. We should be making it okay for people to disconnect for blocks of time. If folks are not good at switching off (just as we are not good at driving at sensible speeds), perhaps we need to install some limits here. Volkswagen in Germany has started switching off their Blackberry email servers for 12 hours a day to let people rest. Other firms are experimenting with similar ideas, including minimizing or even banning internal emails.

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For real down time, people need vacations where they fully switch off. This may require changing how we think about annual leave. Instead of expecting people to take long vacations, we can encourage a shorter annual break, with an extra-long weekend each month to enable recovery. Four days offline can be truly restful. Whereas a two-week break can be two weeks of hellish preparation, two weeks of rest, followed by two stressful weeks digging out from under 2,000 emails. Maybe we need a rule that requires total down time every few months for a minimum of a few days.

Focus

Another ingredient of the “Healthy Mind Platter” is focus time. This is when we focus intensely on a single task, making deeper connections across the brain. Focus time is important for long-term memory as well as overall brain health. We need to design workspaces where people can focus, totally undisturbed, for blocks of time as needed.

My research shows that people have one to two peak performing hours a day at best. What if those hours involve being bombarded with constant distractions? As well as having fewer insights and not being able to go deeply into an idea, the task switching exhausts our brains. Recently, I was pleased to notice some private, quiet working rooms at a large company’s offices, before I noticed a sign saying “for conference calls only.” As if talking to others is more important than focusing. Do we need a rule to make being able to focus at work a basic workplace right, like physical safety?

Two other critical ingredients of the “Healthy Mind Platter” are connecting time, when we be social with others, and playtime, where we make novel connections in the brain. Having connecting time turns out to be more important to our well-being than even maintaining a good diet. By helping people get their work done at work, people can have more social time and playtime outside work, not to mention get more sleep.

We have some fast and shiny new machines that are speeding up everything about how we work. Travelling at this new speed has dangers that may not be obvious at first. Maybe now is the time to build in some limits and boundaries for our hyper-connected lives, to reduce the number of accidents along our information superhighways.

David Rock is cofounder of the Neuroleadership Institute, a consultant and author of Your Brain at Work.

Burn Off Anxiety and Defeat Depression!

When you have anxiety or depression, exercise often seems like the last thing you want to do. But once you get motivated, exercise can make a big difference.

The toll of anxiety can be high: it increases a person’s risk for other psychiatric disorders like depression, and can contribute to diabetes and cardiovascular problems. One sobering study shows that people with anxiety tend to be more sedentary and do less intense forms of physical activity, if any. That’s ironic, because lacing up your trainers and getting out and moving may be the single best nonmedical solution we have for preventing and treating anxiety.

John J. Ratey, MD says “As a psychiatrist who studies the effects of exercise on the brain, I’ve not only seen the science, I’ve witnessed first-hand how physical activity affects my patients. Research shows aerobic exercise is especially helpful. A simple bike ride, dance class, or even a brisk walk can be a powerful tool for those suffering from chronic anxiety. Activities like these also help people who are feeling overly nervous and anxious about an upcoming test, a big presentation, or an important meeting.”

John J. Ratey, MD,  is the author of the book ‘Spark‘.  This new scientific revolution will teach you how to boost brain cells, protect yourself against mental illness and dementia, and ensure success in exams and the workplace.  The book Spark will change the way you think about exercise – and, for that matter, the way you think.’

How does exercise help anxiety and depression?

 

Regular exercise may help ease anxiety and depression by:

  • Releasing feel-good endorphins, natural cannabis-like brain chemicals (endogenous cannabinoids) and other natural brain chemicals that can enhance your sense of well-being.
  • Taking your mind off worries so you can get away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed depression and anxiety

Regular exercise has many psychological and emotional benefits, too. It can help you:

  • Gain confidence. Meeting exercise goals or challenges, even small ones, can boost your self-confidence. Getting in shape can also make you feel better about your appearance.
  • Get more social interaction. Exercise and physical activity may give you the chance to meet or socialize with others. Just exchanging a friendly smile or greeting as you walk around your neighborhood can help your mood.
  • Cope in a healthy way. Doing something positive to manage depression or anxiety is a healthy coping strategy. Trying to feel better by drinking alcohol, dwelling on how you feel, or hoping depression or anxiety will go away on its own can lead to worsening symptoms.

Is a structured exercise program the only option?

 

Some research shows that physical activity such as regular walking — not just formal exercise programs — may help improve mood. Physical activity and exercise are not the same thing, but both are beneficial to your health.

  • Physical activity is any activity that works your muscles and requires energy and can include work or household or leisure activities.
  • Exercise is a planned, structured and repetitive body movement done to improve or maintain physical fitness.
 

The word “exercise” may make you think of running laps around the gym. But exercise includes a wide range of activities that boost your activity level to help you feel better.

Certainly running, lifting weights, playing basketball and other fitness activities that get your heart pumping can help. But so can physical activity such as gardening, washing your car, walking around the block or engaging in other less intense activities. Any physical activity that gets you off the couch and moving can help improve your mood.

You don’t have to do all your exercise or other physical activity at once. Broaden how you think of exercise and find ways to add small amounts of physical activity throughout your day. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park a little farther away from work to fit in a short walk. Or, if you live close to your job, consider biking to work.

How much is enough?

Doing 30 minutes or more of exercise a day for three to five days a week may significantly improve depression or anxiety symptoms. But smaller amounts of physical activity — as little as 10 to 15 minutes at a time — may make a difference. It may take less time exercising to improve your mood when you do more-vigorous activities, such as running or bicycling.

The mental health benefits of exercise and physical activity may last only if you stick with it over the long term — another good reason to focus on finding activities that you enjoy!

If you would like some help decreasing anxiety or depression naturally and healthily, Call 07498096214 to arrange a Free Initial Consultation or book via the button below.

What can I expect during an Initial Consultation for a Solution Focused Hypnotherapy session?

The Initial Consultation is an integral part of the therapy process.  It isn’t just a chat about how we can help, it is that and much more!

A typical Initial Consultation will usually involve the following:

Completion or signing of a consent form, which may include terms and conditions of therapy, and how your data will be utilised and protected (you may be asked to complete this prior to the Initial Consultation).

Discussion of the issues for which you are seeking help and how you would like things to be different, including your goals and best hopes for how you would like things to be in the future (this could include a wide variety of things, such as wanting to feel more relaxed or confident, to cope better with things in your life, or to overcome a phobia. Goals may also include wanting to change certain behaviours, such as to sleep better, to create better eating habits or to stop drinking too much – and many other things for which Solution Focused Hypnotherapy can be beneficial).

Gathering of general information such as your contact details, any history or conditions that you might feel are relevant, and other details that can help your therapist assess how best they can help you.

Discussion of how the brain works, how we experience emotions in the way that we do and how these can affect us and our habits, and what we can do to change these. Discussions will also include details about what trance is, and how it is a very normal and natural state, and what you can expect from your sessions.

Your therapist will also give you an indication of the likely number of sessions that may be required, which will differ depending on your circumstances and the reasons for you seeking therapy.

You will also be provided with a free relaxation mp3 to listen to, for you to use in between your sessions, which can help you relax and reinforce the benefits of hypnotherapy.

The initial consultation is a great way for you and your therapist to get to know each other and to discuss the reasons why you’re seeking support, as well as your goals and best hopes for moving forwards in your life. It is also a good opportunity to ask any questions about the process, so that you can feel comfortable and informed about what will happen and how it will help.

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Hypnotherapy – A 93% Success Rate

In 1970, Alfred A. Barrios undertook a ground-breaking study, which led to the mainstream acceptance of hypnosis as an extremely effective form of therapy.

Barrios compared hypnosis, psychoanalytic therapy and behavioural therapy and noted the overall lasting success rates of the different therapies.

He found that hypnotherapy had a massive 93% success rate after only 6 sessions compared to only a 72% success rate with behavioural therapy, and only 38% success rate with psychotherapy.

This led him to conclude that for changing habits, thought patterns and actual behaviour, hypnosis was not only the most effective method, but that it needed less time/sessions than any other type of therapy.

If you would like help to change unwanted habits, thought patterns or behaviours, get in touch to arrange a free Initial Consultation.

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What is Solution Focused Hypnotherapy and how can it help?

What is Solution Focused Hypnotherapy (SFH)?

Solution Focused Hypnotherapy is a type of ‘talking therapy’, that combines the use of psychotherapy with hypnosis. Hypnosis or ‘trance’ is a very natural, relaxing state, Read More…

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