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Less-Is-More Blog by Pierre Khawand

What makes someone feel fulfilled at work? Asked SC Moatti, author of Mobilized

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Thu, Jun 23, 2016 @ 05:14 PM


SC: What makes someone feel fulfilled at work in your view?

Pierre: There are many factors that make us fulfilled ranging from feeling recognized by our manager and our team, having work friends that we trust, being able to leverage our skills and experiences, feel that we are learning and developing, accomplish meaningful things, and more!

However, I would like to focus on one specific factor which is "accomplishing meaningful things." The challenge is that accomplishing something meaningful takes time, sometimes a long time, so what do we do in between? Another challenge is that when we accomplish something, most often we immediately and without even noticing what we accomplished, get into the next thing and start chasing the next accomplishment.

The idea behind the Perfect 15-Minute Day Method is to pause briefly every 15 minutes, and have the opportunity to reflect even for a moment and notice what we’ve accomplished. Even if it is a tiny step, this helps us experience a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. As a result we are happy now and equipped with extra energy that can propel us forward towards the next 15 minutes. The result is accomplishment and happiness at work.

Need some inspiration? Check out SC's podcast for the full interview.

What makes you feel fulfilled at work? Your turn!


Topics: wellness, produtivity, happiness, accomplishment

Moving through ADHD with the Right Exercise

Posted by Melissa Sweat on Thu, May 19, 2016 @ 10:28 AM

Dr_Alicia_Maher_100x100.jpgGuest post by Alicia R. Maher, M.D. 

Being an integrative psychiatrist, I treat patients using western medicine, alternative treatments and a wide variety of lifestyle interventions. When treating ADHD, I find that bringing all of these practices together is the most beneficial approach. One powerful, yet often not implemented practice, is that of exercise.  As someone who has had ADHD myself, I know how difficult it can be to follow through when someone makes a wonderful suggestion such as ‘go exercise’. However, years of exercising and the great effects in my clients who exercise have convinced me that this is essential for those wanting to recover from, and thrive with, ADHD.

We know that symptoms of ADHD include restlessness, decreased concentration, poor follow-through, emotional reactivity, and others. We also know that these symptoms are related to an ineffective processing of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, in the brain. Exercise not only increases the amount of dopamine available to help with concentration and follow-through, but exercise also produces natural endorphins that give one a general sense of calm and well-being. This can help with the restlessness that one with ADHD seems to have, always feeling like they need to be doing something. That sense of well-being can also decrease the emotional reactivity. Throughout the day and especially for the period of time right after exercise, there is calm and a greater ability to focus.


Sign up for our free webinar June 2, 2016 with Dr. Maher, From Scattered to Centered: Understanding and Transforming the Distracted Brain

Click now to register!


So how can one with ADHD use exercise to help improve their symptoms? Often the temptation is to sleep in as long as possible before work and stay seated throughout the work day, leaving exercise for afterwards, when it might not do the most good. Exercising before work and then doing the high concentration tasks first thing when arriving to work will have this same effect, as will using the lunch hour to work out for those who have trouble concentrating in the afternoons after lunch. It is ideal if adults can work a couple of breaks, or ‘recess’, into their day. This might mean running up and down the stairs of the office building a couple of times, or taking a vigorous walk around a one story building. If you have a private office or are unconcerned with what others think, you can get up and dance at your desk for 5 to 10 minutes of music.


So what kind of exercise is best? Obviously, any movement is better than nothing. As a ‘prescription’ I would say 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise 5 days a week (preferably the school or work days) is ideal. It is important to experiment with one’s self as to which exercise is the right amount to have increased concentration and an increased sensation of well-being in the brain, without the body being so tired that one just wants to rest afterwards. Usually this involves running or other cardio, that one builds up to 30 minutes as they are able. Joining a class, such as Zumba, where there is someone to follow and a group of people around can help with decreasing the boredom that causes those with ADHD to give up on an activity. Meeting someone to exercise with you can help with motivation and follow through, as will paying a personal trainer to guide you through workouts. The important thing is always to find what works for you and to keep making changes as you go along.

Figure out what makes you feel good, and then how to make it something you will actually do. Given someone with ADHD’s need for novelty, plan to change what you’re doing every month or two, whether that be through your trainer, taking a new exercise class, or just choosing new activities. If you plan to change it, every so often, right from the beginning, there is less chance that you will get bored, habituate to your current exercise effects and then be in risk of not continuing to exercise.                                            

As always, if you are concerned about ADHD, in yourself or a loved one, you are advised to seek treatment with a healthcare professional.     

Alicia R Maher, M.D.  is an Integrative Psychiatrist at the Akasha Center for Integrative Medicine in Santa Monica, CA. She is also the author of the self-help guide for ADHD entitled, From Scattered to Centered: Understanding and Transforming the Distracted Brain. Dr Maher enjoys helping people to understand the neuroscience behind our conditions and transform our lives, rather than just "fix" the disorder. For more information, please visit www.FromScatteredtoCentered.com, or sign up for the webinar on June 2, 2016.

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Topics: wellness, stress management, business results, time management tips, productivity, Lunch & Learn Webinars, managing stress

Play in the Workplace? Three Radical Reasons For More Play at Work

Posted by Melissa Sweat on Mon, May 25, 2015 @ 01:25 PM

If having lots of levity and play in the workplace points to signs of happiness and longevity and work, look no further than the tenures of the longest running late-night show hosts as a guide.

  • Jon Stewart: 17 total years
  • Jay Leno: 21 total years
  • Conan O’Brien: 21 total years
  • Johnny Carson: 30 total years
  • Dave Letterman: 33 total years!

Source: Vocativ.com


Now, we all know that hosting a late-night comedy and entertainment show is not exactly the nine-to-five—but isn’t that the point? Don’t most of us office and knowledge workers come home feeling burnt out and wanting more from our day? And for managers, aren't your teams and employees lacking a certain cohesion and spark?

The data tells us the average worker is just plain burnt out.

And senior management is not immune. A May 2014 New York Times article, “Why You Hate Work," cited a recent survey of 72 senior leaders by Srinivasan S. Pillay, a Harvard Medical School psychiatrist and professor studying burnout. The survey reports that nearly all of the senior leaders polled are experiencing some form of burnout at work.

It’s a growing problem in the modern workplace spurring studies and headlines everywhere from major international publications to niche industry blogs—like this one from the HR-focused TLNT: “Will 2015 Be the Year of Worrying About Employee Burnout?"

Clearly, we should be worried. The overall wellness and productivity of our employees and organizations are at stake. So, what to do about it?

"Unleashing the Power of Play" with
Emmy award winner Gwen Gordon
June 4, 2015, 12-12:40pm PT
Sign up for the FREE webinar! Fortunately, there are many forward-thinking experts leading the movement for more play and joy in the workplace, helping to illuminate the many benefits of a work-play balance.

Here are three reasons why we need more play at work—now, more than ever:

Reason #1:  Happiness inspires productivity.

Shawn Achor, CEO of GoodThink Inc. and bestselling author of Before Happiness and The Happiness Advantage, doesn’t want you to be average. In his research in the field of positive psychology, Achor focuses on the outliers: those who exhibit exemplary levels of happiness, productivity, and success, and what we can learn from them.

We need to raise this average up in our workplaces and escape “the cult of the average,” Achors states in his 2011 TEDxBloomington talk, “The Happy Secret to Better Work." We can do this by reversing the formula for happiness and success from, If I work hard and gain success, I’ll be happy to the much-more sustaining, If I’m happy, I’ll be more productive and successful.

Reason #2:  Play is essential to our well-being.

Gwen Gordon knows a lot about play. The Emmy-winning writer and creative director began her career in a world of play on none other than Sesame Street, building muppets for the landmark show. She then went on to bring her insights to the business world at an Apple research group at MIT Media Lab, and later at Xerox PARC, IDEO, and PepsiCo.

In a 2013 Huffington Post article, Gordon writes about the need for “restoring the playground,” our well-being, and bringing us adults back to our naturally playful natures.

“The playground is our true habitat,” she writes. “Within it we become truly human, without it we perish... Perhaps the most important project of our time is to restore our own habitat, to wake up to our deep need for the unbridled joy, freedom, and fullness of play... and take it seriously.”

Gordon is currently producing a PBS special about the need for play in our modern lives and workplaces called Now Playing. Watch the trailer below.

Join Gwen Gordon as she presents at our
free webinar, "Unleasing the Power of Play"
June 4, 2015, 12-12:40pm PT

Click now to register!

Reason #3:  Play makes us more creative.

In his talk at the 2008 Serious Play Conference, CEO of powerhouse design firm IDEO, Tim Brown, shared some revealing truths about adults and play. We’re embarrassed about sharing our ideas to our peers as adults, he says—we’re reluctant, in a sense, to go out on a creative or playful limb.

But exploring in this way actually leads to greater quantities of idea generation and much better ideas. Openness leads to play, and play leads to creativity and innovation.

“Playful exploration, playful building, and role play. Those are some of the ways that designers use play in their work,” says Brown.

But play is not anarchy, he cautions. Play has rules that help lead to productive and constructive play. In the adult work, he asserts, we need to learn that we can do and be both. We can transition from play to work, divergence to convergence, and achieve markedly successful outcomes.

Play in the workplace clearly has some huge potential to achieve practical, real-world results—and dramatically transform the success of our organizations at large. Are you game?

What are your thoughts about bringing more play into the workplace? Do you think play will help improve your work performance, teams, or employee engagement? Share your comments below.

Learn more about the free webinar, "Unleasing the Power of Play," taking place June 4, 2015, 12pm PT.

Topics: wellness, human resources, business results, productivity, collaboration, managing stress

The More You Cook, The Better You Look (and Feel)

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Thu, Jun 26, 2014 @ 05:14 PM

Jennifer WelandBy Jennifer Weland, Owner, Evolve Fitness & Coaching  

Did you know...

  • The typical restaurant meal averaged across breakfast, lunch and dinner has 1,128 calories? That’s over half of the recommended daily intake for women.

  • The average restaurant meal has 58g of fat? That’s 89 percent of what you should be eating the entire day.

  • The average American eats 22 tsp of sugar a day, much of it from processed foods and canned/bottled beverages? The recommended daily allowance is just 6 tsp.

Relying on packaged, processed, store- and restaurant-prepared foods makes it really difficult for us to know exactly how many calories and how much fat, salt and sugar we’re eating every day. No wonder so many people are struggling with extra pounds and a variety of health problems that come from too much fat, salt and sugar.  

healthy cooking recipes

Food (quality and quantity) is the biggest factor in the number on the scale and in our overall health. In the spirit of the Less is More blog, I want to encourage you to eat out less, and cook at home more. By preparing your own food, you have so much more control over the quality of the ingredients, the size of the portion and the elements used to flavor your food (salt/sugar/fat versus spices and herbs).  

One Public Health Nutrition study found that people who cook at least five times a week are 47% more likely to be alive 10 years later compared to those who rely more on processed foods.  

Cooking for yourself offers some other benefits we may not typically think of, but that are important as well:

  1. It’s usually cheaper. Restaurants typically mark up their offerings to 3 or 4 times what the raw ingredients cost.

  2. You safely handle and prepare your food (and you know there aren’t bugs or rats in your kitchen). It’s not rare anymore to hear stories about lack of food safety or contamination. In your own home, you control the handling of food.

  3. You get to spend more quality time with family and friends. Preparing meals and eating them with family and friends gives you more time to connect over something positive and healthy.  

  4. You can be more self-reliant. If you have no idea how to cook, it leaves you pretty helpless, doesn’t it? Learning basic things and then branching out as you grow in skill and confidence will leave you less dependent on others—family, friends, the food industry, grocery store or restaurant industry to feed you.

So why don’t more people make their own food? My clients tell me they don’t cook at home because: they don’t know what to make, they can’t seem to find good-tasting options that are also healthy, they believe they don’t have the time, or they don’t think they have the skills to make their own food. Do any of these resonate with you?  

And while I can’t really teach my clients (or you) how to be more skilled in the kitchen, I can help with sharing good-tasting, healthy options that don’t take a ton of time and aren’t overly complicated.  

That’s why I created the Flat & Happy Recipe Guide: Delicious Meals for a Flat Belly & Happy Body. With more than 100 healthy recipes for every meal—including dessert—you’ll have plenty of options to choose from that are good for you and that you’ll actually want to eat. Healthy options for condiments, seasonings and salad dressings are also included. All you need to do is choose what looks good to you.  

Get the Flat & Happy Recipe Guide now in PDF, for Amazon Kindle and in iTunes.  

About the Author

As the owner of Evolve Fitness & Coaching in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jennifer Weland works with clients locally and across the nation through her fitness and nutrition programs. She is certified as a Personal Trainer from the National Association of Sports Medicine (NASM), a Lifestyle & Weight Management Coach from the American Council on Exercise (ACE), a Fitness Nutrition Specialist from the American Council on Exercise (ACE), and is a Certified TRX Instructor. Jennifer comes from the corporate world, so she knows just how tough it can be sometimes to get in the activity and exercise we all know we need to, and she also knows why it's so important to our overall health and well-being.  

Jennifer facilitates the Move More to Accomplish More webinar and workshop for People-OnTheGo.

Additional Resources & Webinars

Topics: wellness, productivity

4 Tips to Recharge: The L.E.S.S. Is More Approach

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Fri, Oct 18, 2013 @ 10:40 AM

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by Jennifer Weland, Owner of Evolve Fitness & Coaching, and People-OnTheGo Faculty Member

A day full of meetings and demands from boss and coworkers. The 7 p.m. dinner reservation. Picking the kids up from soccer practice at 5. Shopping for groceries. Keeping the house habitable. And everything else on the never-ending “to do” list. Trying to keep up with all of life’s demands can take a toll on your energy—physically and mentally.

Four simple practices—what I call the L.E.S.S. is more approach—can help you recharge and give your mind and body what it needs. So you’ll be able to accomplish more with energy to spare.

Log Off

Nature and road by Sed Brayton Creative CommonsTechnology is great for keeping us connected and managing our to-do lists. But the problem with always being connected is that you’re always connected. Which means that it’s much harder for you to separate your week from your weekend, or your workday from your evening. We need down time. When you don’t get enough, it can completely drain your energy, unravel your relationships, stymie your stress recovery and ultimately ruin your productivity, research suggests.

Not only can your devices drain your energy, they can also drain away time you could be spending doing other awesome stuff (like sleeping in, connecting with friends, or spending time with family). Can you go a day without getting on the computer, without picking up the iPad, and without constantly checking your phone? And did you ever notice how we’re sort of like Pavlov’s dog when we hear the ping of our device? We HAVE to check–we can’t help it! If you can’t leave your phone at home or in the car, one of my favorite tricks is to put it on silent so I’m not tempted to check it every time I hear the ping. Here’s a great article on why unplugging is good for our mental health.

I recommend turning off the TV, too. Television itself can be tiring, and the older you get, the fewer and fewer stress-reducing benefits you get from a session with the boob tube, a University of California, San Diego study says. Instead of numbing your mind as a way to rejuvenate, stimulate it.

  • Try taking a walk along a scenic trail. Spending time in nature can help restore your energy and focus.

  • Put on some music. Research shows it can reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, and decrease stress hormones, and that it may increase feel-good hormones like exercise does. Music + exercise? Even better! 

  • Or, just curl up with a good book.

Eat Healthy

649px Healthy SnacksThe food on your plate can be the deciding factor between a sluggish and a supercharged day. A few small adjustments can go a long way toward optimizing your energy intake, such as:

  • not waiting too long between meals (ideally, you would not wait longer than four hours between meals)

  • swapping simple carbs like those primarily made of white flour and sugar, for complex carbs like sweet potatoes, oats and whole grain bread. 

  • adding in “super foods” including salmon, blueberries and almonds since they can actually help you stress less.

Your goal is to keep your blood glucose levels steady throughout the day. You don’t want to be on the glucose roller coaster. Once you spike it, you go through the inevitable crash and the cycle starts all over again.

And if coffee is your energy pick-me-up of choice, you may want to rethink how much caffeine you’re getting. Being over-caffeinated raises cortisol levels, makes you jittery and anxious and dehydrates you. Limit yourself to two cups a day, and for every cup of coffee you have, drink a glass of water.

Stand Up and Move More

Getting up and moving more throughout the day can benefit you many ways. From increasing blood flow to muscles, boosting productivity and creative thinking, to improving your posture.  And it will help you beat back the effects of sitting disease, which zaps your energy and puts you at risk for a whole host of health problems.  

Expending energy on exercise actually creates MORE for you to use, because it releases a flood of chemicals in your brain, like dopamine, that create feelings of greater energy. Maximize that feel-good response by getting at least 30 minutes of cardio four or five times a week and at least two, 30-45 minute muscle-strengthening sessions each week. Yoga can also be restorative because of the type of deep breathing that’s incorporated into it. Download cardio and strength workouts to try from my blog.

Stress Less

It’s ironic that one of the biggest energy consumers of our day has nothing to do with packed schedules or sweaty workouts. If you don't learn to manage your stress, little everyday stressors, like sitting in traffic, can cause a total energy meltdown. Not at first, because your initial reaction to stress is that your body starts pumping the hormone cortisol into your bloodstream, giving you an adrenaline rush. Your heart rate rises, your muscles tense, and your mind goes on high alert. But the rush is unsustainable, and before long your energy starts to crash, leaving you feeling foggy and unfocused.

Plus, when stress is always present, your body can’t get rid of the excess cortisol that builds up in your blood. It hangs around-sort of like the houseguest that won’t leave-turning your young fat cells into mature fat cells that stay with you forever. That excess cortisol can also increase your cravings for high-fat, high-carb foods because they cause chemical releases in the brain that make you feel good and counteract the stress side effects. Check out these tips to stress less.

Which tips sound like something you will try? What are your tips for recharging and reducing stress at work and at home? I’d love to hear what you tried and how it worked for you, or please leave your comment below.

Additional Resources & Webinars

Topics: wellness, guest bloggers, productivity, managing stress

Guest Blog Post for PickTheBrain: "10 Cognitive Distortions that are Stressing You Out and Sapping Your Productivity"

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Wed, Jul 24, 2013 @ 01:03 PM

describe the imageI'm very happy to have contributed my first, guest blog post over at PicktheBrain: "10 Cognitive Distortions that are Stressing You Out and Sapping Your Productivity."

In the article, I talk about the top cognitive distortions or negative thoughts that can contribute to stress, weighing down our bodies, minds, and, of course, our productivity. I also offer some helpful "counter statements" that you can use to combat this distorted thinking.

Hope you enjoy the article, and looking forward to your comments!

People OnTheGo 10CognitiveDistortions PickTheBrain resized 600

Additional Resources & Webinars

Topics: wellness, productivity, managing stress

"Sitting Disease" is Killing YOU and Your Productivity—Learn How to Beat It

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Mon, May 13, 2013 @ 12:44 PM

describe the imageBy Jennifer Weland

It’s no secret that exercise is good for your health. Building a habit of regular exercise into your life is a key part of managing your weight and keeping your heart, lungs, and other bodily systems in tip-top shape. But it can also dramatically impact your life in so many ways, helping you perform better at your job and enjoy life more outside of work.

Moving more not only helps you accomplish more, here's why it’s also critical to being your best at work and in life: From making you more productive, to boosting energy and stamina, to spurring creative thinking, to elevating your mood and even helping you sleep better—moving more each day can dramatically help you live and work better. 

With all of these benefits, you’d think everyone would be exercising all the time, right? Unfortunately, no. We’re now more sedentary than ever.

  • Less than 2 in 10 Americans gets even the bare minimum amount of activity each week recommended by the American Heart Association.

  • Even worse, 40% of Americans say they never exercise.

  • We’re awake about 16 hours each day. But according to the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sport, our muscles are inactive most of that time—even for those of us who exercise!

How is that even possible?

Take a second to think about your average day. After rushing out the door, you sit in the car or on mass transit on the way to work. At work, you sit at your desk. Or you sit in a series of endless meetings. On the way home, you sit some more. And when you get home? It’s couch time. Then you go to bed. It’s easy, then, to see how your muscles could be inactive for most of the day.

Plus, I’m betting exercise consistently slips down the priority list when you look at your packed schedule. The same is true for so many of us. Not only are we not getting all of the benefits of regular exercise, but we’re actually harming our health by sitting so much.

The good news is all is not lost. You can reverse the affects of “sitting disease.” And you can reap all of the benefits that regular exercise delivers. I’ll tell you how during my Move More to Accomplish More webinar. Here’s just some of what you’ll walk away with:

  • How your body adapts to exercise

  • The very real health benefits of exercise and other surprising benefits

  • How much and what kind of exercise you need to reap the health and other benefits

  • Tips to move more throughout the day and reverse the affects of sitting disease.

Check out my blog for more healthy tips, recipes, and workouts you can do anywhere.

Additional Resources

Topics: wellness, productivity, Lunch & Learn Webinars

5 Easy Steps to Establish Corporate Wellness and Prevent Job Burnout

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Mon, Apr 08, 2013 @ 06:40 PM

Take advantage of our Wellness Webinars Special this June & July! Only $19.95 for 3 webinars--Movement, Nutrition, and Stress Management.

claire r cohnBy Claire Cohn

Approximately 1 in 4 employees say their top work priority is just being present at work. These employees who admit that simply showing up is #1 are at high risk for job burnout. 

Why is this so?

Prolonged employee stress due to increasingly demanding workloads (with fewer new hires and limited career ladders) causes burnout and reduced productivity. One person is often doing the work of two and probably without support staff. The actual state of burnout isn’t just a bad day or a bad week—it’s when an employee is so consumed with symptoms (i.e. headaches, nausea, neck or back pain, anxiety) that they can’t function. It can sneak up on the best performers who might be workaholics also.  

In addition to accumulating workloads, employees may be unhappy or dissatisfied with their job. Perhaps the absence of a career ladder is demotivating for younger employees, and they are bored and stuck in a dead-end job.  

So how do wellness programs address the above burnout issues primarily related to workplace stress? Below are five steps to establish a healthier workplace and happier employees.  

Five Easy Action Steps 

  1. Put Health First. Onsite wellness programs check vital metabolic signs and assess lifestyle behaviors that could be depleting job performance, for example:  abuse of alcohol or substances, poor eating habits, no exercise program, lack of social life.

  2. Create Resilience. Exercise is the quickest way to feel better and build resilience. Building a resilient workforce will counter chronic illness such as migraines, back pain, and digestive problems. Many people suffer from sleep disorders or find it difficult to concentrate on work.

  3. Apply the Mind and Body Connection to wellness. Wellness practices that build resilience also improve mental health. Employees who set goals for weight reduction, exercise or diet are taking control of their lives and creating a healthy worklife balance. Mind-Body tools such as relaxation skills, mindful meditation and Qi Gong movement also reduce mental stress. 

  4. Provide Socializing Activities within employee groups and teams.  Games and playfulness in the workplace decreases feelings of isolation.  At Search Engine People, an Ontario company, the CEO said, “we need our people to be healthy, be happy—if you’re not happy, you won’t be able to take care of customers.” The CEO initiated ping-pong challenges in a game room useable any time of the day. The challenges break up the isolation, create camaraderie, and prevent sitting too long at computer stations—and are, not to mention, FUN.

  5. Adopt Regular Alone Times. Individuals need to practice taking breaks to energize and rejuvenate during the workday. The time-out practice could be walking 20 minutes or taking 10 minutes of relaxation sitting outside and breathing fresh air.

What do you do to prevent burnout at work? Please share your comments below.

Claire Cohn, owner of On Your Feet Wellness, is a health and wellness expert with over 20 years of experience as an organization consultant, movement therapist, and health educator.

Additional Resources

Topics: wellness, managing stress

Eat well to work well: Good nutrition and productivity go hand in hand--an interview with Deanna Moncrief

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Wed, Nov 09, 2011 @ 12:50 PM

Wellness WebinarAs we continue to explore the topic of productivity in the workplace and the various factors that impact our productivity, like people, process, and technology, I asked Deanna Moncrief, our faculty member at People-OnTheGo and the facilitator of the Eat Well to Work Well Workshop, a few questions about nuitrition and productivity:
Question 1: How would you describe the relationship between nutrition and productivity?
Deanna: There is a clear relationship between the two.  Poor nutrition habits such as fewer than 5 servings of fruits & vegetables per day; diets rich in refined, processed, pre-packaged foods; skipping breakfast; consumption of more than 12oz (1 can) of regular soda (not diet) per day; and not enough water, can lead to various ways our productivity is impacted.  One way this happens is that the body doesn’t get the nutrients it needs to function properly.  It’s like operating at 60% capacity.  We feel tired in the afternoon and productivity drops because we can’t concentrate, or we’re unable to efficiently handle the stress of our workday, or we have indigestion that is distracting us and preventing us from being in a good mood.  We know that a person’s health affects their productivity (and, by the way, likelihood of getting hired or promoted), and what a person eats affects their health.

Question 2: Do you think that the new digital age (where knowledge workers are tied to their computers a good part of the day) is impacting our nutritional habits and how?
Deanna: There have been many credible studies that show this is the case.  For example, those who are sedentary at work (any desk job), often choose low quality foods for various reasons, such as eating out of candy or snack jars for a quick pick-me-up, or they’re too busy to bring a healthy lunch or go out to get one, or even because their workplace culture isn’t big on “health food.”  As a result, putting on extra weight over time is very common.  Further, being overweight is now considered a causative factor for carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS), a common and painful condition for those in front of computers much of the day.  Extra body weight causes the heart to work harder to pump more blood to the extremities, and sometimes circulation isn’t as efficient as it should be.  Overweight individuals are more than 60% likely to develop CTS than people of normal weight.  Poor diets are also directly linked to diabetes and cancers of the breast and colon, even if body weight is normal.  These serious conditions can not only lead to lost productivity because the afflicted person doesn’t feel well, there is also lost time from work for medical appointments or hospital stays.

Question 3: What is your top 3 suggestions for improved nutrition? And how do you think these would translate to improved workplace productivity?
Deanna: Great question!  Workplace productivity has been shown to improve when certain things happen: consistently stable blood sugar, adequate hydration, and proper body functioning (also known as good digestion, nutrient absorption, and elimination, for health aficionados).  How does a person get to that point?  It’s really not that hard.  My suggestions, in this order, are:
First, eat a breakfast every day that contains protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fat.  This could be as simple as having a yogurt and a handful of walnuts.  Or an egg and a slice of toast with peanut butter.  We’re not talking three course meals here, just something to “break the fast” and get your blood sugar stabilized for the next 3-4 hours.  
Second, ditch the sodas, flavored sugar waters, vitamin waters, and anything over two cups of coffee and just drink water!  Our bodies are mostly water and the feeling of thirst is a sign that you’re already dehydrated.  Dehydration causes mental and physical fatigue, two definite productivity-zappers.  
Third, eat as many non-starchy vegetables as you can.  If you wait until dinner to have a salad or a side of asparagus, you’ll never make it.  Start at lunch and have a salad as a bare minimum.  Make it colorful with lots of beautiful foods like radishes, broccoli, beets, carrots, celery, tomatoes – even fruits like mandarin orange segments or diced apples.  Be careful not to drown it in creamy salad dressing, although salad dressing is hardly the culprit for our American obesity problem.  The important thing is to get at least 5 (though I’d recommend at least 9) servings of vegetables per day.

In conclusion, Deanna added 
The trick to making dietary changes for the better is not to try to do it all at once.  If you just can’t give up your Diet Coke, then don’t.  But at least make sure you’re getting enough water too, by dividing your body weight and drinking that many ounces a day.  Add one serving of veggies (about as big as your fist) every week until you’re getting enough.  Eat something for breakfast every day.  The point is to pick one thing at a time and get used to it, no matter how long that takes.  Then you can move on to the next.  The journey will be well worth it, I promise.

Additional Resources

Check out the upcoming Eat Well to Work Well webinar that is coming up on Nov 18 and the special offer!
The Wellness Toolkit and step-by-step instructions for planning your wellness program.

Topics: wellness, productivity

Can you actually rewire your brain? Can you step back instead of react? Yes, says Dr. Alicia R. Maher

Posted by Pierre Khawand on Thu, Jun 23, 2011 @ 04:00 PM

Guest blog article written by Alicia R. Maher, M.D., Founder of ScienceForTheJourney.com

brain“I prefer strawberry,” the little girl said, as I tried to hand her pomegranate juice. Such a simple statement but I was struck with how easily she knew her preference and expressed it.  It often seemed like I spent thirty years trying to figure out what was acceptable to want, with the end result being that I had no idea what I really wanted.  If I didn’t like what others did, I either tried to force myself to go along with it, convince the others why what I wanted was better or analyze what was wrong with me for having different preferences.

I see this with so many adults.  We are often trying to ‘grin and bear’ a situation because that is what is expected of us.  However, we weren’t designed to repress our feelings.  In fact, emotional repression is experienced within our bodies as stress, causing the release of the stress hormone, cortisol.  When we continually repress our emotions, cortisol remains at high levels causing a decrease in immunity and making us more vulnerable to injury.  It is almost as if the body has this built-in mechanism for causing physical problems to get us to take notice, when we refuse to listen to our emotions.

A large part of our ability to be at peace with situations that bother us is to get in touch with an internal reference point. Whether we choose to focus on what is going on around us or within us determines our relationship with ourselves and with the world.  If we’ve lived our lives trying to figure out what the world wants from us, we become like falling leaves, moving whichever way the wind blows.  How we feel depends on whatever is going on around us. If things seem to be going well in our external world, we feel great. If something isn’t, we don’t.  But what if we could establish a connection to the deepest aspect of our being, the place where we are grounded and content, regardless of people, events and circumstances?  What if we could experience tranquility, despite the inevitable ups and downs of our external environment?  Luckily, we can.

This has been compared to the ocean. If you have ever been scuba diving, you know that despite waves and turbulence on the surface, as you descend into the deeper part of the water, there is stillness.  But how do we dive beneath the choppy surface of what is going on around us, to access that calm deep within?

One way is through mindfulness.  Minfulness is calm awareness of one's body functions, feelings, content of thought, or awareness of being aware.  It is the ability to live in the present moment, without distraction. Mindfulness techniques cause one to pay attention to his or her present emotions, thoughts and body sensations without passing judgment or reacting.  This can involve calmly observing the breath as it goes in and out. Another technique is to engage the senses, taking note of the sounds, smells and sights around them.  As thoughts come through one’s mind, they can be labeled “thought” and allowed to pass on through like clouds in the sky, without judgement or attachment.

Minfulness techniques, such as these, are another way that we can actually rewire the brain.  A study in the journal Psychological Science demonstrated how this occurs.  Researchers put people into a scanner that revealed which part of their brains were active as the researchers showed them photographs.  When the photographs were of angry or fearful stimuli, the instinctual, reactive part of their brains would light up.  The researchers then had these subjects do a mindfulness practice for several weeks.  Whenever the subjects noticed anger or fear, they would label it “This is anger”, “This is fear”.  When the researchers tested them again with the same photographs, they found that a different part of the brain was now lighting up.  Now, angry and fearful photographs were activating the higher order parts of the brain, the part associated with thinking in words about emotional experiences. So, instead of experiencing reactivity upon these stimuli, their brains were now taking a step back from it.  You can imagine the profound advantage of this change.  When stimuli activate this part of the brain, you can choose an effective response, rather than just react.

Additional Resources

The Stress Management upcoming workshop: 7/18 and 7/25 (10:00 am to 11:00 am Pacific Time)

The Wellness Track special offer: Join now for only $35!


Topics: wellness, productivity, managing stress