Tips on Controlling the Brain for Leaders
In the previous post I shared some of the things I do to help my busy brain concentrate on important tasks, such as writing the draft of a book. I also shared why FOMO should really mean Fear of Brain Overload.
Another way to get control over one’s busy brain is through taking several short breaks during the course of the day. If you are desk-bound or corralled all day in meeting rooms, a few short walks around the office or outside provides a much-needed respite for an overloaded mind. This helps to prevent what scientists call “monkey brain.”
Even a social, non-work related phone call gives your brain something to focus on outside the information overload being experienced in the workplace.
There is also a natural chemical way to control your busy brain and increase your focus — boost your levels of serotonin.
Serotonin is an important chemical and neurotransmitter produced by the body. It plays a significant role in many bodily functions and also assists in stabilizing moods, reducing depression, increasing libido, controlling sleep, and regulating anxiety.
Importantly, serotonin also regulates delayed gratification. When serotonin levels are low, the ability to wait for gratification reduces. As a result, the ability to focus on an important task or mental challenge is lost in favor of the instant gratification that comes from short-term pleasures such as shopping, television viewing, online gaming, eating, or talking with friends or family members. Even the instant gratification of completing non-essential tasks, such as reading emails or completing an expense report, can outweigh working on an important task when serotonin levels dip too low.
Serotonin levels are quickly boosted through exercise, including just going for a 20-30 minute walk. They can also be increased by recalling past positive life events. According to Alex Korb, a neuroscientist at UCLA and author of The Upward Spiral, the simple act of remembering positive events “increases serotonin production in the anterior cingulate cortex, which is a region just behind the prefrontal cortex that controls attention.”
Hence taking charge of your busy brain and regaining attention and focus is straight-forward. Increase serotonin production through exercise or positive memory recall and the likelihood of increased attention span rises significantly.
Now, if you could just control those annoying distractions emanating from others!
This article is excerpted from my recent book Better Decisions Better Thinking Better Outcomes: How to go from Mind Full to Mindful Leadership, available on Amazon in both paperback ($18.88) and Kindle ($7.88) formats. (Note: prices increase on February 4, 2019)