5 Habits To Exercise The Mind

Last week was all about how, unless Team Leaders quickly get organised around their “people practices” we will soon see a serious dip in Psychological Safety and therefore productivity. This week, following on from yesterday’s article regarding “Getting Back In (Mental) Shape” here’s a video with a few practical suggestions in terms of “individual/personal practices” as we believe there is a lot that each team member should do for self-care to work on their own wellbeing.

This article is trying hard not to be too condescending so it isn’t touching on the basis of self-care, we are all grown-ups and know it’s important to get physical exercise, eat right and sleep a lot, this is focused on some of the other things that ought to be part of our daily habits to ensure our thought processes are structured in a healthy and resilient manner and this is what we know helps thanks to neuroscience:

  1. Your “Why” - As we have mentioned many times before, having clear personal motivation is irreplaceable and utterly necessary at this point. This is not to be confused with the company level mission statements or even the team level motivation, -both of which are utterly important and are probably the preoccupation of many an enterprise through this in particular if their reason d’etre is not exactly as noble or clear as that of essential workers- but this is referring instead to the personal level motivation of each individual in the team. Team leaders should insist there’s thought invested in it even if the results are not shared as the more intimate and granular they are the more powerful. (i.e. if your “why” is about that pay-check more than about saving humanity it is no less true or powerful to reinforce if you connect it to how that money will pay for emotionally important and pleasurable moments beyond mere survival)

  2. Your Breathing - As little as 3 deep breaths are capable of resetting our nervous system and transforming the way your brain’s chemistry works instantly reducing the chemicals that are responsible for stress and anxiety. 3. Deep. Breaths. Who doesn’t have time for that every day? Even better, only a few minutes of breathing exercises a day are shown to reduce stress, anxiety and depression. The investment in a breathing habit will come in handy every time you are faced with a crisis as being in the middle of a panic attack is not the time to learn how to breathe.

  3. Meditation. Whether it is time to let your mind wander or time to let your mind focus on a positive visualisation or, even better, time to empty your mind for a few blessed minutes -those of us who do it know that’s very long indeed!-, creating the habit of holding space for your mind to rest or your mind to grow is essential. Whether before sleep or first thing in the morning, start by creating the right time. Then find the right supporting apps (there are some for every taste, even some for the most sceptical of us such as 10% happier) or even supporting hardware (one of the teams told us they bought a Muse headband to share between their 6 team members) and set out to make it part of your every day.

  4. Gratitude. Maybe the most powerful of them all and one to use not only at an individual level but at a team level too, gratitude is proven to rewire our brains and prime them to notice and create positive happenings. I.e. not only will you retrospectively acknowledge and celebrate wins but your brain will get trained to look for the good and notice the smallest signs it can record later effectively changing the amount of dopamine and serotonin you experience. There are apps out there to help you record things in any way from writing (and journaling is the key here) to visuals. Just start “counting your blessings” every day. You’ll be surprised how transformational it is. 

  5. Your “Permission to be human”. This one’s not a mindfulness hack but we all need it. After years of having been told work is not the place to be human, team leaders have a job on their hands to reverse that fast and in doing so to allow us all to learn how to overtly value ourselves enough to take care of our wellbeing and exercise our mind as we exercise our bodies. 

Each of these need to become a habit so once you’ve experimented enough and found the combination that works for you from the above, start by instilling the habit. Remember most behavioural change takes weeks not days and allow 30-45 days of the same routine before you can start feeling the effects.

In this crisis, as we give up our dreams of quick fixes and realise there is much work ahead it’s time we look not only around ourselves but within ourselves too so we get stronger and more resilient to face up to whatever ever is coming next. It may feel hopeless, unfair and like we’ve earned a break but realistically, we are stronger than we give ourselves credit for and we will find that as we set our “personal practice” and once we’re through this we would have built something of value.

As a Team Leader work on your own personal practice to model it but focus intently on No. 5 and reiterating the permission be it by bringing new statistics to support the science behind the above or by reminding people in your 1-on-1s. It’s hard, if not altogether impossible to have a healthy and functional team that is Psychologically Safe and therefore makes magic unless its team members have had the permission and the encouragement to look after themselves. 

Stay people and personal practicing to stay sane and be Psychologically Safe!

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