Personal Productivity

The Relationship Between Mindfulness and Productivity

AUTHOR: Noah Rue Tags Focus Techniques Work & Life

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Mindfulness and productivity

Mindfulness can often feel like a buzzword nowadays. You’ll often find it suggested when you’re trying to reduce stress or anxiety, practice self-care, or even include it as a part of your daily routine.

But, mindfulness has gotten so much buzz because it’s effective.

In terms of productivity, mindfulness is a practice that can help you to stay focused and get things done. The average employee is only fully engaged and productive for 2 hours and 53 minutes each day. Think about how much more you could accomplish – both at work and at home – if you could give your productivity a boost.

Let’s talk more about how mindfulness can help you to do just that.

Dealing With Distractions

Think about how many times during the day you get distracted. If you’re in the office, you might get caught up reading emails or chatting with co-workers. At home, other family members or even household chores could keep you from getting things done. Another major culprit (no matter where you are) is your phone. Mindfulness is a habit that teaches you to power down, as it were, and helps you to reduce those distractions.

When you practice mindfulness, you disengage from whatever might be distracting you. Instead of focusing on the things fighting for your attention, you remain in the present moment. Your focus will solely be on your breathing, how your body feels, and the things you hear, smell, and can feel around you.

Even just taking a few moments away from those distractions can make it easier to get back on track. It will also make it easier to stick to boundaries. For example, if you know your phone is a problematic distraction, practicing mindfulness can make it easier to stick to your own rules about limiting your screen time.

Sometimes, your own thoughts can be distracting, especially if you’re stressed. Mindfulness comes to the rescue again. When you’re only focused on the present, you’re not worried about whatever might be contributing to your high stress levels. Taking a step back from those stressors for a few minutes can make them less severe and less distracting.

More Sleep, More Productivity

There’s a direct correlation between sleep and productivity. Why? Not getting enough sleep impacts both your physical and mental state “in a variety of negative ways”, including:

  • Memory issues
  • Mood swings
  • Difficulty thinking/concentrating
  • Poor balance
  • Weakened immune system

When you’re not able to focus or concentrate, you’re not going to be as productive as you want. You might even find yourself nodding off during the day or feeling so exhausted that all you can think about is taking a nap.

So, what does mindfulness have to do with sleep?

If you have trouble getting to sleep at night, mindfulness can make a big difference. Often, the reason people can’t get to sleep or stay asleep is stress or racing thoughts. By practicing mindfulness as part of your nighttime routine, you can go to bed focused only on the present.

Plus, because mindfulness requires you to practice deep breathing, you can ease your body into a more relaxed state. Breathing deeply can even help your body produce more melatonin, a natural hormone that can improve your overall sleep quality.

Mindfulness Over Multitasking

To say we live in a busy society would be an understatement. Unfortunately, that causes many people to think they have to multitask to get things done. If you find yourself biting off more than you can chew each day, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

Not only can that lead to extra distractions and stress, but it can also cause a lack of motivation. No one wants to look at a to-do list that feels like it’s a mile long. When you have too much on your plate, even thinking about it can make you want to go back to bed without tackling a single thing.

No matter how much you might have to do each day, mindfulness can help you accomplish it without feeling overwhelmed.

First, mindfulness can help you to get into a “flow” state. Once you decide to work on one thing, being mindful of that particular task will makes it easier to stay focused. You won’t be as tempted to work on other things at the same time. If you need help getting into that flow, try a few of the following tips:

  • Decide what to work on first
  • Define your goals
  • Eliminate distractions
  • Take a few deep breaths
  • Start small and work your way into the bigger parts of the project

Sometimes, it might be next to impossible to strictly focus on one thing. If you’re working on a project and get an urgent email, for example, it can be necessary to respond right away. But, things like that don’t have to throw you off track. Try mindful context switching to break down manageable chunks of work and dedicate time to everything without getting distracted.

Whether you’re working at home, in an office, or want to be more present in your personal life, mindfulness can help to boost your productivity and help you get more accomplished each day. Use these suggestions to reach your goals – you might be surprised by just how much you can get done.

Noah rue
Noah Rue
@NoahRue

Noah is a journalist and a digital nomad, fascinated with the intersection between global health, personal wellness, and modern technology. When he isn’t searching out his next great opportunity, Noah likes to shut off his devices, head to the mountains and read novels based in the American Southwest.

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One comment

87845561c05ebcc74f87f90fbfe89137
Commented 11 months ago Art jefferson Marr

Mindfulness and Motivation: a new way of looking at mindfulness and why it is necessary for productive work

In recent years, mindfulness has been endowed with more uses that a Swiss army knife, and has been attested to impede stress, build healthy brains, lead to the acceptance of life’s hard knocks, encourage compassion and care, and even improve the savory qualities of a bowl of soup. Nowhere though has mindfulness been attributed to be a core and perhaps essential constituent to incentive motivation, reinforcement, or ‘reward’, but that is what we will argue here, and demonstrate through a simple procedure any one can try. To get to this argument, we must consider a somatic state intrinsic to mindfulness, but generally neglected in its research literature. And that is relaxation, or rest, a concept not above controversy in the past.

Meditation and Rest

In 1984, the psychologist David Holmes published in the flagship journal of the APA, ‘The American Psychologist’, a review of the experimental literature of meditation, and concluded that meditative processes were no different from garden variety resting states. Naturally, this cut against the grain of the widely held opinion that meditation was something more than mere rest, and his methods, conclusions, and even motives were roundly castigated and criticized. Rather than refuted, his work was simply ignored, and the Implicit and unchallenged notion that meditation represents a unique neurologic state is common currency today in popular and academic opinion. A simpler question was not what Holmes claimed, but what he left out, namely an explanation of what a resting state is, and it is here we will argue that not only can Holmes’ claims be validated, but as well the efficacy of mindfulness procedure if not the reality of a distinctive meditative state.

Rest, or the generalized inactivity of the covert musculature, is simple to describe as a somatic or bodily state, but is much more complex as a neurologic state. For one thing, it is pleasurable. One practices meditation or mindfulness at certain hours during the day and for certain amounts of time, generally a half hour to an hour. The reduction of perseverative cognition (worry, regret, distraction) through meditation gives the musculature the time to completely relax, and this state of persistent or profound relaxation elicits a state of pleasure or mild euphoria due to the concomitant and sustained elicitation of endogenous opioids (or endorphins) in the brain. The sustained increase of endogenous opioids also down regulates opioid receptors, and thus inhibits the salience or reward value of other substances (food, alcohol, drugs) that otherwise increase opioid levels, and therefore reduces cravings. Profound relaxation also mitigates our sensitivity to pain and inhibits tension. In this way, relaxation causes pleasure, enhances self-control, counteracts and inhibits stress, reduces pain, and provides for a feeling of satisfaction and equanimity that is the hallmark of the so-called meditative state.

However, pleasure from a neurologic viewpoint is not a simple thing. Groups of opioid neurons or ‘nuclei’ populate a tiny region of the neural real estate in the midbrain, and as ‘hot spots’ are collectively no larger than the eraser on a pencil. Yet they are highly sensitive to inputs from different sources in the brain. One of the primary inputs come from dopaminergic neurons, whose nuclei are adjacent to opioid neurons. The axons for dopaminergic neurons project from the midbrain to the cortex, and dopamine systems are highly sensitive to cortically processed information, namely novel and positive act-outcome expectancies or surprises that populate our days. Dopamine is a neuromodulator, or a type of neurotransmitter that activates arrays of neurons in the cortex, and is responsible for learning and motivation. Dopamine induces attentive arousal, but not pleasure, but it can indirectly increase pleasure if it occurs concurrently with the co-activation of opioid systems. For example, eat a very tasty treat, and dopamine activity will increase as you snap to attention in response to the pleasure. Conversely, the florid description of a bottle of wine will make the wine taste better because of an increase in dopaminergic activity that in turn increases opioid levels in the brain (this is also the mechanism behind the placebo effect where positive expectations change affect). In sum, opioid and dopamine systems are synergistic, and if concurrently activated will co-activate each other.

So what does this have to do with meditation and motivation?

Simply put, if mindfulness induces rest, and rest induces opioid activity, that activity will be accentuated if an individual concurrently and persistently thinks of and pursues meaningful behavior (meaning will be defined as thinking of or doing actions that have branching novel positive implications, or a variant of positive thinking). Since meaningful behavior induces dopamine release, this provides a ‘virtuous’ neurological circuit, when mindfulness can be merged with meaning and lead to pleasurably aroused states or even ecstasy. We can infer these processes from variants of meditation such as ‘loving kindness’ meditation and savoring, as well as peak and ‘flow’ experiences where highly meaningful activity is coupled with non-stressed or resting states. Above all, meaningful behavior is productive behavior that has positive novel and unfolding implications, and when associated with positive affect, can become in a sense ‘autotelic’ or rewarding in itself.

By coming to terms with the neurologic reality of relaxation, mindfulness can realize it’s possibilities as essential to daily life and the core motivations that make life worthwhile. As such mindfulness becomes much easier to understand, operationalize, and be more broadly accepted. This would be a conclusion that even Dr. Holmes would surely endorse.

Authors Note
(sorry, can't put links in on comments! Such is the rule for tis site!) you can find me at website doctormezmer for my book sources on this.
Also, my arguments above are not new science, but a new interpretation of the research of the distinguished affective neuroscientist Kent Berridge of the University of Michigan, who was kind to vet my books for accuracy and to provide endorsements in their preface.

87845561c05ebcc74f87f90fbfe89137 Art jefferson Marr

Mindfulness and Motivation: a new way of looking at mindfulness and why it is necessary for productive work

In recent years, mindfulness has been endowed with more uses that a Swiss army knife, and has been attested to impede stress, build healthy brains, lead to the acceptance of life’s hard knocks, encourage compassion and care, and even improve the savory qualities of a bowl of soup. Nowhere though has mindfulness been attributed to be a core and perhaps essential constituent to incentive motivation, reinforcement, or ‘reward’, but that is what we will argue here, and demonstrate through a simple procedure any one can try. To get to this argument, we must consider a somatic state intrinsic to mindfulness, but generally neglected in its research literature. And that is relaxation, or rest, a concept not above controversy in the past.

Meditation and Rest

In 1984, the psychologist David Holmes published in the flagship journal of the APA, ‘The American Psychologist’, a review of the experimental literature of meditation, and concluded that meditative processes were no different from garden variety resting states. Naturally, this cut against the grain of the widely held opinion that meditation was something more than mere rest, and his methods, conclusions, and even motives were roundly castigated and criticized. Rather than refuted, his work was simply ignored, and the Implicit and unchallenged notion that meditation represents a unique neurologic state is common currency today in popular and academic opinion. A simpler question was not what Holmes claimed, but what he left out, namely an explanation of what a resting state is, and it is here we will argue that not only can Holmes’ claims be validated, but as well the efficacy of mindfulness procedure if not the reality of a distinctive meditative state.

Rest, or the generalized inactivity of the covert musculature, is simple to describe as a somatic or bodily state, but is much more complex as a neurologic state. For one thing, it is pleasurable. One practices meditation or mindfulness at certain hours during the day and for certain amounts of time, generally a half hour to an hour. The reduction of perseverative cognition (worry, regret, distraction) through meditation gives the musculature the time to completely relax, and this state of persistent or profound relaxation elicits a state of pleasure or mild euphoria due to the concomitant and sustained elicitation of endogenous opioids (or endorphins) in the brain. The sustained increase of endogenous opioids also down regulates opioid receptors, and thus inhibits the salience or reward value of other substances (food, alcohol, drugs) that otherwise increase opioid levels, and therefore reduces cravings. Profound relaxation also mitigates our sensitivity to pain and inhibits tension. In this way, relaxation causes pleasure, enhances self-control, counteracts and inhibits stress, reduces pain, and provides for a feeling of satisfaction and equanimity that is the hallmark of the so-called meditative state.

However, pleasure from a neurologic viewpoint is not a simple thing. Groups of opioid neurons or ‘nuclei’ populate a tiny region of the neural real estate in the midbrain, and as ‘hot spots’ are collectively no larger than the eraser on a pencil. Yet they are highly sensitive to inputs from different sources in the brain. One of the primary inputs come from dopaminergic neurons, whose nuclei are adjacent to opioid neurons. The axons for dopaminergic neurons project from the midbrain to the cortex, and dopamine systems are highly sensitive to cortically processed information, namely novel and positive act-outcome expectancies or surprises that populate our days. Dopamine is a neuromodulator, or a type of neurotransmitter that activates arrays of neurons in the cortex, and is responsible for learning and motivation. Dopamine induces attentive arousal, but not pleasure, but it can indirectly increase pleasure if it occurs concurrently with the co-activation of opioid systems. For example, eat a very tasty treat, and dopamine activity will increase as you snap to attention in response to the pleasure. Conversely, the florid description of a bottle of wine will make the wine taste better because of an increase in dopaminergic activity that in turn increases opioid levels in the brain (this is also the mechanism behind the placebo effect where positive expectations change affect). In sum, opioid and dopamine systems are synergistic, and if concurrently activated will co-activate each other.

So what does this have to do with meditation and motivation?

Simply put, if mindfulness induces rest, and rest induces opioid activity, that activity will be accentuated if an individual concurrently and persistently thinks of and pursues meaningful behavior (meaning will be defined as thinking of or doing actions that have branching novel positive implications, or a variant of positive thinking). Since meaningful behavior induces dopamine release, this provides a ‘virtuous’ neurological circuit, when mindfulness can be merged with meaning and lead to pleasurably aroused states or even ecstasy. We can infer these processes from variants of meditation such as ‘loving kindness’ meditation and savoring, as well as peak and ‘flow’ experiences where highly meaningful activity is coupled with non-stressed or resting states. Above all, meaningful behavior is productive behavior that has positive novel and unfolding implications, and when associated with positive affect, can become in a sense ‘autotelic’ or rewarding in itself.

By coming to terms with the neurologic reality of relaxation, mindfulness can realize it’s possibilities as essential to daily life and the core motivations that make life worthwhile. As such mindfulness becomes much easier to understand, operationalize, and be more broadly accepted. This would be a conclusion that even Dr. Holmes would surely endorse.

Authors Note
(sorry, can't put links in on comments! Such is the rule for tis site!) you can find me at website doctormezmer for my book sources on this.
Also, my arguments above are not new science, but a new interpretation of the research of the distinguished affective neuroscientist Kent Berridge of the University of Michigan, who was kind to vet my books for accuracy and to provide endorsements in their preface.

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