We all want to be more productive. With only 24 hours in a day, every minute matters. But between balancing your job, home life, and social obligations, it often feels like there *has* to be a better way to manage your time. Not to mention, many of us are dealing with dozens of distractions every day as we’ve shifted to remote work amid the COVID-19 pandemic. All that’s to say, increased productivity and improved focus can benefit just about everyone. But working smarter, not harder, is easier said than done. If you’re interested in learning more about the link between mindfulness and productivity, you’ve come to the right place.
What is mindfulness?
“Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally,” says Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. Much easier said than done. Our monkey brains are wired to relive the past and anticipate the future. One way to define stress is “the friction created from having to meet an expectation.” When our minds are all over the place, juggling multiple tasks becomes stressful. And prolonged stress can lead to poor rest, anxiety, etc.
Research has confirmed time and time again a strong correlation between mindfulness and productivity. And the good news is, you can practice mindfulness anytime, anywhere, and with anyone by being fully present in the here and now.
How mindfulness impacts the brain
Stripping away the mysticism that’s often associated with mindfulness, how does it actually impact the brain?
Mindfulness activates and thickens the prefrontal cortex
Research has found that mindfulness and meditation strengthen the prefrontal cortex. To be more specific, practicing meditation is associated with increased cortical thickness, which is directly linked to higher intelligence and improved cognitive ability in both children and adults.
Studies have also found that practicing mindfulness increases gray matter density in parts of the prefrontal cortex that are responsible for problem-solving, decision making, attention, organization, and planning.
Mindfulness strengthens the connection between the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala
The amygdala is often referred to as the “fear center” of the brain. Located deep within the brain’s right and left temporal lobes, we have two amygdalae, though they’re often referred to in the singular. As part of the limbic system, abnormal functioning of the amygdala is often associated with anxiety, depression, PTSD, and difficulty regulating emotions.
Studies show that meditation and mindfulness strengthen the connection between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex. This helps reduce anxious feelings, recover faster from emotional bouts, and remain calm and resilient in stressful situations.
Prevents the prefrontal cortex from shrinking
The very part of our brains that is responsible for our cognitive ability shrinks as we age. That’s why it becomes increasingly difficult to complete tasks and remember things with old age.
However, studies suggest meditation can actually prevent our prefrontal cortex from shrinking. And believe it or not, one study found that 50-years-old can have the same sized prefrontal cortex as 25-year-olds if they meditate regularly.
How mindfulness makes you more productive at work
The most important part of the brain for productivity is the prefrontal cortex. And as mentioned, there’s significant evidence that shows that mindfulness strengthens that part of your brain.
How does this make you more productive at work? For starters, the prefrontal cortex is responsible for decision-making, self-discipline, focus, and attention. And when neurons in the prefrontal cortex fire more easily, it allows us to be more productive and prevent a wandering mind.
Mindfulness and meditation also impact the chemical makeup of your brain. Studies have found:
- One hour of meditation can lead to a 65% increase in dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is responsible for creating feelings of pleasure and reward, which helps motivate you to repeat a specific behavior (such as completing a task, meeting a deadline, etc.).
- Meditators still produce norepinephrine and are still affected by the “fight or flight” response, but the hormone’s effect is reduced enough to give an increase in energy without the anxiety.
- Meditation and mindfulness increase serotonin levels, which help stabilize your mood and increase feelings of happiness and well-being. And research shows us that when you’re happy, you’re more productive. In fact, even a small boost in happiness increases productivity by 13%.
- Mindfulness reduces stress, which is one of the biggest energy drainers we face on a daily basis. When we’re stressed, it becomes increasingly difficult to focus and our productivity drops significantly.
How mindfulness makes you more productive at home
Mindfulness doesn’t just make you a better employee, it can enhance and improve your productivity at home too. After a long day of work, completing household chores, cooking nutritious meals, and exercising can feel like a job in and of itself.
Without making a conscious effort to be more mindful of our current state, it’s easy to feel overworked, overwhelmed, and unable to manage the stressors of everyday life even after leaving work. What we really want when we get home is to relax—and that’s exactly what practicing mindfulness helps us do.
How? For starters, mindfulness helps increase the brain’s production of alpha brainwaves, which are associated with a relaxed state of mind. And being able to achieve true relaxation is key to helping us feel rejuvenated and re-energized.
Being mindful also helps support many attitudes and feelings that contribute to a satisfied and fulfilled life. Practicing mindfulness on a regular basis makes us more adept at appreciating the little joys in life as they occur.
When you focus on the here and now, you’re less likely to worry about the future or dwell on the past. Instead, all that energy is placed into the present moment, allowing you to maximize your time, efficiently perform daily tasks, and truly be able to relax and unwind.
How mindfulness makes you more productive in play
Play is an important part of life. Taking time to do activities you genuinely enjoy helps relieve stress, stimulate your mind, connect with those around you, and improve your overall quality of life.
But when our minds are racing or we’re feeling overwhelmed, it becomes difficult to prioritize play. Mindfulness can help prevent anxious feelings, irritability, and low energy levels that often get in the way of taking the time to do the things we enjoy most.
Meditation and mindfulness also help instill a sense of calm and clarity that allows us to understand what gives us energy. Some studies have even found that mindfulness training reduces loneliness and increases our desire for social contact. Who knew it was so easy to improve our social life?
Learn more about the link between mindfulness and productivity
If there’s one thing that’s clear, it’s this: there is a strong correlation between mindfulness and productivity. If you’re interested in practicing mindfulness to increase your productivity, download our app, AQ™.
AQ™ is the first mental fitness training app that provides personalized mindfulness lessons based on your unique biomarkers. So you can take the guesswork out of which meditation is right for you, and get the most of each training. How is that for productivity?
So, what are you waiting for? Dedicate just a few minutes a day and awaken your genius with AQ™.
For general questions, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.