Need to lighten up?
Our brains need passion, play, and release at work. They’re essential to keeping us emotionally connected and engaged, to feel part of the tribe, to blow off steam, to create shared experiences. As a leadership and culture coach, I repeatedly find that our clients who do the below have more productive and profitable workplaces… oh, and people have more fun and are more loyal too.
Here are four ways to have more fun at work, with the brain in mind:
1-Create games/contests for your company values. One of my clients had a mini-golf tournament, right in the office. Employees navigated treacherous obstacles like the copy machine, the reception area, the lunchroom, and more. Each hole was a plastic cup with a company value on it. Once an employee hit the ball into the hole they had to pause and tell others nearby a short story about what the value meant to them and how they had seen others at the firm model it. Focusing on your company values and how everyone connects to the greater good will release oxytocin (the bonding hormone) and dopamine (a key neurotransmitter behind reward-motivated behaviors) will be released due to the competitive nature of the game.
2-Share community service experiences. Think back on the most powerful memories you have. They’re powerful because they are emotional—whether inspiring and uplifting or challenging with some struggle/trauma. Giving money to charities is cool, but donating time is far more emotional. You get your hands in there. Your brain is firing visual, auditory, kinesthetic cues as you’re seeing, hearing, feeling things in your environment as you volunteer. Seeing and hearing positive things (smiles, words of appreciation) make us feel good, releasing both serotonin and oxytocin into our systems. Also, we’re doing something meaningful together, which is fostering safety, belonging and mattering.
3-Take a 20-minute nap. Seriously, a short nap of this length (or shorter—not longer!) will give your brain some time in SWS (Slow Wave Sleep) which is deep and physically rejuvenating. The reason you want to stop at 20 minutes is that it’s the ultimate amount to benefit you immediately —a longer time will cause your brain to go too deeply into SWS and you’ll have a hard time waking up, and will likely feel groggy. And you will miss the immediate benefit too. Most of us aren’t getting enough sleep. The evidence is the amount of irritability, excessive focus on the negative/inability to see the positive/glass half empty/general crabbiness and less ability to enjoy life. Don’t rip off your Hippocampus and Anterior Cingulate Cortex (part of the Prefrontal Cortex where creativity, planning, problem-solving, innovation reside)—these key parts of your brain regulate your emotions. Then your Amygdala becomes overactive (since the emotional brakes aren’t on) and you’re more grumpy, unhappy and prone to only remember the negative.
4-Clear the air if the emotional smog has gotten too thick. To paraphrase Wayne Dyer “when we change the things we look at, the things we look at change”. When we’re focused on the pain or problem, it’s hard to get to the solution. We get stuck. As leaders, it’s our job to help people shift out of challenging, ineffective or painful emotional states in the workplace. We do it respectfully, and we do it together. One tool our clients love, especially right now amidst the government shutdown, is Maneuvers of Consciousness.
How’s your brain doing at work?