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How to Refresh Your Brain--in 10 Minutes

When you go from one task to the next--all day long--your mind constantly races to catch up. Hit the reset button with this underrated trick.

Andy Puddicombe is a former Buddhist monk and co-founder of Headspace, an entrepreneurial venture designed to demystify meditation and make it easily accessible to all audiences. In a recent TED talk, Puddicombe promotes an idea that almost sounds too easy to be true: refresh your mind in just 10 minutes a day and you might be happier at work.

Puddicombe seeks to provide “meditation for the modern world,” eliminating stereotypes of incense and cross-legged monks. And he might just be on to something. Here are two problems that plague modern-day workers--and how Headspace’s bite-sized meditation plan can help. 

Problem #1: Inability to Focus

“The average office worker changes windows [on her computer] 37 times an hour,” Headspace’s head of research Nick Begley says in a meditation tutorial.

According to Begley, when your mind changes gears that rapidly, part of your brain is still engaged in the previous task and you don’t have all of the attention and resources necessary to concentrate on the current task. This slows down productivity and reduces your ability to filter relevant information from irrelevant information. 

Problem #2: Stress

When people get stressed, there is a part of the brain called the amygdala that fires up the “fight or flight” part of the nervous system that helps you make quick, impulsive decisions.

“It signals to our hormonal system to secrete adrenaline and cortisol and increases our heart rate, respiration, and blood pressure, so we can escape this immediate physical danger,” says Begley.

The problem arises when there is no immediate physical danger--when, say, you’ve forgotten to hit “save” on an important document and your computer crashes, or you arrive unprepared for an important business meeting. The “fight or flight” impulse is not actually helpful in those situations and merely puts undue stress on the body, Begley explains.  

The Solution

Refreshing your brain is easier than you think. Here's the first and only step: Do nothing.

Puddicombe recommends simply setting aside 10 minutes each day to quiet your mind. Practice observing thoughts and anxieties without passing judgment--simply experience them. Focus on the present moment and nothing else.

“We can’t change every little thing that happens to us,” he acknowledges, “but we can change how we experience it.”

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IMAGE: Getty
Last updated: Jan 22, 2013

FRANCESCA FENZI | Staff Writer

Francesca Fenzi reports on entrepreneurship, technology and small business news from San Francisco. Her work has previously appeared in TIME, USA Today, Pop City and The Northside Chronicle.




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