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From Breakfast to Your Dark Side

August 15, 2012

Everyone seems to be getting back to work and their well known routine. With so many laud sighs and “the holidays were too short” around me I have gone back to the 99u website for some clever and inspirational ideas on how to improve our well-being and creativity. It seems that it might be enough to stick to just eight rules (for the whole article please click here):

1. Eat breakfast.
Numerous studies have linked eating breakfast with better general health, increased productivity, and a lower body mass index. If you want to feel better, look better, or just work better, there’s one simple solution: eat breakfast — preferably foods with a low glycemic index.

2. Sit less.
Most of us spend the greater part of our day sitting in front of a computer. In fact, the average person sits 9.3 hours a day — more than they sleep. All of this sedentary work is leading to increased cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, and lots of other unhealthy side effects. Like death.

You want to break up all that sitting as much as possible. Whether it’s heading to the gym on your lunch break, or just walking over to the water cooler once an hour, or simply bending over to tie your shoes, anything that breaks the stationary cycle will up the electrical activity in your muscles — and your life expectancy.

3. Exercise in the middle of the day.
Much like breakfast, exercise is one of those activities that improves almost everything, including productivity and focus. In a U.K. study that followed 200 workers, exercising on a workday significantly improved the subjects’ mood, calmness, productivity, and problem-solving abilities.

4. Get an office pet.
Scientists have long-theorized that having pets at work improves productivity and camaraderie, and recent studies back up this assertion — particularly when it comes to dogs.

What’s there not to understand?

5. Shorten your commute.
It’s no secret that humans often make inaccurate predictions about what will make them happy. One of the most common oversights occurs when we think about the impact of our daily commute. As The Atlantic‘s Cities blog recently wrote:

In previous studies of happiness, commuting has been found to be the least pleasant part of our day.
Yet some of us make things even worse by trading a longer commuter for a bigger house.

6. Use ALL of those vacation days.
Taking time off gives us perspective and renews our energy, which improves not just our productivity, but our effectiveness as well. What’s more, when we take time off, we usually travel, and that sparks creative thinking as well.

7. Distance yourself from the problem.
A growing body of research suggests that how “close” we feel to a problem impacts our mental representation of it. The general thrust is that we contemplate situations in the here and now one way (concretely and less creatively), and situations projected into the future or far away in another manner (abstractly and more creatively).

Oren Shapira and Nira Liberman sum up the practical implications of the research:

“There are several simple steps we can all take to increase creativity, such as traveling to faraway places (or even just thinking about such places), thinking about the distant future, communicating with people who are dissimilar to us, and considering unlikely alternatives to reality.”

8. Explore your dark side.
In a blog post over at, journalist Jonah Lehrer mulls over two new studies that imply that – for better or worse — both anger and sadness seem to be key drivers of creative thinking. While anger seems to fuel “unstructured thinking” and idea generation, sadness seems to increase our persistence and drive us to work harder.

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Tomorrow start your day with a healthy breakfast and, if you have any more ideas on how to feel better during  a boring work day, please let us know!

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