Chief of Research, Workforce Productivity, Organizational Performance
This op-ed was originally published in the Globe and Mail on November 21, 2018.
When you woke up this morning, was there one thing you planned to do just for yourself?
From the moment we wake up to the time we go to bed, life can be a blur, with days and weeks feeling like they’re blending into one another. This often leaves us feeling emotionally exhausted at the end of the week, with little energy to enjoy the weekend. And if the weekend is just as busy, it can feel like there’s never a break.
Mental health is influenced by what we do, think and feel. Learning the skill of “Taking 10” introduces the benefits of taking at least 10 minutes each day to engage in a positive, mindful activity that is good for us.
We live in a world where many people feel isolated, overwhelmed, stressed and worried about life in general. Some of the factors that wear people down are the stress and strain of having enough money each month to pay bills, keep up with the demands of work, and maintain healthy relationships at home and at work. Conference Board of Canada research has found that more than a quarter of Canadians report that they sometimes struggle to keep up with their financial commitments or are having more serious financial problems. Another report finds that over one-quarter of employed Canadians provide care and assistance to an elderly family member, which may lead to significant physical and emotional pressures as well. All these challenges can lead to mental and emotional fatigue.
The core concept behind Taking 10 is creating space to make mindful choices that can have a positive impact on our mood and emotional state each day. Pausing and focusing on how we feel and think can also provide an opportunity to better engage in the activities we really enjoy.
For me, taking 10 to visit with my buddy Dozer, a 38-kilogram Valley bulldog, is an example of positive mindful activity that benefits me. Taking 10 with Dozer between calls, meetings and writing is an amazing way for me to quickly unplug from the world. Dozer doesn’t say much, but he’s always present in the moment, which in turn helps me to be present with him. These 10-minute breaks carve out little pieces of joy that tune up my emotional state. I always leave Dozer feeling better – but to reap the benefit I must make the choice to take that break.
Taking 10 doesn’t need a lot of planning; you just need to identify a mindful activity you enjoy to help clear your mind and appreciate the things you enjoy throughout the day. This can help transform an average day into a good day, or nudge a bad day into becoming an okay day.
Think of one thing you do every day for yourself that leaves you with a positive feeling and gives you a break from the day-to-day grind. Examples of positive mindful activities include going outside for some fresh air, using a meditation app, or closing your eyes in a quiet spot to do some slow, deep breathing and allowing your mind to dream about your next vacation.
While we may not be able to control all the variables in our life, the 10-minute break is something we can do that makes it a priority to get off the daily treadmill. Taking 10 changes our focus, which can be a tactic for offloading or distracting from negative emotions and taking time to enjoy life now.
Coaching Tips For Taking 10
Create a list of three to five take – 10 breaks. Keep in mind that mindful activity doesn’t need to be complicated, it only needs to be effective.
Test each of your take-10 breaks – The measurement of success is finding activities that have a positive impact on your mood. Pay attention to how you feel before and after the break.
After taking the break, it’s helpful to notice and learn that we have control and are able to unplug from the world and reap the benefits for our mental health – even if it’s only for 10 minutes at a time.
Bill Howatt is the chief of research for work force productivity at The Conference Board of Canada, and former chief research and development officer of work force productivity with Morneau Shepell.