Take a Break: The Case for Taking a Day Off Each Week

take a break

Take a Break

What if you stumbled on an ancient practice that would give you more productivity, more creativity, and more energy, while giving you less stress, less anxiety, and less sickness?

You’d be intrigued to learn as much as you can about it, I am sure.

I was pulled into Aaron Edelheit’s new book, The HARD Break: The Case for a 24/6 Lifestyle, from the very first pages where he outlines the benefits of taking one true day off from our hectic pace each week.

Deep down, I think all of us know that what we’re doing isn’t exactly good for us and isn’t exactly helping us be our best selves. We are overly-stressed, under-slept, chronically anxious as a society. We are never shutting down. Work follows us home and home follows us to work. Few places on the planet allow an escape from the Internet anymore.

And so, Aaron’s compelling research into the idea of taking the Sabbath, a day off each week, in a tradition that is thousands of years old was definitely intriguing.

Is it possible to actually do it?

I asked Aaron to share his personal experiences and his research. If the idea intrigues you, I encourage you to get his book to learn more. You’ll be glad you did.

 

“Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” -Socrates

 

Danger: Never Ending Workload

What are some of the negative effects we are seeing from our technology-enabled, always-on society?

Want an 80% increase in the risk of coronary disease? Work more than 10 hours a day. What about stress? Would you like to experience more stress than 57 percent of Americans? Then be sure to check your emails and texts on the weekends and non-work days.

And when you have your phone on all the time and you check it constantly, you effectively are “on call” to the world. A 2015 University of Hamburg study found that extended work availability, or being on call “has a negative effect: dampening mood and increasing markers of physiological stress.” Most notably, the stress carries on into the next day, even when people are no longer on call or working. The most important conclusion of this study was “that the mere prospect of work-related interruptions during free time can exacerbate stress.”[i]

And it’s not just traditional work that we are connected to. We are also connected to every Facebook friend, Twitter follower, Instagram feed, and more. According to one study, the temptation to check the Internet “was harder to resist than food or sex.”[ii] When technology has a more powerful pull than the most basic human needs, we might start to worry.

 

“To make no mistakes is not in the power of man; but from their errors and mistakes the wise and good learn wisdom for the future.” -Plutarch

 

All of this is leading to some pretty serious mental health problems. Consider that disability awards for mental disorders have dramatically increased since 1980. Substance abuse, especially of opiates, is at epidemic levels.[iii] Mental health problems are becoming a significant burden for society. According to the Partnership for Workplace Mental Health, mental illness and substance abuse cost employers an estimated $80 to $100 billion annually. The World Health Organization has named depression as the number one disease burden for the economy worldwide.[iv]

There are 200 footnotes in my book and that is after cutting many studies out. I had to work hard not to make my book a scientific journal of the problems stemming from working too much and being online 24/7.

 

“No man needs a vacation so much as the man who just had one.” -Elbert Hubbard

 

Take a Hard Break

Master the Mood Elevator

elevator

Master Your Moods

 

“The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts.” –Marcus Aurelius

 

I’m sure you’ve had this day:

You wake up and you’re feeling amazing. Then you spill something on your clothes at breakfast and get stuck in a traffic jam on the way to work. You realize you will be late for your first appointment, and your frustration grows by the minute.

Fast forward hours later, and you’re feeling great again.

Up and down. Down and Up.

How do you stop the wild mood swings?

 

“Things turn out best for people who make the best of the way things turn out.” –Anonymous

 

CEO Forum Magazine dubbed him the “father of organizational culture” and thousands have attended his company’s training programs. Larry Senn is chairman and founder of Senn Delaney, a firm dedicated to helping organizations shape their culture. I recently spoke to him about his new book, The Mood Elevator: Take Charge of Your Feelings, Become a Better You.

He helps you understand your moods and gain control, limiting the time in the basement and helping you stay in the upper floors.

 

Develop a Healthy Response

The Mood Elevator. Unfortunately, all of us are experienced with the dramatic ride. What are some of the triggers that cause a sudden shift in floors?

Yes, to be human means we all ride the Mood Elevator. Since our thoughts create our moods, dramatic drops in mood come from big shifts in our thinking. We start our day in a great place and high mood after a morning run and a good breakfast. Then we open an email, and a colleague says he heard we may not be closing the deal we were counting on. Our mind starts to spin as we run through all the possible negative consequences of that happening. That creates feelings down the Mood Elevator like insecurity, worry, self-judgement and mild depression.

Things like that happen in major and minor ways as life comes at us. What’s interesting is how we each deal with circumstances can be very different. Another person might get the same email and go to curiosity, a much healthier level, first. “I wonder what that might be about or if it is even true – I’ll check it out.” They might also go to creative and resourceful and start to think about all the ways they can best secure the deal.

As Shakespeare said, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

 

“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” -Shakespeare

 

Would you comment on any career limitations and/or leadership problems you’ve seen due to leaders not having conscious control of their floor?

I have observed CEOs self-destruct as well as very smart and capable leaders ruin their careers and their marriages because they lacked emotional control and led from the lower floors of the Mood Elevator. I’ve also seen leaders become world class CEOs by learning how to better ride the Mood Elevator.

The reason is simple − our thinking is reliable and wise when in the higher mood states, while it is very unreliable in the lower floors. Anyone who has ever said something to a loved one they wished they could take back has experienced the phenomenon. We have very low emotional intelligence (EQ) when down the elevator. That means leaders can’t build great teams, create great cultures, be as creative or make good decisions from the lower floors of the elevator.

 

“We become what we think about all day long.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Use Your Feelings as a Guide

You talk about the power to brake. What are a few ways we can slow, stop or resist our emotional impulses?

It all starts with learning to use your feelings as your guide. When we are self-aware, we can tell when we are worrying, angry, judgmental, self-righteous or depressed. We will all experience those feelings at times. Think about it like having to drive on an icy road at night. You may have to do it, but you proceed with caution. Delay big decisions, pause before putting your foot in your mouth, and tell yourself your thinking is likely to be flawed.

 

the mood elevator Copyright Larry Senn; Used by Permission

 

When unwanted things happen or people do things that don’t make sense to me, I have feelings of intensity. That’s my clue. What I find most helpful is to first pause, take a deep breath and center myself. Then I try to use what I call in the book the “brake” on the Mood Elevator. That break is shifting my thinking from judgement to curiosity. What am I missing here? Why might that have made sense to them in their thinking? What lesson can I learn from that? As I tell leaders in our off-sites, if they just lived more of their life in curiosity instead of judgment they would have a different experience of life and different results.

 

“Happiness is not the absence of problems-it’s the ability to deal with them” –Steve Maraboli

 

Would you talk about “living in mild preference?”

Are You Broadcasting Happiness?

Disrupt Negative Thinking and Revamp Your Broadcast

 

Do you know someone who is always negative?

Is it possible to inspire happiness in others?

 

Michelle Gielan, former national CBS News anchor turned positive psychology researcher, is the best-selling author of Broadcasting Happiness: The Science of Igniting and Sustaining Positive Change. She is the Founder of the Institute for Applied Positive Research.

I recently had the opportunity to ask speak with her about her fascinating research into happiness, positivity, and our impact on others.

 

How positive you are on social media depends on your news feed so choose your friends wisely.

 

Create Positive Change

You’ve been a successful broadcaster at CBS News. But your work now is about a different type of broadcasting. You say we broadcast happiness and that creates positive change in those around us. How did this realization come to you?

People talk about how negative the news can be—and they are right. As the anchor of two national news programs at CBS, I saw how not only were the stories largely negative but also told in a disempowering way. We rarely talked about potential solutions.

At the height of the recession, we started broadcasting solutions for every problem we featured. We called it Happy Week. Drawing on positive psychology, the series centered on actions taken to foster happiness (and quite frankly peace of mind!) during some of our biggest financial challenges.

We received the greatest viewer response of the year, but more importantly, this was a powerful example of research in action. I wanted to know more about creating empowerment in others—so I quit to study positive psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.

Now as a positive psychology researcher, I see the toxic effects of a constant stream of negative news on the brain. In a study I conducted with researcher Shawn Achor and Arianna Huffington, we found that watching just three minutes of negative news in the morning can lead to a 27% increased chance of you having a bad day as reported 6-8 hours later. The negative mindset we adopt first thing sticks with us all day.

 

Study: Watching 3 minutes of negative news in the morning increases the likelihood of a bad day.

 

But CBS News also showed me a better way—which is something I now share at talks at companies and organizations—specifically how to talk about the negative in a way that leaves people feeling empowered and ready to act. In our follow-up study published in Harvard Business Review, we found that by pairing a discussion of problems with solutions, you can fuel creative problem solving in someone else by 20%. For managers, this means you can talk about the negative without decimating your team.

Looking at all this research, I had an epiphany: we are all broadcasters. What’s your broadcast? As you move throughout your day talking to your colleagues, family and friends, where do you focus their attention? Some facts and stories fuel success; others don’t. In my book Broadcasting Happiness: The Science of Igniting and Sustaining Positive Change, I share the science and tools to disrupt negative thinking and revamp our broadcast to fuel success at work and beyond.

Using the science, our clients have been able to increase sales by 37%, productivity by 31%, and revenues by hundreds of millions of dollars. Personally, I’m so happy I now get to broadcast these kinds of stories about individuals and organizations creating positive change. This is so much more inspiring.

 

Study: Optimists at work are 5x less likely to burn out than the pessimist.

 

The Work Optimist, you point out, is five times less likely to burn out and three times more engaged than the pessimist. Is it possible to move up the continuum and be more positive? What techniques work to do this?

Michelle GielanYes! The most inspiring thing about the results of our research is that many of the elements of our mindset that predict success, like Work Optimism, are malleable. Work optimism is the belief that good things can happen, especially in the face of challenges, and that our behavior matters. We created a validated assessment that tests people on their levels of Work Optimism and two other predictors of long-term success at work.

If you find you’re scoring lower than you wish on Work Optimism, you can adopt a simple 30 second habit: Use the Power Lead. Make sure your lead sentence in conversations or meetings at work is positive. If you start conversations with how tired, sick, or stressed you feel, your body follows, as does the rest of the conversation.

We are taught to mimic the social patterns of others, so if someone starts a sales call with, “I’ve been swamped lately,” then both individuals start to feel more stressed and overwhelmed, which can oftentimes kill the sale. In our fast-paced world, you might have time to relay only one piece of social information at work. If you make it negative, then you get stuck in that pattern. Power leads can be simple, such as answering “How are you?” with some good news, such as, “Doing great! Had an awesome weekend with the family. My daughter scored a goal at lacrosse!”

 

“Cultivate happiness and you’re cultivating success at the same time.” –Michelle Gielan

 

What are a few ways to become a better broadcaster, able to motivate and communicate with power and results?