Tip: Reading email, chatting on the phone and simultaneously doing bottom-firming exercises at your desk isn’t a productivity panacea. ‘We now know multi-tasking over stimulates the brain’s dopamine system,’ says Professor Paul Gilbert, consultant psychologist and author of The Compassionate Mind (Constable 2009). ‘Dopamine is a brain chemical linked to rewards, drive and vitality and it’s easily depleted’.
Why: If you’re constantly ‘on’ – simultaneously receiving and responding to pinging emails, checking and re-checking Facebook, taking calls, eating tuna salad, writing a report – you’re stimulating so many reward pathways that you may be depleting your brain’s dopamine stores which can lead to listlessness and depression, he explains. Not to mention feeling like a failure because you only ever give anything your half-attention.
How: You’ll probably never be able to give up multi-tasking, but you can attempt to give things more attention until over time, it replaces your multi-tasking addiction. Professor Gilbert also suggests balancing dopamine release by stimulating your endorphin system, the other positive emotional pathway in the brain responsible for contented wellbeing, energy restoration and peacefulness. Things that get your endorphin response going include gentle activities in nature – gardening, hiking or walking along a beach – as well as meditation; try the easy techniques in Chapter 11 of The De-Stress Diet, Calm for Life.
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