Coffee Beans for Your Brain

Have you ever noticed a jar of coffee beans at the fragrance counter? They may look out of place, but they are there to help prevent “olfactory fatigue” by clearing the nose in order to increase sensitivity for the next scent evaluation. Sniffing coffee beans helps you reset your fragrance baseline and get ready to smell the next perfume or cologne.

What are your mental coffee beans? How do you clear your brain and reset your mental baseline in order to get ready to be at your productive best? Research shows that the brain cycles from highest attention to lowest attention approximately every 90 minutes.

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Here are a few tips for your own mental coffee beans:

  • Smile and Do Good. Change the state of your face, compliment someone, do a random act of kindness, write a thank you note (or email!) Benefits of a positive break include strengthening your immune system as well as reducing stress, chronic pain and even insomnia. In The Healing Power of Doing Good, authors Allan Luks and Peggy Payne say that when you give, help or serve you get a “helper’s high.” You feel exhilarated and energetic, followed by a sense of calm and serenity. Who doesn’t want some of that?!?
  • Move. Exercise has been shown to help you think better, stay focused, sharpen your thoughts and reduce your anxiety. From our colleague Josh Davis’ book, Two Awesome Hours, we learned to never skip a workout on days we want to perform at our best. He says exercise is like a reset button for improving mental performance. While you may not have time for a full workout, whenever possible, get up and move! Check out the 7-minute workout which packs a quick routine into just a few minutes.
  • Rest. People perform better (especially on tasks involving memory and concentration) after a nap. While you may not have a nap pod handy, find a huddle room or a small conference room, close the door, put your head down and rest for ten to fifteen minutes. Just ten minutes helps reduce fatigue, improve alertness and enhance cognitive abilities according to a study at Flinders University in Australia. Even better, the results lasted for about two and a half hours.
  • Pause. Consider the great detective Sherlock Holmes. He would sit in his arm chair and appear to be doing nothing. However, he always seemed to come up with the eureka insight to solve the mystery. Just like your best ideas come to you in the shower when there is nothing else absorbing your attention (have you ever forgotten whether or not you washed your hair!), taking a pause accesses powerful brain power.
  • Connect with Nature. Whether it’s a walk outside or even staring out the window (at nature, not a skyscraper!) nature can recharge your brain. Just a moment of enjoying the beauty of the flowers serves as a brain boost and resets the mind. Put flowers, a plant or even a goldfish near you for a quick connection with nature.

Whatever method you choose, intentionally build your collection of mental coffee beans. Almost 50 years ago the slogan, “you deserve a break today” was written for McDonald’s first national TV campaign. While McDonald’s abandoned that slogan in 2014, we believe your brain deserves a break today.

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