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September 15, 2006
Employee Moods Affect Workplace Productivity

What kind of mood are you in today? Did you know that your mood, the moods of employees, and even your CEO's mood could affect work productivity and creativity?

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The study of moods and how they affect the workplace is an emerging field, but co-author of Take Charge of Your Mind and Oxford lecturer Paul Hannam cites research concluding that your moods definitely can distract you from what you are trying to accomplish. The moods emanating from others can also negatively affect the way you feel.

The book highlights research findings by Professor Richard Davidson at the University of Wisconsin. His report, "Meditation Gives Brain a Charge, Study Finds," says that there is evidence that meditation can change the workings of the brain, leading to increased levels of awareness and significantly greater activity in the left prefrontal cortex--the area of the brain associated with positive emotions and goal-seeking behaviors.

A series of steps included in a brief meditative exercise can help you recognize patterns of moods in yourself and interrupt them, explains Hannam. You can influence your own moods and the way you react to other people's moods, he notes. You can become so aware of your breathing and your feelings that you reach and maintain a state of relaxed alertness, a state of well-being allowing you to focus on your work and clear your mind from distracting thoughts.

'Waking Up at Work'

Following are the basic steps and results covered by Hannam and co-author John Selby in the 3- to 4-minute "Waking Up at Work" process contained in the book, although paraphrased a bit. Try them and make your own workday better. After you master this exercise and influence everyone's moods and productivity, you can teach it to HR staff and other employees.

  • Relax, stretch, make yourself comfortable, and say the following to yourself: "I feel the air flowing in and out of my nose." Allow those words to tune your attention into that sensory experience, including the way it makes all the muscles in your face feel. This step will enable you to focus and be less distracted by what is going on around you in the work environment, and all the other thoughts crowding into your consciousness.
  • As you're experiencing the air flowing in and out, say to yourself: "I also feel the movements in my chest and belly" and expand your awareness to include those movements as well.
  • Next, to wake up your empathy, say to yourself: "I'm also aware of the feelings in my heart" and experience whatever feelings you find there while you're breathing--and pay attention to them. To encourage good feelings in your heart, remember a friend, family member, or person for whom you feel love and let that good feeling fill your heart.
  • Then, say to yourself: "I'm aware of my whole body at once, here in this present moment," and allow your awareness to include feet, hands, knees, head, back, heart, skin, breathing--in the present moment.

Once you reach this point (after 3 to 4 minutes), the authors explain, your breathing becomes full and relaxed, and your mind is quiet. You're in the zone that allows your mind to open up to any insights that might come to you or creative flashes. Then, as you focus back on your surroundings and achieve full engagement with your workplace, the authors explain that you will bring with you any insights that you've had, you'll continue to feel relaxed, friendly, alert, creative, and in harmony with people working around you. For more information, visit

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