Happy New Year…! Welcome to 2018. At this time of year, many people turn their mind towards health and getting fit. They emerge from the sluggish Christmas break promising themselves that this year they will be fitter and healthier. More people join a gym in January than any other month of the year. Slimming clubs get most of their sign-ups around now. And the sales of healthy food rise in January just as the buying of alcohol goes down.
However, this is also the month when most people give up their gym membership and when alcohol sales rise rapidly again, as people find it hard to keep up with their desire to improve. Indeed, most New Year’s Resolutions fail to make it beyond 10th January.
There are a couple of psychological reasons for this. Most resolutions are about “removing” something – such as “losing” weight, “cutting down” on alcohol, or “stopping” smoking, for example. Our brain is geared more to what we gain, rather than what we lose. Hence, with resolutions focusing on loss, is it any wonder we give them up?
Another reason for the lack of permanence of resolutions is the issue of habit. It can take about 30 days of continuous activity for a new habit to sink in. So, given that most people give up on New Year Resolutions after just ten days, they haven’t actually given them a chance to become permanent changes.
What we need to do with resolutions is focus on the positive and maintain that focus for a minimum of 30 days. Then you have a chance of making them stick. Instead of trying to “lose weight” this year, for instance, instead try to “gain a better knowledge of your local area by walking around it every day”. The positive enjoyment that brings will make it easier to keep it up for 30 days and thereby make it into a new habit.
Indeed, taking a daily walk can have more benefits other than helping weight control. Regular walking for just 20-30 minutes each day is linked to a host of other benefits which will not only impact upon your personal well-being, they will help your business.
One recent study, for example, has shown that walking just 4,000 steps a day (less than half the recommended minimum) can improve cognitive performance. Indeed, this research in older adults with memory problems showed that walking more than 4,000 steps each day physically changed the structure of the brain positively. Overall, the researchers were able to show that even a small amount of walking can make you better able to recall things. In other words, walking changes your brain in a positive way to help your thinking. And at work, you need to think clearly. Vast numbers of people spend their entire working life sitting at a desk. The clarity of thought that is needed in business is potentially eroded. Indeed, there is the chance that the brains of sedentary workers are physically altered to make them less able to think clearly. That’s a problem for business.
Another study found back in 2014 that people who walk for just six minutes each day are more creative than people who do not walk. In most offices, creative thinking is required. We all need to come up with innovative solutions to a range of issues, from mundane things such as how can we arrange a meeting when everyone’s diary is full, to new product ideas. If you and your staff are sedentary, you are much less able to come up with ideas.
A few years ago I put this to the test in a workshop I ran for businesses. I set people a task to come up with ideas for a new online service for their business. They were given 30-minutes. At the end of that time, we reviewed the ideas they had produced. The participants all agreed they could not come up with any more ideas. I said I didn’t believe them. So I then gave them their next task. They had to leave the room and take part in a physical activity for the next 30 minutes. They had to do this alone, so they would not be distracted by chatting with each other. Some of them went for a walk; a couple went swimming, some went to the hotel gym. When they came back to the meeting room, I asked them to see if they could produce any more ideas for this online service that was proposed. Remember, before they went off on their physical break they all agreed they were “out of ideas”. On their return, the participants produced a second set of ideas which was longer than the first one. They instantly realised that physical activity has a significant impact on our brain’s capacity to think and to be creative.
For online businesses this is vital. E-business is sedentary. Millions of people sit in front of computer screens all day and do little else. That means the world of online business has two main problems. Firstly, the cognitive capacity of the staff is reduced due to the sedentary nature of the job. Secondly, these firms are not able to be as creative as they need.
Regular walking is all that is needed to solve these issues. It can be as simple as getting off the metro a stop early each day and walking the rest of the way to the office. Or it could be using the lunch break to walk up and down the road while eating your sandwich, instead of sitting at the desk reading social media.
There is also an added advantage for businesses if staff get walking. Walking reduces stress and anxiety. Just 20 minutes of walking a day can have a real impact on stress levels. These days, the incidence of work-related stress is at an all-time high. That level of stress is impacting on workers because they perform less well in the office and they have more days off sick, contributing to lowered productivity. If staff can be encouraged to take regular walks, it will have a real impact on their mental health, thereby helping the company.
A positive new year resolution for every online business could be to get the entire team walking each day. They’ll feel better and work better, and the company will reap the benefits.