February 19, 2017

5 Workplace-Hacks to boost Productivity & Happiness.

A funny thing happened last week.

A patient of mine showed up without an appointment. When she spoke to our receptionist, she realized she was a week early for her next appointment. I happened to overhear her and wanted to say a quick hello. I get a real kick out of Marsha’s bubbly personality, so I popped into our lobby.

“I’m so sorry, doc. My calendar’s so busy, I don’t know which day is which… Is today even Tuesday?” 

I said it was indeed Tuesday, so she should rest assured she wasn’t as discombobulated as she felt.  I offered to squeeze her in if she thought it would ease her week. She gratefully accepted.

Once we were in the office, Marsha commented on how she thought she’d find more time to relax as she aged, but she seems to have less time than ever before. I couldn’t help but sympathize. We seem to be living extremely fast-paced lifestyles these days in an even faster-paced world.

With today’s hectic schedules and seemingly endless to-do lists, it can feel like we’re expending constant mental energy and physical stamina just to keep up. It’s no surprise then that most Americans feel they need an extra boost, such as sugary snacks or coffee drinks, to keep things moving during the day.

So, I’ve whipped up five science-based workplace-hacks to help us all stay alert and productive throughout the day. In fact, anyone practicing these tips will likely find themselves with a little energy left to burn.

1. Get a Whiff

When I was a kid, my mom put lavender in all our closets. The scent permeated the house. In fact, neighbors would say my mom made the whole block smell good! To this day, whenever I smell lavender, I think of home. A special scent can definitely trigger memories or affect our moods.

But, some plants have actually been clinically validated to improve brain function when a person smells them. In fact, different scents can have powerful effects on mood—and even on overall brain function. For instance, peppermint oil has been shown to boost energy levels during the day. Believe it or not, it may also help enhance memory. {1,2}

Turns out, there are quite a few essential oils that work to boost mental energy levels, including rosemary, juniper, and my mom’s favorite—lavender.{3-5}

So, keep a small bottle of essential oils at work. If you start to feel a bit sluggish, blue, or stressed—apply it directly to the skin with a carrier oil like olive oil or jojoba seed. Or use an essential oil diffuser. Made for every purpose, these diffusers can be purchased as a necklace, for use in the car, or as a tabletop diffuser for home and office.

2. Get Off Our Asana 

Now, the latest research shows most Americans spend approximately 9 to 10 hours a day sitting down. The lack of movement has been linked to an increased risk of chronic health problems. {6 } Scientists suggest combating the risks of modern sedentary lifestyles with 10 minutes of moderate activity per day and up to 150 minutes a week. {7}

But how are we supposed to exercise in our offices?

Well, the answer might just be—yoga. This ancient practice has been used for centuries to alleviate physical aches and pains, and to boost mental energy levels. Today, practicing yoga positions (asanas) may help to reduce health risks while also boosting workplace productivity. In fact, it’s been clinically shown to reduce stress levels and improve circulation to the brain. {8,9}

In addition, we can all benefit from these five easy, energy-boosting exercises.

3. Take Time for Tea

There are many cultures throughout the world who take time out of their afternoons for tea. Turns out, green tea is one of the most widely consumed, healthiest beverages on Earth.

In fact, green tea contains a wide range of active phytochemicals (plant compounds) clinically shown to not only boost health, but also help increase energy levels without causing jitters like other caffeinated beverages. {10}

A recent study showed that participants who took green tea extract noticed improvements in attention.{11} 

And, another study proved consumption of green tea helped reduce mental fatigue and headaches. Researchers found it may also improve reaction time, working memory, and sentence verification accuracy.{12}

But, in order to maximize the potential of the phytochemicals in green tea, hold the milk and honey.

4. 20-20-20 for Reducing Eyestrain

We spend our days working on computers now. The 20-20-20 rule is crucial for our overall work health. Here’s how it works: Take a break every 20 minutes for 20 seconds while looking at an object at least 20 feet away. This minimizes eye straining, headaches, and blue light exposure (the light emitted from electronics wreaks havoc on your health).

Taking advantage of this rule could make a big difference in energy levels by the end of the day. And, everyone who puts in a hard day’s work deserves more focused eyes and clearer heads.

5. Express Gratitude

Now, this one happens to be my personal favorite.

Just say, “thank you.” Thank you for good weather, for no traffic, for a visit from a friend. For me, I can’t tell Susan, my office manager, how much I appreciate her help enough. And, she really appreciates hearing she’s appreciated.

You see, gratitude promotes happiness. Research shows a happy mood helps one get work done more easily and be more productive throughout the day.

So, when arriving to work each morning, write a list of five things for which you’re grateful. Then, stick it on the desk, the wall, a computer. Posting the note in a visible area makes it an accessible reminder throughout the day. Anything goes with this one! Try gratitude for a quiet 10 minutes without phone calls, an emailed joke, or even fresh cup of coffee!

Simply pause, re-read the note, and embrace a happier state of mind. This emotional reset allows a breath before picking back up with the task at hand.

We work better—happier.

Let’s face it, we all deal with the work blues once in awhile. There are many things that can affect productivity, including busy schedules, stressed out bosses, or even ultra-chatty co-workers.

Practicing these five simple tips can help kick the day up a notch, from mediocre to meaningful. So, keep a bottle of energizing essential oils at work, get the heart rate up, give the ol’ eyes a break, and practice gratitude. And don’t forget to rest and rejuvenate over the weekend.

Who knows? Positive vibes and a bit more productivity may help you land that raise.

Do you have a ritual that helps you stay positive and more productive at work? I’d love to hear about it. Please leave it in the comments below or on my Facebook page.



1. Preliminary investigation of the effect of peppermint oil on an objective measure of daytime sleepiness. International Journal of Psychophysiology 55(3):291-8. April 2005.

2. Michelle Fox, Ellie Krueger. The effect of peppermint on memory performance. Physiology 435, Spring 2012, Lab 603, Group 5.

3. Moss M., Hewitt S., Moss L., & Wesnes K. (2009). Modulation of cognitive performance and mood by aromas of peppermint and ylang-ylang. International Journal of Neuroscience, 118 (1), 59-77.

4. Winai Sayorwan, Nijsiri Ruangrungsi. Effects of Inhaled Rosemary Oil on Subjective Feelings and Activities of the Nervous System. Sci Pharm. 2013 Apr-Jun; 81(2): 531–542. 2012 Dec 23.

5. Sasannejad P, Saeedi M. Lavender essential oil in the treatment of migraine headache: a placebo-controlled clinical trial. Eur Neurol. 2012;67(5):288-91. Epub 2012 Apr 17.

6. Sitting Ducks—Sedentary Behavior and its Health Risks: Part One of a Two Part Series.

7. Recommendations for physical activity in older adults. BMJ 2015; 350. 21 January 2015.

8. Li AW, Goldsmith CA. The effects of yoga on anxiety and stress. Altern Med Rev. 2012 Mar;17(1):21-35.

9. Debbie L. Cohen, M.D., Nancy Wintering, M.S.W. Cerebral Blood Flow Effects of Yoga Training: Preliminary Evaluation of 4 Cases. J Altern Complement Med. 2009 Jan; 15(1): 9–14.

10. Nobre AC, Rao A. L-theanine, a natural constituent in tea, and its effect on mental state. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2008;17 Suppl 1:167-8.

11. Dimpfel W, Kler A. Source density analysis of the human EEG after ingestion of a drink containing decaffeinated extract of green tea enriched with L-theanine and theogallin.  Nutr Neurosci. 2007 Jun-Aug;10(3-4):169-80.

12. Haskell CF, Kennedy DO. The effects of L-theanine, caffeine and their combination on cognition and mood. Biol Psychol. 2008 Feb;77(2):113-22. Epub 2007 Sep 26.


Author: Dr. Steven Gundry

Image: Author’s own

Editor: Deb Jarrett




Leave a Thoughtful Comment

Read 0 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Steven Gundry  |  Contribution: 1,420