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3 Things You Can Do Before Work to Improve Your Mental Health and Increase Productivity

Twenty/20

You shouldn't roll out of bed and immediately head to work if you can help it.

Adding self-care practices before commuting to your office, or starting work from your desk at home, can be a great way to check in with yourself, experts say.

Whether you realize it or not, starting your work day in a negative mood can really put a damper on your day, says Joel Dvoskin, a psychologist at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. 

The good thing is the opposite can be true when you enter work mode with positivity.

"Just thinking about what kind of attitude you're taking with you as you start your work day can have an effect on your enjoyment," Dvoskin says, "It can affect your productivity and the way you work with co-workers."

Fortunately, there are lots of activities you can do before work to check in with your mental health, improve your mood and increase efficiency at work.

Here are three ways, according to experts:

1. Spend time in a quiet setting

Mindfulness practices at the top of the day can be very helpful for your productivity, according to Chanel Dokun, a life planner and relationship expert based in New York City. Dokun uses what she calls the "reclaim the morning" practice, which is carving out the first 20 to 30 minutes of your morning for solitude. 

You should use that time "to allow yourself to pay attention to what the passions or pursuits of your own heart are. So, that your voice is the loudest one before you start to engage with the rest of the world," Dokun says.

How you use that time is totally up to you, she adds. Some suggestions she recommends are journaling or using the time to have a "sacred pause," which is a moment to yourself to think about what you'd like to achieve in your day.

Here are some of the questions Dokun encourages you to ask yourself during your sacred pause practice:

  • What do I care about today?
  • What really matters to me?
  • What are the things that I'm longing for today?
  • What does success mean to me?

"If you just have a moment to pause and ask yourself those questions, that can often be enough to set you on the right path for your mental health," she says.

2. Engage in physical activity

Find your favorite way to move your body and aim to do it whenever you can before jumping into work, Dvoskin says. Just walking for five minutes a day near your home could be a great start, he notes.

"There's some research that suggests that rhythm can help to center people and calm them down," he says, "So, when you walk and you get a rhythm and fresh air, it has a really good effect."

Body movement in whichever form you choose has been proven to positively affect well-being, according to a comprehensive review of more than 1,000 studies ranging from 1990 to 2020. One of the systematic reviews included in the report examined 39 clinical trials and determined that exercise was associated with reduced depression symptoms in comparison to no exercise at all.

But if finding the time to to spare every day is tough, there are alternatives you can consider. "If you just go out in the backyard and stretch for two minutes, it might help you," he says. "I don't think the amount of time is necessarily what makes it helpful or not helpful. It's just the nature of the activity."

3. Start your day by spoiling yourself

Now, spoiling yourself could look a lot different for you than it does for the next person, says Dokun. But doing something you love or treating yourself to something you enjoy can be a boost of positive energy for a great work day, she says.

"We sense that our life doesn't belong to ourselves in the mornings, so we roll over because we're trying to hold onto any last minute that we can maintain for ourselves," she says. "So, I would encourage setting up some sort of activity in the morning that's really exciting and that you look forward to."

These are some awesome ways to treat yourself, according to Dokun:

  • Have a slower morning routine
  • Make your favorite breakfast
  • Blast your best playlist as you get dressed
  • Get the largest size of your favorite drink at the coffee shop
  • Watch an episode of the show you enjoy

Regardless of how you use the time, setting aside space for you to check in with yourself in the morning is important.

"Know that personal development and paying attention to your mental health is part of professional development," Dokun says. "When you care for yourself during your personal time, that's going to make you more effective during your professional time."

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