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Wellbeing and cognitive performance: practical advice for feeling good at work

In the Western world the mind-body connection has often been underestimated, thus losing a series of aspects of strong correlation between one and the other. “Mens sana in corpore sano” said the ancients. At Trainect we approach wellbeing holistically , considering the person as a whole.

Studies show that, for example, moving has a strong impact on cognitive performance. In this interview we had the pleasure of speaking with Paola Elena Brignoli, corporate wellbeing expert and yoga teacher to delve deeper into the effects of movement on cognitive performance. In this article we will see:

  • Why is well-being at work so strategic?

  • What is the correlation between physical movement and cognitive performance?

  • What are the practical tips to increase our cognitive performance?

Why is well-being at work so strategic?

The well-being of employees is one of the key factors in determining the sustainability and success of the company in the medium-long term, as declared by the ILO (International Labor Organization), the United Nations agency specialized in health and safety issues. work and social policy.

There is a very strong direct correlation between individual and therefore employee well-being and their level of productivity. For a long time, companies have mainly concentrated on well-defined aspects of the physical well-being of employees, focusing on issues such as safety at work, ergonomics of work spaces, etc. Lack of attention to physical well-being can lead to the onset of chronic diseases or physical disorders that have a direct impact on the worker's ability to carry out their work optimally and effectively. A condition of overall well-being, however, extends beyond mere physical health and also involves mental health .

Poor mental health has a negative impact on a person's cognitive abilities, behavioral and emotional well-being as well as their social relationships.

This determines a negative impact on his work performance and therefore a reduction in productivity, also giving rise to phenomena such as absenteeism and worker turnover, with significant costs for the company. The enormous cost of a lack of mental health and the partial responsibility of companies in this direction led the WHO, in September 2022, to draw up guidelines to promote mental health in the workplace. This creates both a responsibility and a unique opportunity for companies to create work environments that support the health and well-being of workers.

Do you want to find out how Enel puts employee well-being at its center? Read the interview with Guido Stratta, People & Organization Director of Enel Group.

What is the correlation between physical movement and cognitive performance?

Our bodies were not created to sit for 8 hours a day and it is now known that a sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and obesity, hypertension and neurodegenerative diseases. Because of the mind-body connection, the impact of movement extends beyond physical health to mental well-being. It has in fact been shown how moving our bodies helps reduce anxiety and depression.

Movement also has a significant impact on our cognitive abilities thanks to the cascade release of hormones and neurotransmitters. Movement also produces profound effects on brain structures, thanks to the brain's ability to modify its structure and functioning over time in response to different activities ( neuroplasticity ).

The beneficial effects of physical exercise on the nervous system include an increase in blood flow from the brain to the hippocampus, a fundamental brain area that contributes to short- and long-term memory, spatial memory and orientation, with a consequent increase in the size of this area. Recent studies have also shown how long-term physical movement is associated with an increase in the volume of the prefrontal cortex , the area of our brain responsible for all "executive functions". The prefrontal cortex helps us control impulses and manage our emotions, allows us to concentrate, organize complex information and plan.

Finally, movement also acts as an antidote to stress , counteracting the negative effects of the latter on the body but above all on cognitive functions (chronic stress causes an enlargement of the amygdala and a reduction of the hippocampus and pre-frontal cortex).

What are the practical tips to increase our cognitive performance?

There are five tips to improve your cognitive performance:

  1. take breaks during the working day

  2. spend time in nature

  3. include movement in your daily/weekly routine

  4. sleep a sufficient number of hours per night

  5. use digital consciously

Recent research carried out by Microsoft has highlighted how continuous series of meetings represent a significant source of stress and impact people's productivity, demonstrating the need to introduce moments of pause into our working days. Breaks allow the brain to "reset" and increase people's ability to concentrate and engage.

Furthermore, regular exposure to nature produces important benefits in terms of health and psychophysical well-being. The outdoors and being in contact with nature improve the performance of our brain, influencing factors such as our memory and concentration.

During sleep , while the body rests, the brain regenerates and the connections between brain cells expand. Night rest helps us consolidate memories and strengthen our cognitive abilities. It is also essential to use technology consciously , using it to your advantage perhaps thanks to content related to well-being. Listening to a podcast on healthy nutrition while walking in nature on your lunch break could be a simple routine to start starting tomorrow to improve your health!

Do you want to know Trainect solutions to bring well-being to your company?

Book a free call with our experts to start a virtuous change in your organization!

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