The human body is marvelous. If you know how to harness its built-in superpowers, you can do so much more than you are right now. Use these small tricks to become a more efficient worker.
Put Your Thumb in Your Mouth and Blow to Reduce Stress
Stress and anxiety can really do a number on your brain. But you can calm your nerves by blowing your thumb from your mouth. Dr. Arun Ghosh of Spire Liverpool Hospital, explained to The Daily Mail that this activates your vagus nerve. The Mayo Clinic explains that the vagus nerve can reduce your heart rate, blood pressure or both, and can even be used to treat mild mood disorders.
Several places have reported this body hack, but often misinterpreted as “blowing air onto your thumb,” according to a discussion in Reddit. What you actually need to do is put your thumb in your mouth, make a seal and blow.
Control Your Bladder to Control Impulsive Decisions
Work involves making decisions that can have a big impact. These are not choices to be made impulsively. So before heading to a meeting, gulp down a lot of water so your bladder tells you that you need to take a break—and then control it.
It sounds crazy, but researchers from Imperial College Business Schoolconducted four studies, all of which suggest that there’s a relationship between bladder control and decision making. The base idea is that what you feel in one aspect has a spillover effect in another aspect. For example, you probably know that you tend to buy more groceries when you’re hungry, irrespective of whether you’ll need them. Similarly, when you are controlling your bladder, you are also more ready to control other impulses like decision-making abilities. The authors put it this way:
With four studies, we show that inhibitory signals stemming from increasing levels of bladder pressure can spill over to other domains, resulting in increased ability to control impulses in unrelated domains.
While the findings suggest a correlation between bladder control and control over impulsive decision, they don’t say whether the decision was better or worse in the end. The researchers say their findings suggest the human body has a “general inhibition system,” which means that inhibition in different areas has the same origin. So if your body is sending a self-control signal to one part, it automatically affects other areas where self-control can be practiced, whether for good or not.
Chew Gum or Coffee Stirrers for Added Focus
I’ve found that I snack less, and concentrate better, when I chew on a plastic stirrer–the kind that you get to stir your to-go coffee. An occupational hazard with writing is to write while eating, smoking, or drinking–usually things that aren’t very healthy–but having the stirrer in my mouth diminishes that urge. Also, chewing on a stirrer helps me to concentrate. I feel more focused when I chewing away.
Rubin is the first to admit that this may be just a placebo effect, but Wired rounded up several studies about the cognitive benefits of chewing gum, which back up Rubin’s idea. Those studies note that the gum’s ingredients aren’t the cause. The clarity boost comes from chewing, which refreshes us for the task at hand. One thing though: the effect usually lasts for about 20 minutes, so save it for when you really need to concentrate on some task.
This similar to how some people chew on pencils or their nails, but those are potentially bad habits that most people want to break. A coffee stirrer is probably a better option.
Use Your Right Ear for Important Conversations
Researchers at Italy’s university Gabriele d’Annunzio have shown in recent studies that the right and left ears are better suited for different tasks. As LiveScience reports, the right ear is better for processing information.
“It depends on the type of input: speech is heard ‘better’ with the right ear, if the characteristics to be processed are those connected to the sounds of a given language (i.e phonemes), whereas the left ear might have an advantage in discriminating non-phonemic aspects of speech (i.e. prosody, emotional cues, etc.),” said researcher Luca Tommasi.
The good news is that the study showed 72 percent of participants preferred to use their right ear to listen. The bad news is that the study doesn’t document effects on the left ear, and there’s nothing beyond Tommasi’s quote to suggest it’s better for emotional cues.
It’s simply a matter of applying this knowledge in regular work scenarios. When you’re in a group meeting where the manager is talking about information, it’s more useful to be sitting in a way where your right ear is leaning into the talk.
This is just the tip of the iceberg in what the human body can do. For example, pressing the tendons in your wrist can stop you from feeling nauseous, which is a neat trick to know when you have one too many at the office party. And in case you can’t find your glasses, make a fist and look through it—the pinhole camera effect helps your eyes focus. To take John Mayer completely out of context, your body is a wonderland.