Give Your Brain a Break
In the Information Age, it oftentimes feels that our brains are on-duty 24/7. When we aren’t at work, we are often still thinking about it. And even when we do “unplug,” it’s frequently just to use entertainment and connectivity via technology. Netflix isn’t the only culprit. There are plenty of distractions that prevent us from actually resting our brains.
As we embrace the idea of rest and vacations during the summer, what does it actually mean to give our brains a break? And why is it so important?
Why Your Brain Needs Rest
When you hear the phrase “default mode network,” you might think of resetting a computer or smartphone to factory settings. In truth, the DMN is a processing mode of the brain. Providing a mental break from stimulation and active thinking, decision making, planning, and doing permits your brain to process everything you’ve done, heard, seen, and felt. This rest period allows for:
- An increase in productivity when you do return to an active state.
- Learning and memories to be stored more permanently within the brain.
- Creativity to flow.
- Sense of personal ethics and self to root.
DMN is a critical state for physical, emotional and mental well-being. Make time for wellness, even if your inner-critic tells you it seems selfish or counterproductive to your ever-growing to-do list. You need this time. It’s equally important as your “productive” hours. As the adage says, “choose to make time for health now or you will be forced to make time for illness later.”
Taking a Tech Time-Out
Our smartphones allow us to be reached via email, text or phone on weekends and evenings – even vacations. Even just twenty years ago, if you were on vacation, an outgoing voicemail on a landline would say you were unavailable and that was the end of it. Not necessarily the case today!
While disconnecting from work is important to a mental reset, it’s equally important to literally unplug. Brain downtime for rest and recovery does not occur if you are stimulated while watching Netflix, checking social media, or playing games on a phone or laptop. Recent studies have shown the blue light emitted from technology disrupts quality sleep. Not to mention, downtime creates the opportunity for your brain to meander through random thoughts.
Four Ideas for Brain Breaks
If you can take a relaxing vacation, by all means do it. But for every other day, here are four ways to give your brain mini-breaks throughout the day to process, rest, restore, and rejuvenate:
- Embrace the Mundane. Dishes need washing, laundry needs folding, lawns need mowing, and weeds need pulling. As you approach these tasks, do so with a grateful mindset… this is your DMN opportunity! Turn off the television and allow your mind to wander and wonder. Who knows what track your train of thought will take? But it doesn’t matter. That freedom from structure, from activity that requires thought and concentration, allows your brain to rest while you still accomplish things that need doing.
- Take a Hike. Any kind of exercise will suffice. Whether you take a stroll with your family or pet, an early morning bike ride, or a late evening jog, exercise gives your brain oxygenation and the ability to process the issues of the day in the background of your mind. Listen to the birds and crickets. Breathe in the scent of roses and honeysuckle. Look at the beauty that surrounds you. Using all your senses to bring calm allows your brain to focus its energies on various parts of the brain, working in coordination to solve problems and stimulate creativity while you are blissfully unaware.
- Find What Sparks Joy. Yes, I’ve talked a lot about disconnecting and allowing yourself to zone out. But even activities that require a bit more mental acuity can allow DMN to occur if they are activities you enjoy. Read a good book, play basketball, catch a baseball game, go to a concert. Focus on activities that energize and rejuvenate you, not ones that stress you out or cause anxiety. If knitting is calming, do it. If the very idea of dropping a stitch makes you break out in a cold sweat, find another activity that provides you the ability to let the rest of the world fall away!
- Zone Out. There are lots of ways to zone out. It may be a structured meditation or yoga program. It may literally be laying in the grass, staring at the clouds as they drift by. Some people find it very zen to have a pencil in hand and just doodle… nothing in mind, not trying to create, just a writing utensil, a blank sheet of paper, and a non-existent plan. Take a bubble bath without distraction and disruption – no TV, podcasts, or music. Just alone with your thoughts.
Want to Know More?
If you’re looking for more ideas for how to get brain downtime or want to know more about DMN and why it is so important, call us at (888) 549-5519 or open a live chat.