Why You * Really * Need a Break
At leisure, your brain is fine. It spends hours each day managing and managing the constant information and conversational streams coming at you from all directions. However, if your brain has no chance to cool off and recover, your mood, performance and health will suffer. Imagine this recovery as mental downtime – times when you are not actively focusing on the outside world and not engaging with it. You just let your thoughts wander or dream and it becomes energy again. (Up Next: Why longer breaks are good for your health.)
But just as we're not sleeping, Americans are getting less downtime than ever before. In a survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 83 percent of respondents said they had not had time to relax or think during the day. "People treat themselves like machines," says Matthew Edlund, author of The Power of Rest: Why Sleep Is Not Enough On Its Own. "Overburden, revise and exaggerate."
This is especially true for active women who work as hard as they do in the rest of their lives because they are motivated and motivated, she says Danielle Shelov, Ph.D., psychologist in New York City. "They think the best way to succeed is to do as many productive things as possible," she says.
However, this type of setting may affect you. Think of the zombie feeling you have after a marathon meeting at work, a crazy day with errands and chores, or a weekend with too many social gatherings and commitments. You can barely think that you are achieving less than you had planned, and you are forgetting and making mistakes. A full-fledged lifestyle can affect productivity, creativity and satisfaction, says Stew Friedman, director of the Wharton Work / Life integration project at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Leading the Life They Want . "The mind needs rest," he says. "Research shows that after a mental break, you'll find better creative thinking, solutions and new ideas and feel happier." (Because of this, burnout should be taken seriously.)
Your brain is actually designed for regular rest. Overall, there are two main modes of processing. One is action-oriented, allowing you to focus on tasks, solve problems, and process incoming data. This is what you use when you work, watch TV, scroll through Instagram or otherwise manage and understand information. The second is called the Default Mode Network (DMN) and turns on whenever you pause to move inward. If you've ever read a few pages of a book and then discovered that you did not record anything because you were thinking about something that is completely independent, like the best place for tacos or what to wear tomorrow, this was your DMN -Takeover . (Try these superfoods to increase your brain performance.)
The DMN can be turned on and off in no time, as eye exams show. But you can also be there for hours, for example, during a quiet walk in the woods. In any case, it's important to spend time each day in your DMN: "This rejuvenates the brain as you chew or consolidate information and make sense of what's going on in your life," says Mary Helen Immordino -Yang, Ed .D., Professor of Education, Psychology and Neuroscience at the Brain and Creativity Institute of the University of Southern California. "It helps you to understand who you are and what actions are to be done next and what they mean, and it is related to well-being, intelligence and creativity."
The DMN gives your mind the ability to reflect and sort things out. It helps you to broaden and strengthen your lessons, think about the future, and plan and solve problems. Every time you get stuck on something and give it up to be hit with an aha moment later, you may have a DMN to thank for it, says Jonathan Schooler, a professor of psychology and brain science and the director of the Center for Mindfulness and Human Potential at the University of California, Santa Barbara. In a study of writers and physicists, Schooler and his team found that 30 percent of the group's creative ideas had emerged while doing something unrelated to their work.
In addition, the DMN also plays an important role in shaping memories Indeed, your brain might be quite busy in rest time (1
Get into the Zone
It's important for your brain to take a break several times a day, experts say. While there is no hard and fast recipe, Friedman suggests seeking a rest every 90 minutes, or whenever you feel drained, unable to concentrate, or hanging on to a problem.
No matter how busy you are, do not sacrifice activities that really revitalize you, such as a quiet morning bike ride, a lunch break from your desk, or a relaxing evening at home. Do not skip holidays or days off. "The key is to stop thinking that downtime is a luxury that affects productivity," says Immordino-Yang. In fact, exactly the opposite is the case. "When you invest in downtime to consolidate information and construct meanings from your life, re-invent your everyday life in a more rejuvenated and strategic way."
Here are some other proofs of ways to get the mental refreshment you need on a daily basis:
Take action. Washing, gardening, going for a walk, painting a room – these types of activities are a fertile ground for your DMN, says the student. "People have a hard time dreaming when they do absolutely nothing," he says. "You tend to feel guilty or bored, and non-demanding tasks will provide you with more mental refreshment because you are not so restless." The next time you fold laundry, let your mind wander.
Ignore your phone. Like most of us, your phone is likely to be unplugged if you get bored, but this habit robs you of valuable mental downtime. Take a screen break. If you're running errands, stash your phone (so you can have it when you really need it) and ignore it for as long as you can. Note how it feels to not get distracted, and how to daydream when playing queues, for example. Friedman, who asks his students to try this as an experiment, says people inevitably feel uneasy at first. "But after a while, they start to take deeper, more relaxing breaths and watch the world around them," he says. "Many realize how often they use their phones as a crutch when they are nervous or bored." If you allow your brain to drift at such times, it can actually help you be more focused and present, for example, during an endless but important meeting at work, says Schooler.
Be a little less connected. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat are like chocolate: some are good for you, but too much can cause trouble. "Social media is the biggest trigger for downtime," says Shelov. "Besides, it can work against you because you only see the perfection in people's lives, which makes you anxious." Even more exhausting are all these annoying messages in your Facebook feed. Track the use of your social media for a few days to see how much time you spend on it and how you feel about it. Set limits for yourself – for example, not more than 45 minutes per day – or delete your friends list, saving only the people you really want to keep up with. (Did you know that Facebook and Twitter have introduced new features to protect your mental health?)
Select nature from Crete. If you let your mind wander as you walk through a park, the University of Michigan believes it is more relaxing than walking down a street. Why? Urban and suburban environments are distracting – honking horns, cars and people. But a green room has soothing sounds, like birds chirping and wind rustling trees to watch out for or not, giving your brain more freedom to move where it wants to go. (By the way, there are many ways that rely on science when you come into contact with nature, increasing your health.)
Studies show that the mindfulness you receive through meditation is in your brain brings important recreational benefits. But that does not mean that you have to spend half an hour sitting in a corner singing. "There are many recovery and relaxation techniques that can be done in less than a minute," says Dr. Edlund. For example, focus on the small muscles in different areas of your body every 10 to 15 seconds, he says. Or, each time you drink some water, think about how it tastes and feels. If you do that, that's a small break, says Friedman.
Result of your bliss. DMN is not the only kind of mental break from which you benefit. Doing things that you love, even when they require some concentration – reading, playing tennis, playing the piano, going to a concert with friends – can also rejuvenate, says Dr. Pamela Rutledge, director of the Media Psychology Research Center in California. "Think about what activities you are fulfilling and energizing," she says. "Build in time for this enjoyment and experience the positive emotions that emanate from them." (Use this list of things you love to cut out anything you hate – and here you should stop doing things you hate once and for all.)