Sunday, January 17, 2016


I came across an article written by Ferris Jabr in the October 15, 2013 on-line edition of Scientific American.  The article is about the importance of taking mental breaks or downtime to recharge your batteries, increase your productivity, solidify memories and enhance your creativity.  It is not just about getting enough sleep every day but it is also about taking a break from being busy, multi-tasking, concentrating for hours on end on a particular task or being subjected to constant stimulation.  It is about taking a break from the constant monitoring of emails, twitter, instragram, Facebook and texting. 

Your brain doesn't stop working; the molecules, hormones, cellular processes and all of the biological cycles keeps on going.  The article says that "during downtime, the brain also concerns itself with more mundane but equally important duties.  For decades scientists have suspected that when an animal or person is not actively learning something new, the brain consolidates recently accumulated data, memorizing the most salient information, and essentially rehearses recently learned skills, etching them into its tissue.  Most of us have observed how, after a good night’s sleep, the vocab words we struggled to remember the previous day suddenly leap into our minds or that technically challenging piano song is much easier to play.  Dozens of studies have confirmed that memory depends on sleep."

Have you ever noticed what you think about when you just let your mind wander?  It is far easier to let your mind wander when you are taking a walk, sitting at a cafe or on a park bench, travelling when you are not doing the driving, or taking a shower or a bath.  Do you replay conversations in your head, think about upcoming work or social functions, think about a recent book or article you read or just soak in your surroundings and tune in to the sights, smells and sounds of what you are experiencing.  I find that some of the best mind wandering can occur when you are taking a walk or in the shower or bath.  The time spent in the shower or bath would be briefer than a walk but it can still be impactful. 

Exercising is also another tool to use to let your mind rest.  I would venture though that not all exercising is restful as some can be competitive and your mind is working hard to strategize on how to win or meet your goals.  I have found that yoga can provide a great downtime as the room or studio is quiet and you are focussing on your breathing and the stretch you are doing.  Furthermore the inside chatter in your head stops.  You take a break from all of the rushed thinking and things you need to get done.  The last point that should be made is about allowing time for yourself to have some downtime.  

The article by Ferris Jabr reviews the impact of taking naps, vacations, incorporating more personal time into your daily life.  If you would like to read more about 
your brain and downtime, this link will provide lots more detail. 

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