The race for the secret to success is relentless and contagious. Everyone wants to know how to get there and, as such, everyone dedicates body and mind to this mission. In this race, we are all machines and no breaks are allowed. Rest, thus, goes unnoticed in this equation of success and is even perceived as a taboo and a reason for guilt. The fear of falling behind and losing the race is what keeps us from taking a break, but what if I told you that one of the key ingredients of success is having regular moments of rest?
Maintaining a constant and excessive focus on work, problem solving or other tasks that involve concentration poses a danger to optimal performance, functioning and to health. Our brain requires the presence of regular periods of rest. Essentially, it needs moments to wander aimlessly. To understand what these moments of rest mean, remember the last time you were reading a page of a book and, after a few sentences, you realized that you had not retained any transmitted message because you were absorbed with a chain of thoughts totally unrelated to the content of the page. In this situation, your mind was certainly at a moment of rest.
What happens when the mind rests?
Giving the mind room to disconnect from the “action” function allows it to retrieve memories, connect ideas and thoughts, and solidify learnings. Studies show that this moment of pause in the mind promotes creative thinking and the development of more effective problem-solving strategies.
When and how to rest the mind?
Several authors suggest that we should have cognitive rest periods every 90 minutes. However, you can simply listen to the signals from your body and mind, for example, you will know it is time to slow down when you have trouble concentrating or when you realize that is in an disproportionate effort to solve a problem.
Here are some ways you can ease your mind:
Take a light nap of about 15 minutes during the early afternoon;
Walk freely with your mind, sit on a park bench and let yourself connect with the inner you;
Disconnect from your cell phone, don't let virtual distractions take away a productive moment of rest;
Daydream, build scenarios and give space to your creative and free thinking.
No matter how busy and hassled your days are, don't take your mind off the opportunity to slow down, revitalize, and get back to optimal functioning. Remember that these moments of rest are not a luxury that few people can enjoy, nor are they a barrier between you and your productivity. In fact, they are paradoxically necessary to perform any type of work with excellence.
Chen, A. C., Oathes, D. J., Chang, C., Bradley, T., Zhou, Z., Williams, L. M., Glover, G. H., Deisseroth, K., & Etkin, A. (2013). Causal interactions between fronto-parietal central executive and default-mode networks in humans. PNAS, 110(49), 19944-19949. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1311772110
Pillay, S. (2017, May 4). Secret to brain success: Intelligent cognitive rest. Harvard Health Publishing. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/secret-to-brain-success-intelligent-cognitive-rest-2017050411705