Have you given yourself some “mental downtime”, lately?

Recently, I read an article in the March 2017 “Shape” magazine, that I found to be incredibly compelling!!  So much so, that I recommended that my husband give it a read, and he gained some great tips from it, as well!

The article was titled “Put your head in the clouds”, and it was cleverly written by Beth Janes. In her opening remarks, she promises to divulge a “secret” on how to achieve mental downtime, and why it will make (us) happier and healthier… and I was very intrigued to read on!

A shocking amount of people spend no time during the day relaxing or thinking. Seriously, who has the time for that? Reading on, I agree… we tend to consistently overschedule, overwork, and overdo. And the more often that we do this, the more likely we are to suffer with forgetfulness, making mistakes, and becoming less productive than we had originally intended.

In this article, there was a point that really struck me:

Our brains are designed to have regular rest periods.

Our brain has two main modes of processing. One is action-oriented, allowing us to concentrate on tasks, solve problems, and process incoming data. This is the part of the brain that we use when we are trying to manage and make sense of information; working, watching TV, scrolling through our social media accounts, etc.

The other mode of processing is called the default mode network (DMN). This mode switches on whenever our minds need a break; to wander inward. So, if we are reading a book, and we find ourselves reflecting; this is our DMN switching “on”.

Our DMN switch can turn on and off very quickly.

Spending time in our DMN every day is critical for brain rejuvenation; it helps us to sort and make meaning of our lives. Another benefit of DMN mode is that it can allow us to reflect, and to discover creative solutions to a problem that we are trying to sort out.

DMN mode also plays a role in forming memories, especially during our “quiet time”… which if you have ever seen the kids’ movie, “Inside Out”, you understand the importance of developing “core memories”!!

So, how can we tap into our DMN more often?

Experts suggest that we should aim for a rest period every 90 minutes.

… Yes, my thoughts exactly, “every 90 minutes”… yeah, right!!!

Please, tell me how this is possible…

Well, for one… learn not to skip any activities that we know helps us to feel revitalized. Is it a quiet workout in the morning? Going for a walk? Taking a lunch break away from your desk? Spending a relaxing evening at home? And absolutely do not skip vacations or days off.

It is crucial that we learn to change our mindsets to not consider “downtime” as a luxury that is taking away from our productivity… actually, it can help!!

Here are some other helpful suggestions:

Let our mind wander during non-demanding tasks such as gardening, painting, washing dishes, laundry, etc.

When we are out running errands, resist the urge to pull out our phones during times when we start to feel bored (like when we are waiting in line at the grocery store).

Track our social media usage for a few days, and then reflect how we feel about that. If we are feeling anxious, start setting some limits for ourselves, and see how that feels. Learn to connect with only the people that we truly enjoy keeping up with.

Choose to get outside and spend time in nature, rather than in the hustle and bustle of honking horns and crowds. This allows our brain to roam free, undistracted.

Give meditation and mindfulness that chance, that (maybe) we have been thinking about! This can be done in minutes a day. Try this: If you are sitting at your desk, and starting to feel particularly stressed.. close your eyes and focus on one tiny muscle in your body for 10-15 seconds. Or pay attention to the taste and feel of a drink of water. This act of mindfulness can give our brain a “mini recess”.

Make time to do the things that we love. It can be reading a book, going to a concert, playing a sport or instrument, spending time with good friends; anything that makes us feel genuinely happy, can absolutely give us that mental downtime that we need!

This article had a ton more insightful tips and little pearls of wisdom from experts, professors, doctors, mindfulness guru’s.. it is highly worth the read, especially is this is an area in your life that you feel you could use a little help in!! (I just might be laminating this, and placing it within every day viewing!)

So… it seems as if there is something good to say about “day dreaming”.. maybe these day-dreamers are on to something? If letting our brain wander several times during the day, can help us to feel more calm and content, then I am all for it!! And to couple that with a nice run or a hike outside in nature = pure bliss (for me)! What will give you that mental downtime that you need?

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