“There's no such thing as downtime for your brain.” - Jeffrey Kluger
The quote is true. As it turns out, our brains have multiple different resting state networks, or areas that are active when we are (or seem) idle. But your brain can’t tap into these important resources if you don't take time out to reach a “resting state.”
This is why if you want to do your best work, be productive, healthy and avoid burnout, you’ve got to build downtime into your day, week, year and life.
According to study after study after study, mental breaks increase productivity, replenish attention and encourage creative thinking. If you're “plowing through” a project, it’s not just bad because you’re plowing through life. It’s bad because it's not optimal work.
According to Mary Helen Immordino-Yang of the University of Southern California and her co-authors, “Default Mode brain systems activated during rest are important for active, internally focused psychosocial mental processing, for example, when recalling personal memories, imagining the future, and feeling social emotions with moral connotations. … The Default Mode [processing] has relations to psychological functioning, including associations with mental health and cognitive abilities like reading comprehension and divergent thinking.”
It’s time we drop our busy mentality BS and build downtime into our day. Here are 4 great ways science says we can recharge:
Nap - You may be afraid co-workers will think you’re lazy. If so, print out this nap tell-all article from TheArtofManliness.com about the 8 Benefits of Napping which include, increased alertness, improved working memory, and boosted creativity.
Meditation - If sleeping seems too extreme, you can always meditate. Meditation’s benefits extend way beyond the workplace. It’s been proven not only to increase well being, but also permanently and positively alter brain structure in areas that play a key in passion, awareness, stress regulation and self esteem. And, you can do it at lunch. Just 20 minutes a day of practice will change your neural structure.
Walks - Even moderate aerobic exercise makes you more creative, boosts your mood and fortifies brain mass. Maybe you could even be like Fortune 500 consultant and author, Nilofer Merchant, who recommends meeting walks instead of coffee dates.
Days off - American’s leave up to half their paid vacation on the table. Stop it. You need to build bigger stretches of downtime into your life. According to this Article in The Atlantic, Why Summer Vacations and The Internet Make you More Productive: “Vacation deprivation increases mistakes and resentment at co-workers... ‘The impact that taking a vacation has on one's mental health is profound,’ said Francine Lederer, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles. ‘Most people have better life perspective and are more motivated to achieve their goals after a vacation, even if it is a 24-hour time-out.’"
If you’re still not convinced, maybe this article will convince you. The most notable study linking vacation time to health, shows that men who refuse to take yearly vacations were at a 21 percent higher risk of death from all causes and were 32 percent more likely to die of a heart attack.
So, seriously, slow down. Here are Seven Ted Talks about slowing down and enjoying life. Take a break from work, right now, and go watch one.