Best Activities to Rest Your Brain During Down Time
At last, the daily pressures have eased up, and you have some precious time to yourself. But now the question is, “what should you do with this down time?” No matter how hard you work, to really succeed, you need to take time off.
Resting and recharging your brain is essential, as research shows that performance actually increases after breaks of any length, whether 30-second “microbreaks” or uninterrupted, month-long getaways. Beyond their brain-based benefits, this down time helps to repair and prevent injuries, while boosting general health and wellness. Here are a few common, easily practiced methods to calm and comfort your brain.
Work and play go together
Your actual work schedule may be cutting into productivity. However, a 90:20 ratio – working 90 minutes, followed by a 20-minute break – may benefit productivity. Generally, the best performers (athletes, artists, etc.) practice in uninterrupted sessions lasting no more than 90 minutes. The 20-minute rest period effectively recharges their brains and bodies, while preparing them for the work period.
Inhale, exhale, repeat
The act of taking a few deep breaths can make quite a difference, as it alerts your body and brain that it’s time to calm down and relax. Here are some deep breathing guidelines:
Close your mouth and breathe deeply through your nose for 4 seconds. Hold your breath for 8 seconds. Exhale for another 8 seconds. Repeat this four more times.
You may want to adjust your inhales and exhale periods. Just be sure that when exhaling, it lasts twice as long as inhaling. And pause between each breath.
If you can’t hold your breath this long, begin at a faster pace and build up.
Don’t wait, meditate
Mediation is the process of clearing your mind by focusing on a specific item (thought, location, word, etc.). Besides its brain-related benefits, meditation may promote properties for reducing high blood pressure, blood sugar (glucose) and cholesterol. The basic guidelines include:
Sit, kneel or lie in a comfortable position. But always keep your eyes closed, as this help you to focus mentally and spiritually.
It’s not unusual for 10 minutes or more to pass as you completely clear your mind. If you find that unwanted thoughts are intruding, try to ignore them and focus on your one item.
You may engage in “guided imagery,” in which you imagine a location (real or not) that imparts peace and removes stress. Focus on being in this place and its look and feel. It may be helpful to play calming music or repeat a phrase to feel more comfortable.
While meditation has no time limit, aim for resting at least ten minutes once your mind is cleared. This is typically how long you’ll need to achieve optimal stress and focus benefits.
Exercise your options
Getting up and being active can boost your creativity, productivity and general health. And, it may save your life, as research suggests that being sedentary may be just as harmful as smoking! Try to walk throughout the day, even for simple tasks. A few minutes can regulate blood flow, stretch your muscles and clear your head. If you prefer a more strenuous cardio workout, head for quiet, less-crowded venues. You may opt for more mindless, repetitive activities, such as running or swimming laps.
Find a furry, feathered or fin-ny fiend
One great way to decompress is to spend time with animals. Not only may this lower blood pressure, but these people have been shown to be significantly less stressed than those who rarely interact with animals. Consider walking your (or someone else’s) dog, petting a cat, talking to a parrot, whatever your preference.