Did you know that your brain is almost as active when you’re asleep as when you’re awake?
It’s also true when you’re “only” relaxing. Your brain is just as active. When you’re not “focused” your brain is in what’s called diffuse mode. It’s still thinking for you, solving the problem you were focused on before, except in the background of consciousness.
If you’re only in “focused” mode all the time, you’re not effectively tapping the hugely creative power of your subconscious mind.
This is why I rest frequently throughout the day. Although my work hours on the calendar are between 7am and 7pm, I’m often resting and relaxing during those hours.
Each time I get away from my computer and do something else, I know I am going into the brain’s diffuse mode, and my consciousness is “working” on my project or problem in a different, more creative way… without my having to focus on it.
In other words, it’s a form of “productive” self-care.
Here are some different ways to do “frequent creative rest”…
Instead of being at the computer for a whole hour or two, staring at the screen, I try to step away at least every 30 minutes, even just to pace/walk around for 30 seconds.
When we move our body, we move our brain. More creativity is available to us. This is especially helpful if we feel stuck on a problem. If I just pace around, I come back and usually have a better perspective or a new idea.
How do I remind myself to step away? I have developed the habit of looking at the clock often. You can also use technology to remind you. Do a google search for “break reminder app” (without quotes).
When I’m working on a tough problem, I simply close my eyes and take 2 gentle, easy, deep breaths.
It’s so easy and quick, but can shift my state of being.
Every hour, I step away to get some tea, and use the restroom if needed.
In the mid-morning, and in the late-afternoon, I take a walk with Buddy my dog.
Getting out into nature is wonderful for the body, brain, and creative thinking.
These walks happen in the middle of my long work periods, e.g. my 30-minute mid-morning walk is at 10:30am, which is about halfway between the start of my workday at 7am, and my 1pm lunch-and-nap.
My late-afternoon walk happens after having worked for 2 hours (again, with mini-breaks in between.) It’s a 2-hour break, which includes snacking, napping, and a dog walk to the park.
When intensely at work, people sometimes forget lunch. What I do is keep my lunch-and-nap hour (1pm) as a recurring appointment on my calendar, so that no client can schedule during that time.
I take 4 naps a day, 15–25 minutes each: after breakfast, before my mid-morning walk, after lunch, before my late-afternoon walk.
During these naps, I don’t worry about falling asleep, and I don’t most of the time. I’m simply relaxing on the couch, gently and restfully breathing in Love, breathing out Healing or Thanks, and just enjoying my minutes of rest and renewal.
I put away any thoughts of planning, and if they come up, I just go back to my gentle, intentional breathing. I do allow my mind to wander, but not to plan nor solve problems.
As mentioned, I get up from the computer after every half-hour of focused work. Before I return to my focused work, I do a full Energy Reboot which takes me about 3 minutes:
- Gentle neck roll
- Gentle massage of head, face, ear lobes
- Various stretches for my body, arms, and legs
- I focus my stretches on the forearms and hands, because most of my work is at the computer and regular stretches help prevent repetitive stress injury.
- The final 30-seconds is intentional breathing. I take 4 complete breaths:
- In: Love (imagining I am breathing in particles of love)
- Out: Total Security (remembering this is the destiny of our souls)
- In: Love
- Out: Joy or Playfulness (depending on the day)
- In: Wisdom (imagining particles of Wisdom always surround me)
- Out: Wisdom (activated into my life)
- In: Love and Wisdom
- Out: Love and Wisdom into the very next project I’m working on
Start The Next Project Before A Break
This is an interesting tip — before I start any of my longer breaks (nap, walk, meal, and evening hygiene), I’ll try to start thinking about a challenging task or project.
During the break, my brain will be working on the problem in the background. I try not to consciously focus on the problem during my break. I just let my mind wander. There’s a lot of talk these days about the creative benefits of “mind-wandering” (google it if you’re curious!)
You can be in diffuse mode — letting your brain work subconsciously on a problem — while you’re doing just about anything else besides mental focusing. As mentioned above, it’s good to start with focused mode for at least a few minutes on a project, and then go into diffuse mode with any of these activities:
- Household chores such as dishes, laundry, puttering, simple food prep, simple cleaning.
- Taking a walk (without listening to a podcast or talking on the phone)
- Making tea or coffee
- Doing physical puzzles or building something — working with the hands helps the brain’s “diffuse” mode, too.
- “The pomodoro technique” works well for focused-then-diffuse modes. Working for 25 minutes, then taking a break for 5 minutes, is called one “pomodoro”. And after several pomodoros, take a longer break.
For more info on the focused vs. diffuse mode of the brain for learning and creativity, check out this 8 minute “Big Think” talk — https://youtu.be/1FvYJhpNvHY
I encourage you to get clear today about how you implement your own “frequent creative rest” rhythm. Borrow any ideas from this post, and ensure that you start practicing it so that you can be more joyfully productive!