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Does Your Brain Need a Break?

Photo courtesy of eyesogreen/Flickr

One of my favorite summertime indulgences is simply doing nothing.

Some people might consider it a waste of a day, but to me, there is nothing better than grabbing a towel/blanket/mat/chair, heading to the park or the beach, and just lounging out in the sun.

Some of my best ideas have surfaced when my mind and body are otherwise disengaged — and according to various psychological studies, there is science behind random “aha” moments like the ones I have experienced.

If you think about it, it makes sense. Our minds are prone to over-thinking things. For example, how many times have you been stuck on a crossword puzzle clue because you keep thinking of the same answers over and over again, even though your mind knows those answers are incorrect? And how many times has the correct word popped into your head after you’ve put the puzzle down for a while?

Researches estimate that about 60 percent of complex problems are solved as the result of the “aha” phenomenon that often follows mental vacations. Giving your brain a break not only halts the cycle of stale ideas, it clears the way for your mind to pick up on subtle signals that it otherwise would have been too distracted to notice — signals that could pave the way to a creative breakthrough.

Allowing yourself some quality R & R also tends to improve your mood, and your brain is better able to think when it is not overloaded with negative thoughts.

So go ahead — lounge in your hammock, catch a few rays by the pool, or just chill on your couch for a bit. Your brain will thank you.

Brooke is a 2010 graduate of The University of Montana, where she ran track and cross country for the Grizzlies. She is currently working as a writer and editor in Missoula.

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