Many people who weight train in gymnasiums several times a week are probably overdoing it, especially if they work out the same muscle group too often. This is because the rest and recovery period is one of the key elements of body building. To maximise muscle growth when pumping iron, you have to break the muscle down, but then you need to rest the muscle and eat the right foods to allow it to rebuild into a bigger and stronger body part.
The same is true of our mind - it spends a lot of time working, thinking and actively engaging - but just like biceps or triceps, when worked out it needs time to relax and unwind. It is during the recreation period that our mind is freer to explore its creative potential - it is more relaxed, under less pressure, and sufficiently uninhibited to allow vision, ideas and inspirations to flow.
Neuroscientific studies confirm that an increase of alpha brain waves, through the process of quiet contemplation and meditation, reduce depressive symptoms and increase creative thinking. The brain is an ever-changing neurochemical and electrical structure that neuroplasticity (reorganisation through new neural connections) and neurogenesis (growing new neurons) continue to alter and shape. All of the neurochemicals associated with our happiness and positive well-being - such as endorphins, dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin - are highly active when we undertake activities like resting, exercise, bonding, having fun, and spending time with people who bring value to our lives.
When I’m working on lengthy writing projects, and I switch off the laptop for the evening, I find that when I return after a few days my mind is invigorated, having enjoyed the benefits of restoration. This is because during the intervening rest days my conscious experiences are augmenting my worldview, and my subconscious is undertaking millions of complex calculations and considerations that expand my intellect and enhance my emotions in readiness for my return to work. That’s why when you return to a project after a short period of rest and reflection you usually come back in with fresh ideas, renewed enthusiasm, and an enhanced, broader perspective on the work you’ve been undertaking.
In a world of ever-increasing busyness, more things competing for our attention, and greater stress levels, many people are not being kind enough to themselves by finding the opportunity for some vital ‘time-out’ sessions - not just for the benefit of recharging the cognitive batteries, but to get away from the tumult of the workplace and reconnect with themselves.
All of the greatest contributors to human achievement - scientists, mathematicians, theologians, philosophers, painters, writers, musicians and filmmakers - found that a healthy balance of work, rest and reflection amplified their prowess for creativity and discovery, and expanded their mind in the process of retreat.
It is in those reflective moments in a relaxed environment that you touch base with your own aspirations, tap into your own potential, give your talents the space to breathe, and allow your unconscious intuition the space to manifest itself. It is in getting away and reconnecting with yourself that you give your mind the chance to discover fresh insights about the person you are, the person you aspire to be, and where in your vocational journey you can maximise your talents, knowledge and experience to bring about a happier and more fulfilled work life - enriching all other areas of your life as you do so.
James Knight - Guest blogger