It is true that to live our purpose in this world, we must have a vision and a plan to achieve our dreams. We must be tenacious in working toward our goals, and occasionally we might have to sacrifice a little sleep for that dream. However, our culture of “rushing at all costs” has convinced us that this means choosing between success and quality of life (e.g., health, happiness, and satisfaction). This mentality of one or the other is not only inaccurate, it actually threatens our results and secretly sabotages success.
Stress, exhaustion, and decision-making fatigue caused by “rushing” can lead to mood swings. Our logical processes literally close, opening the floodgates to irritability, frustration, anger and sadness. In other words, the primitive part of our brain (controlled by emotion) takes control and dictates our behaviors, while our higher-level thinking is paused.
Can you see how this creates the exact opposite of the success we strive for?
Although there is still a stigma that breaks are for lazy or unmotivated people, this belief is unfounded. Advances in neuroscience research reveal evidence that goes against everything we thought we knew about breaks.
It is now known that periods of intentional rest drive:
- Productive energy
- Innovative thinking
- Executive function
- Positive mindset
A specific method that is especially effective? Take a nap. Often, we are tempted to rely on coffee instead of taking a short break when we are tired during the workday. However, naps have been shown to improve alertness and attention even better than caffeine.
Short periods of rest also counteract the slow effects of not getting enough sleep at night. Napping even makes us better problem solvers,which leads directly to innovation and decisive action, two remarkable characteristics of success.
Maybe this all sounds great, but you’ll wonder who has the time or flexibility to take a nap on the workday. You’re right, many of us don’t… but guess what? Falling asleep is not necessary to feel the restorative benefits of midday rest! Try these three fake nap ideas to improve creativity and productivity. They’re easy to fit into even the busiest schedules, so pick one, set a timer to five minutes, and enjoy it.
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1. Close your eyes
More than 50 percent of the brain’s surface is devoted to visual information processing. Closing our eyes releases the energy associated with that 50 percent, allowing our brain to recover. We can tap into unconscious processes that help us connect with our innovative ideas and solve problems more efficiently by simply decreasing visual input.
Action step: Create a cozy nap environment without the expectation of falling asleep. Taking that pressure off helps us greatly to relax and leads to greater productivity. Consider playing relaxing music to help drown out annoying noises. Allow your eyelids to close gently and observe any thoughts that arise.
When you were a kid, were you ever scolded for looking dreamily out the window? Our parents and teachers assumed that a wandering mind was an obstacle, but neuroscience researchers find that daydreamers actually score higher on creativity scales.
Making time for free-flowing thought allows us to almost effortlessly untangle the confusing information in our minds. Just as our muscles gain flexibility through gentle stretches, new knowledge is more likely to emerge when we are relaxed. For best results, have a dream session with intention: you must be able to realize when you are in this state and go out at will. This takes some practice.
Action step: Choose a photo or artwork that relaxes just by looking, maybe a quiet ocean scene or some flowers against a bright blue sky (Note: blue is soothing; orange stimulates creativity). Set a timer for five minutes. Sit comfortably and contemplate the picture. Allow your mind to wander while keeping the focus on the feeling you pull out of the image, and have a pen and notepad nearby to jot down any flashes of inspiration.
The adult brain, a mere 2% of body weight, is responsible for about 20 percent of oxygen consumption. This means that oxygen is a fuel on which our brain relies heavily for planning, decision-making, and higher-order thinking.
Simple concentrated breathing gives us a boost of mental energy. It also helps us relax in our unconscious mental processes, supporting creativity and productivity by activating our parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for both mental and physiological relaxation).
Action step: First, practice diaphragmatic breathing, sucking air into your abdomen instead of your upper chest. Place one hand on your heart and the other on your abdomen as you inhale. When your lower hand rises during inhalation and your upper hand does not, you are introducing air completely into your diaphragm.
Then, breathing only through the nose, inhale counting to four. Keep the air while counting to four; exhale counting to four and wait again while counting to four. Repeat this sequence for two to 10 minutes.
Access intuitive solutions through the subconscious mind
Using these techniques, our brains can separate information and reassemplify it, like pieces of a puzzle, in a way that our conscious mind alone cannot.
- What if we did this common practice?
- What if we embraced the power of our natural body-mind connections?
- What if, instead of celebrating the hustle and bustle, we paused long enough to tune into our deepest levels of consciousness?
Then we would understand that we don’t have to trade our dreams for a restful rest. In fact, when we give ourselves the space to relax, we empower our minds to align with our dreams. And that’s when we can reach a level of success that the culture of hustle and bustle simply can’t match.