Most of us have been taught to push our brain hard in order to get the most out of it. Yet, research is finding that some of the ways the brain goes about making us brilliant is captured in that old Frank Sinatra song “Nice and Easy Does It.”
Turns Out that Less Work is the Ticket to Sustaining Higher Performance
Less appears to be more for the brain in sustaining peak performance. Some think that taking breaks is a union conspiracy. Not so; breaks appear to be foundational to sustaining peak performance. A study at New York University showed during periods of wakeful rest (aka, a break) that brain activity increases between the hippocampus (the brain’s memory powerhouse) and neocortex (the part of the brain that makes humans highly intelligence). Conversely, they found that continuing on with other tasks after learning new information appears to interrupt the new idea, inspiration or learning you want to strengthen.
Breaks aid in memory consolidation, improve recall and facilitate that ‘top of your game’ condition called flow. Taking a coffee break after class or a meeting or when you’ve worked dilligently for a time can actually help you retain the information you just learned. Your brain wants you to take a break in order to tune out other tasks so it can tune in to what you just learned and get creative with it.
And Letting Your Mind Wander Increases Your Creative Intelligence by 40%
And get this, especially those who believe in putting your brain’s nose to the grindstone. A recent study at the University of California found that participants who were given an easy task conducive to mind-wandering during an incubation period after working on something important showed greater improvements in creativity compared to those who continued to engage in a demanding task. In fact, the individuals who were induced to mind wander showed an improvement of 40% compared to their baseline level of creative performance!
How is that possible?
The researchers suggest that “mind-wandering may enhance creativity by increasing the likelihood of non-conscious associative processing, consistent with the spreading activation hypothesis for incubation effects.” In other words, letting go and allowing your mind to wander after working diligently kicks your brain into a condition in which the dots begin to connect themselves.
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