It’s true that in order to live our purpose in this world, we’ve got to have a vision and a plan for achieving our dreams. We must be tenacious in working toward our goals, and we might occasionally have to sacrifice a little sleep for that dream.
The stress, exhaustion and decision fatigue caused by “hustling” can lead to mood swings. Our logical processes literally shut down, opening up irritability, frustration, anger and sadness. It’s that the primitive part of your brain (controlled by emotion) takes over and dictates behaviors, while higher-level thinking is put on pause.
Although the stigma remains that break-takers are lazy or unmotivated, this belief is unfounded. Breakthroughs in neuroscience research unveil proof that goes against everything we thought we knew about achievement.
Periods of intentional rest are now known to boost our:
- Productive energy
- Innovative thinking
- Executive function
- Positive mindset
Napping has been shown to enhance alertness and attention even better than caffeine. Brief periods of rest also counteract the sluggish effects of not getting enough quality sleep at night. Napping even makes us better problem solvers.
Falling asleep is not necessary in order to feel the restorative benefits of midday rest. Try these three faux nap ideas to enhance creativity and productivity and access intuitive solutions through your subconscious mind.
1. Close your eyes
You can tap into the unconscious processes that help connect with innovative ideas and solve problems more efficiently simply by decreasing visual input.
More than 50 percent of the surface of the brain is devoted to processing visual information. Closing your eyes frees up the energy associated with that 50 percent, allowing your brain needed recovery.
First action step:
- Create a cozy nap environment without the expectation of falling asleep. Taking that pressure off goes a long way toward relaxation.
- Consider playing some soothing music to help drown out any distracting noises.
- Allow your eyelids to close, and notice any thoughts that arise.
As a child, were you ever scolded for gazing dreamily out the window? Parents and teachers often presum that a wandering mind was a hindrance, but neuroscience researchers find that daydreamers actually score higher on creativity scales.
Making time for free-flowing thought allows for almost effortless disentanglement of the jumbled information in our minds. Just as our muscles gain flexibility through gentle stretching, new insights are more likely to surface when we’re relaxed. For best results, approach your daydreaming session with intention: You must be able to notice when you are in this state and pull yourself out at will. This requires some practice.
Second action step:
- Choose a photo or work of art that feels relaxing to look at: a calm ocean scene or flowers, a bright blue sky. (Note: Blue is calming; orange stimulates creativity.)
- Set a timer for five minutes.
- Sit comfortably and gaze at the picture. Allow your mind to wander while keeping the focus on the feeling you get from the image, and keep a pen and notepad nearby to jot down any flashes of inspiration.
The adult brain, a mere two percent of body weight, is responsible for around 20 percent of oxygen consumption. This means oxygen is one fuel our brains heavily rely on for planning, decision-making and higher-order thinking.
Simple focused breathing gives us a mental energy boost. It also helps you relax into your unconscious mental processes, supporting creativity and productivity by activating your parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for both mental and physiological relaxation).
Third action step:
- Practice diaphragmatic breathing — drawing the air into your belly instead of your upper chest. Place one hand over your heart and the other over your abdomen while inhaling. When your lower hand rises during inhalation and your upper hand does not, you know you’re bringing the air fully into your diaphragm.
- Next, breathing only through your nose, inhale for a count of four… hold for a count of four… exhale for a count of four… and hold again for a count of four.
- Repeat this sequence for anywhere from two to 10 minutes.
When you give yourself the space to relax, you actually empower your mind to align with tour dreams. WHO KNEW??