During stress and overwork; the last thing you want to do is overly strain that brain of yours. Sometime it is better to just step away from the situation and pursue some brain break activities to give you the perspective and relaxation you need.
Here are 3 brain break activities to help you free your mind and be the most productive:
Watch your favorite TV series
Some may argue that watching a series isn’t necessarily a relaxing task for the brain. However, according to science, television in moderation can actually improve anxiety related problems. The trick to relaxing the brain is not to turn it off, but instead to focus it’s attention on another task; believe it or not – even during sleep your brain is actively working to get things done. Neuroscientists are still not fully sure of the inner workings of the brain during television; however brain scan studies show that two things happen while you have your fix of “Game of thrones” or “Walking Dead”:
- The higher functioning levels of the brain (Neocortex) responsible for reasoning shut down
- The visual cortex becomes stimulated
So in essence, you can say that even though the brain is not being rested, it is not being exercised either. This makes zoning out on your favorite TV show, one of the best brain break activities to engage in. Just don’t do it for too long and watch the content you expose yourself to. Glamour did a great post highlighting 20 Netflix series to watch when you are feeling stressed as hell:
- Parks and Recreation
- Friday Night lights
- Witches of East End
- Gilmore Girls
- Anything from HGTV
- Being Mary Jane
- Food shows (Chef’s Table, Chopped)
- Bob’s Burgers
- 30 Rock
- The Office
- Vampire Diaries
- New Girl
- Grey’s Anatomy
Meditation and Mindfulness
It is scientifically proven that engaging in activities centered around meditation and mindfulness can greatly improve brain health. If you don’t believe this, then read this post about how you practice mindfulness and may not even know it. According to scientific studies, brain imaging techniques are proving that mindfulness and meditation exercises can improve the way different regions of the brain communicate with each other. MRI scans, have shown the following physical brain changes when people in the study were exposed to mindfulness based exercises:
- Reduction in fear – after an 8 week session of mindfulness, participants in the experiment began to show signs of reduction in the size of the “amygdala”. This component of the brain is primarily concerned with releasing hormones associates with the “fight” or “flight” response. As a direct consequence of this, the “pre-frontal cortex” responds by growing in thickness; this heightens higher order brain functions such as decision making, awareness and concentration.
- Reduction in pain – meditators have reported less pain than their non-meditating counterparts. They even stuck needles in their tongues and cheeks to prove it; which may mean that mediation can indeed affect higher functions of the central nervous system. Read about the research article if you are interested to find out more.
If you are eager to start including mindfulness and mediation as part of your brain break activities, here are 6 activities outlined by Pocketmindfulness:
- 1)Mindful breathing – be stagnant and focus attention on breathing
- 2)Mindful observation – choose objects and focus on them. Pay attention to finer details
- 3)Mindful awareness – choose an activity you take for granted and be actively aware the next time you do it.
- 4)Mindful listening – choose something you have never heard before and focus on listening to what you hear
- 5)Mindful immersion – embrace and enjoy an activity that you usually find yourself rushing through
- 6)Mindful appreciation – show appreciation for the things you have. You can use positive affirmations to help you with this.
When you exercise, you release endorphins which is what most people know. Scientifically however, the workings of the brain when we exercise is much more complex. Here is a quick run down of what really happens:
- When you are hitting that treadmill or pumping some iron; your brain either considers you to be in a state of “flight or fright”.
- A protein called BDNF (brain derived neurotropic factor) acts as a reset switch which explains why you feel clear headed and in a state of happiness when you complete an exercise session.
- In addition, endorphins(feels good hormones) serve the purpose of blocking out the pain associated with exercises; which consequently bring about the sensation of euphoria.
Adding exercise is therefore a must on your list of brain break activities. Like all good things, make sure to do it in moderation but most importantly -keep it consistent.