When did you last stop? No I mean really stop. Stop to do nothing. I don’t mean reading this blog on your phone while you wait for your coffee to be made, I mean actually stop. Life has been pretty busy lately and I was at the supermarket the other day waiting in the checkout queue. As I realised I was going to have to wait for 2 people in front of me instead of feeling impatient like normal I was actually pleased, it felt like a treat. You see for that moment all that was required of me was to wait, no-one was requiring anything from me (I do my shopping without my son) all I had to do was stand there.
Waiting in the grocery queue was freeing and energising.
This world that we live in cajoles us to keep going, to keep up, to keep thinking, to never quite switch off. We live in an information-rich age, which ironically increases our expectation to know everything all the time. Our devices with their dings, notifications, time to destinations, task lists and reminders, keep us aware of time, aware of all that we have to do, and the time that we have to do it in. Usually when I have to wait I am caught up in this trap, I might be checking on blogs I follow, checking my own blog stats, checking to see if anyone has messaged me, writing a list of things I have to do next, or worrying that I won’t have time to do the next things I am trying to fitinto my stuffed schedule.
Our brains, just like other parts of our body need care, maintenance and compassion to stay in good condition. Part of how we care for our brains is to give them some down time. Some time when we stop putting information in and relax, letting our brain roam free. The downtime allows our brain to process all that we have put in, may assist it in storing memories effectively and being able to pay attention again when we need to. Downtime also helps us to create innovative solutions to those things we may be stuck on and helps our creativity. Our ability to think and concentrate is also enhanced by making sure we take regular down times throughout the day.
Life micro-pauses are those opportunities that we have to take breaks during the day, those little moments in which we can detach from the demands placed on us, and relax our bodies and brains. The first step is to notice all these opportunities, and then to actually be intentional about using them to stop, as it is easy to fill them up with the noise of our connected lives. Think about how you can use the small pauses that occur in your day to day life as downtime for your brain. These can be those moments when you are waiting for the kettle to boil, or the coffee machine to heat up, waiting in the supermarket line, waiting for the lights to change, or in the queue at the post office. These are all times when nothing is required of you, all you have to do in that moment is to wait, to take a moment to rest your brain and rest your body, and simply be. You might like to be aware of your body or be aware of your breath, and you will need to be intentional about not filling these moments with your phone, magazines, music, the news of other inputs that you have on hand. Take these moments as opportunities to refresh and re-energise.