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How Do Work Breaks Help Your Brain? 5 Surprising Answers

When Not to Take a Break

When you are in a state of “flow” it is not good to take a break.

“Flow” is characterized by complete absorption in the task, seemingly effortless concentration, and pleasure in the task itself.

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How Do Work Breaks Help Your Brain? 5 Surprising Answers

How Do Work Breaks Help Your Brain? 5 Surprising Answers

https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/changepower/201704/how-do-work-breaks-help-your-brain-5-surprising-answers

psychologytoday.com

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Key Ideas

Why You Should Take Breaks

  • “Movement breaks” are essential for your physical and emotional health. A 5-minute walkabout break every hour can improve your health and well-being.
  • Breaks can prevent “decision fatigue. Decision fatigue can lead to simplistic decision-making and procrastination.
  • Breaks restore motivation, especially for long-term goals. "Deactivating and reactivating your goals allows you to stay focused."
  • Breaks increase productivity and creativity. It refreshes the mind, replenishes your mental resources, and helps you become more creative.
  • “Waking rest” helps consolidate memories and improve learning. During a rest period, it appears that the brain reviews and ingrains what it previously learned.

When Not to Take a Break

When you are in a state of “flow” it is not good to take a break.

“Flow” is characterized by complete absorption in the task, seemingly effortless concentration, and pleasure in the task itself.

Good Breaks

A “good break” will give that goal-oriented Prefrontal Cortex of yours a good rest by switching brain activity to another area.

Refresh and recharge your mind

  1. Walk or exercise.
  2. Connect with nature...or a streetscape.
  3. Change your environment.
  4. Have lunch or a healthy snack.
  5. Take a “power nap”.
  6. Take a few deep breaths.
  7. Daydream.
  8. Get creative like drawing or even doodling.
  9. Drink coffee (or tea). Sipping coffee can be a mindful pleasure in itself.

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Taking good breaks

This is important for your daily productivity. Good breaks can leave us feeling refreshed and energized. It can reduce mental fatigue, boost brain function and keep us on-task for extended periods....

The brain and goal management

The prefrontal cortex of the brain is mainly responsible for goal management. It orchestrates attention, working memory and other cognitive resources to help us get what we want.

For a challenging task, briefly taking our minds off the goal can renew and strengthen motivation. Doing activities that rely on different brain regions is best to restore focus.

Going Natural

Exposure to nature restores the mind. One study showed better working memory scores for people after a walk in a natural environment, but not in an urban setting.

If you are unable to go into nature, find plants, fresh air or a fish tank. Sit down, take a deep breath, and notice the details of nature. Research shows that even looking at some pictures of nature can work.

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Breaks keep us from getting bored

The human brain just wasn’t built for the extended focus we ask of it these days.

The fix for this unfocused condition is simple—all we need is a brief interruption (aka a break) to ge...

Breaks and brain connections

Our brains have two modes:

  • focused mode, which we use when we’re doing things like learning something new, writing or working) and 
  • diffuse mode, which is our more relaxed, daydreamy mode when we’re not thinking so hard.

The mind solves its stickiest problems while daydreaming—something you may have experienced while driving or taking a shower.

Breaks help us reevaluate our goals

When you work on a task continuously, it’s easy to lose focus and get lost in the weeds. In contrast, following a brief intermission, picking up where you left off forces you to take a few seconds to think globally about what you’re ultimately trying to achieve. 

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We Need Breaks
recent Apple ad celebrated entrepreneurs working so hard, they’re not able to see t...
Take A Break Every 52 Minutes

After analyzing 5.5 million daily records of how office workers are using their computer (based on what the user self-identified as “productive” work), they found that the top 10% of productive workers all worked an average of 52 minutes before taking a 17 minute break.

Distract Yourself To Recharge Your Focus

Intense focus actually makes us less focused in the long run. Instead of thinking about the problem without stop, we need to create distractions that take our attention away from the task at hand so we can come back at it with a fresh mind.

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Microbreaks

They refer to any brief activity that helps to break up the monotony of physically or mentally draining tasks. 

They can last anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes a...

The power of microbreaks

They can improve workers’ ability to concentrate, change the way they see their jobs, and even help them avoid the typical injuries that people get when they’re tied to their desks all day.

There’s no consensus on how long the ideal microbreak should last or how often you should have them; it’s up to you to experiment with what works best.

Why stretching matters

Tiny breaks are thought to help us to cope with long periods at our desks by taking the strain off certain body structures – such as the neck – that we’re using all day.

If you’re getting into microbreaks to give your body – rather than your brain – a rest, it’s best to do something physical like standing up or changing position.  

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Disrupted Routines
Disrupted Routines

Our focus and attention span is our most important asset, and the constant disruptions keep derailing us from our activities, with our brains shifting and wandering all the time.

This is fur...

Our Minds Nee Reflection

Just jumping from one task to another in your to-do list or calendar does not help the mind absorb anything or learn.

The mind needs reflection time to digest information, filter out the mind-noise and convert meaning into learning. It pays to sit back and reflect, even if you feel irritated, vulnerable or bored.

Embrace Change

From online learning for school kids to contactless delivery of Amazon products, the ongoing pandemic has already shown us many social, economical and cultural changes.

Embracing change and the new ways of doing things that were not feasible or acceptable earlier is the way forward, and makes us ready even in times of uncertainty.

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Willpower is Limited

Though companies like Nike try to ignite our willpower with their slogans, ultimately willpower cannot squash our subconscious and unconscious behavior.

Repetition of action and thought can m...

Knowledge is not Enough
Just merely knowing something is good or bad for you is not going to give you any benefit, unless the implementation is done. Conscious knowledge cannot change your behavior, one has to make necessary changes to successfully act in self-control.

If you know that you will eat junk food because your refrigerator is filled with it, remove all the junk food.

Friction

Just as removing friction aids in doing the activity more often, adding friction can aid to remove the bad habit, by making it difficult or cumbersome to do so.

Example: Cigarette smoking declined due to adding taxes, banning in public places and removing from vending machines.

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Paradox of Choice
Paradox of Choice
It means that while increased choice allows us to achieve objectively better results, it also leads to greater anxiety, indecision, paralysis, and dissatisfaction.
Overthinking lowers your performance

Our working memory is what allows us to focus on the information we need to get things done at the moment we’re doing them. It is also in limited supply. You can think of it like our brain’s computer memory. Once it’s used up, nothing more can fit in.

When you overanalyze a situation, the repetitive thoughts, anxiety, and self-doubt decrease the amount of working memory you have available to complete challenging tasks, causing your productivity to plummet.

Overthinking kills your creativity

A recent Stanford study suggests that over-thinking not only impedes our ability to perform cognitive tasks but keeps us from reaching our creative potential as well.

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Describing mental fatigue
Describing mental fatigue

It is the feeling that your brain just won't function properly. People will describe it as brain fog. You can't concentrate, and simple tasks take too long. You find th...

Causes of mental fatigue

Contributing factors to mental fatigue are poor nutrition, lack of sleep, hormonal imbalances, or cognitive overload. Cognitive overload can take the following forms:

  • When you focus on a single task for an extended period of time.
  • When you spread your attention across too many things.
  • Worrying about tasks. It is as mentally taxing as doing the task.
Give your brain high-quality fuel

Your brain is fuelled with the same food as your muscles. What you eat has an enormous impact on your cognitive functioning.

  • Cut down on refined sugars as it decreases alertness. Aim for sustained energy levels throughout the day.
  • Plan your meals in advance. If you wait until you're hungry, you're already low on energy and willpower and will reach for a quick energy boost in the form of sugar.
  • Don't skip breakfast. Without it, you may likely crash in the middle of the morning. Eat more eggs, yogurt, and oatmeal to sustain your energy levels until lunch.
  • Snack mid-morning and mid-afternoon to give your body consistent fuel.
  • Stay hydrated with water. Mild hydration can negatively impact cognitive performance.
  • Listen to your body to figure out what makes you feel best. The same nutrition advice won't work for everyone.

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Keeping Your Brain Healthy
Keeping Your Brain Healthy
  • We can improve every aspect of our lives by keeping our most vital organ, our brain, healthy.
  • Exercise is not only good for your body but helps your brain by enhancing many brain s...
Tea and Brain Health

Drinking tea is good for the brain, helping regulate the age-related decline. It also strengthens the brain connections, the neural network inside the brain, making information processing more efficient.

Even coffee is said to be good to ward off the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

Better Heart = Better Brain

Anything that is bad for the heart is bad for the brain, including smoking cigarettes, or having a sedentary lifestyle, or having diabetes.

Your blood sugar, body mass index, diet and blood pressure all contribute to the health of your heart, and your brain.

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Get More Sleep

Sleep deprivation makes you weak and tired. It has a direct impact on your focus and decision-making, whilst slowly exhausting your source of energy.

Sleep between 7.5 and 8....

Meditate

Meditation improves your attention, focus, self-awareness, and lower your stress levels.

Meditating for even just a few minutes every day will help you to clear your head while activating the areas of your brain related to decision-making and emotions.

Develop Good Habits

When we are stressed, we tend to unconsciously fall back on ingrained habits, whether they are helpful or harmful.

Creating good habits helps you get through stressful situations without affecting your willpower.

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