I’ve heard this several times in the last few days so I think you and I ought to start paying attention.
1. Breaks and circular thinking (rumination)
Among research I was doing for another blog post, I learned that taking a break is one of the best ways to interrupt rumination – that insidious circle of repetitive, brooding thoughts that you can get into when feeling depressed or facing stressful circumstances.
The problem with rumination is that you do it because you think if you pay enough attention to your problem, you will solve it. But that’s not what happens. Rumination only increases negative thinking which leads to pessimism, depression, and reduces your ability to problem-solve effectively.
So the very thing you’re doing to solve a problem is actually inhibiting you from solving it. And your mind just keeps going around and around in the same thought-cycle, trying to work things out but only making matters worse.
Researchers have found that distracting yourself via enjoyable activities such as going to a movie, spending time with friends, jogging, or going for a walk can disrupt your ruminative thinking which then allows you to solve your problem more effectively.
Take a break from all that thinking! Do something different to get your mind out of its repetitive pattern.
2. Breaks and grieving
Finally, taking a break and distraction can be very helpful for people who are grieving. During the painful spasms of grief that occur early in the process, giving yourself a break from the constant thoughts of your loss can be a great coping mechanism.
The important thing to remember is that, when you take a break from grief, it doesn’t mean that you have forgotten your loved one or are in any way disrespecting her. You are actually honoring her by honoring and taking care of yourself for a bit.
Spend time with friends, laugh, engage in a favorite hobby. It’s okay to take a break from the pain.
3. Breaks and creativity
Ever wonder why you can be stumped by a problem during the day and then wake up at 3 am with the solution? Or come up with a brilliant idea for a new software program while you’re in the shower?
Jonah Lehrer has one idea about how these experiences occur. He’s the author of Imagine: How Creativity Works. Lehrer writes that scientists are discovering that the simple act of being relaxed and in a good mood sparks creativity and innovation.
When you look at where insights come from, they come from where we least expect them. They only arrive after we stop looking at them. If you’re an engineer working on a problem and you’re stumped by your technical problem, chugging caffeine at your desk and chaining yourself to your computer, you’re going to be really frustrated. You’re going to waste lots of time. You may look productive, but you’re actually wasting time. Instead, at that moment, you should go for a walk. You should play some ping-pong. You should find a way to relax. – Excerpted from an interview of Jonah Lehrer from Npr.org
So there you have it. Taking a break is a good thing. It promotes creativity, innovation, and good mental and emotional health.
Go on. You deserve it.
Takeaway points: Taking a break and distracting yourself from your inner world can be just what you need to solve a problem or feel better. Give yourself permission to take a break and have fun or just relax.
Is it easy or hard for you to allow yourself breaks?