Not Doing Nothing

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Have you ever tried to meditate? Not the traditional lotus position with your legs crossed in what looks excruciatingly painful and, well, mostly impossible. No, I’m talking about simply finding a comfortable position, letting your mind relax and releasing your thoughts. Not so much that you fall asleep. Just where you try to give, not just your body a break, but also your mind. A conscious effort to unplug the process that keeps your thoughts constantly whizzing through your head. 


Not so easy is it? Clearing your mind is incredibly difficult. I’ve tried it all. Staring at a candle. Imagining a white light. Even the method that the popular Wayne Dyer taught called “getting in the gap”. But, somehow, I could just never figure out what he meant by finding the gap between my thoughts. Seriously, what does that mean?


For me, the whole process was frustrating and instead of destressing I actually think it ended up making me feel worse! I could never understand why it was so hard for me. So, I was pretty excited when I came upon the research that is showing that there are parts of our brains that are wired to activate when we do nothing. It turns out that our brains never really turn off or even rest. And, that this is not a bad thing.


In a study about concentration, when individuals were supposed to be focused on a specific task, the results showed the activation of a huge network involving many different parts of the brain that were activated by mind wandering. But the really interesting thing is that according to Moshe Bar, Director of the Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, "This cross-brain involvement may be involved in behavioral outcomes such as creativity and mood, and may also contribute to the ability to stay successfully on-task while the mind goes off on its merry mental way." 


Kind of a whole different way to look at wandering minds and daydreaming, huh? Still probably not something teachers or parents are going to be encouraging in youngsters but, perhaps, this may be an area to think about in a different way. Whether it’s our own efforts to decompress and find a quiet, peaceful state or incorporate times during the day for our children to have some down time, we should keep this information in mind. The goal may not be to try and force our brains to shut down, which seems to be beyond our control, anyway, but rather to simply “let go” and let it wander where it wants for awhile. There may be benefits to this that will surprise us.


We’ve always used our Time Timers to manage projects and help keep us on track in being as productive as possible. And the Time Timer Watch PLUS, with its vibrating alarm mode, is the perfect timer for those relaxation periods that involve meditation or even a nap. But, now, when you give yourself or your kids the benefit of down time, as you’re setting the timer, try to keep in mind that your brain really knows what it’s doing. Just because you can’t clear your thoughts during this period, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t getting the benefits.


Not doing nothing can actually be a very good thing! 

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  • Heather Rogers