Tip one: Think of your brain as a muscle. In fact, think of your brain as all of your muscles.
Many of us are familiar with the concepts of working out and getting in shape (even if we don’t do it regularly). Your brain works much the same way: you have different parts of the brain that do different things for you. Two really useful perspectives come from this metaphor:
Using the same part of your brain over and over without working the other parts of your brain will make you look like this guy:
Okay, maybe not literally, but let’s roll with it. As strong as this guy may be in his upper body, he’s going to have a hard time hiking up a mountain, or jumping over an obstacle; he’s not very versatile in what he can do. Hugging our brain includes loving all parts equally. This is important not just so we don’t look like that guy, but also because we lose effectiveness in parts of our brains that get overused.
Which leads us to our second useful perspective…
Our brains get tired. Every good personal trainer will tell you to take a rest day, or two. The brain needs rest too, in a big way.
More often than not our version of rest is physical rest, and our brains are still asked to do a lot of “work” while we “rest”: imagine all the worst possible scenarios of how something could pan out, think through (over and over) how we should have done something differently or how someone did us wrong, go over and over our ever-growing to-do list, etc. Hugging our brain includes giving our brains a break so they can do what they do even better.
So, if we think of our brain as all of our muscles, what do we do?
There are LOTS of ways to do this, and WE is just highlighting our favorites:
- Do something you don’t normally do! If you aren’t a creative person (according to you or some silly people that told you your stick drawing wasn’t up to par), set aside some time to draw, doodle, take photographs, sing, etc. If you aren’t an analytical person (according to you or some silly people that didn’t think the way you thought), set aside time to play some logic games, break a goal into 10 smaller steps, play with math or make a budget, solution find with an evaluation of the best solution, etc. Try new things, and challenge yourself to think in different ways. Your brain will be stronger and happier for it!
- For the love of all things brain-friendly, stop multi-tasking! Multi-tasking is one of the biggest myths of efficiency. Our brains literally can’t do more than one thing at once. So all you’re doing is constantly switching attention so quickly that your brain hardly knows what to do with itself. You may feel productive, but you’re brain is feeling unloved, easily depleted and like it’s stuck at its worst. Focusing on one thing at a time is a big ol’ hug for your brain.
- Group action-items based on what part of your brain it uses. Now that we aren’t multi-tasking, look at how you plan out your focused time. Have some writing to do on several projects? Block those together for a 90 minute block, then switch to your administrative tasks for another 90 minutes, etc. The overall structure of grouping time this way let’s you get the most out of your brain for one type of action, and then switch to rest that part and get the most use out of another part. WE also recommends a 5-minute break between 90 minute blocks (90 minutes is a brain-friendly amount of time to hold focus), to get a little reset for your brain.
- Sleep/Nap/Zone-Out. Sleep and naps are more than just sweet for our brains, they are necessary. Parts of our brain get a real break during sleep and it’s critical for working at our best. The benefits of sleep may be no surprise to you, but zoning-out is usually considered unproductive time. Well, not anymore! When brains are zapped we naturally feel a moment of wanting to zone-out. The brain-friendly thing to do is to do it! Forcing our brains to keep working usually means the task will take us twice as long and it usually won’t get done as well. Taking even just 3-5 minutes to zone out can re-energize your brain. 20 minutes is even better. Check in with that analytical mind for a moment: taking 20 minutes off so you get something done in 1 hour is still more efficient than pushing through and letting it take 2 hours. (WE understands there are deadlines and exceptions, please make these the exception though, not the rule.)
- Meditate. Meditation is one of the most-studied and most-effective means of actually making your brain stronger and better-rested. A seated meditation practice for at least 12 minutes a day is ideal, but you can start with as few as 3 minutes and build from there. Meditation gives brains a break, and grows our ability to focus and respond thoughtfully to situations through the day (among many other benefits). It’s the best and biggest hug you could ever give your brain. Just a tiny note: beware the part of your brain that will tell you that you can’t or aren’t doing it right. It’s a practice. Plus, even if you just zone-out while meditating, see above for why you did awesome!
Please let us know how it goes! And remember, for different results, we need different neural pathways! That’s why we started the #HugYourBrain campaign. Brain-friendly ways towards the life you want!