The world has forgotten how to stop. Researchers have declared a sleeplessness crisis, pointing to the health damage caused by all work and no play. Mobile technology lures work into the home. And laziness has regained its rank as a Deadly Sin. As a result, relaxing is big business. Cashing in on the concept of the 24/7 world, companies are jostling with each other to sell, literally, nothing.
One of the most successful of all break concepts has been mindfulness, with the government instituting an all-party parliamentary Mindful initiative in 2015. Worth over a billion dollars in recent estimates, this idea of attentive being has caught on so well that scholars have coined the barbed but brilliant term…
…But mindfulness is not jargon. The message is vital. Quite apart from its roots in ancient Buddhist philosophy (roots often appropriated, or mangled in commercial discourse) the idea that we need to make the most of the present and detach ourselves from extraneous concerns is surely profound, and is used by medical professionals in the treatment of mental health.
Fact: a mind that knows how to rest is a mind that knows how to work. Or, to look at it another way, we become better at work when we become better at rest. So, in an effort to sort the jargon from the genuine, I’ve compiled 4 fantastic ways to take a (proper) break.
This has to come first, because, let’s face it, many of us switch off from work by switching on Netflix or similar and letting our minds wander in the glorious trash of Westeros (speaking for myself…) But we now know that screens stimulate the brain far more than they relax it, making a TV break in some ways counterproductive. Which brings me to…
Switch Off to Switch Off
The idea that sleep is worth its weight in gold is older than the hills, but worth restating in the light of recent medical warnings about the long-term dangers of not getting enough of the stuff. Surprisingly, anything less than seven hours technically counts as sleep deprivation. And to sleep well and properly, some doctors say you need to switch off the screens. In return, your productivity will increase.
Read Yourself Rested
Reading a book is a tried-and-tested way to relax. But recent neuroscience has suggested that reading fiction also makes us more flexible thinkers, a skill that transfers well to any workplace. Unlike TV, therefore, taking a break with a book will pay dividends when it comes to a work environment, whilst providing the same feeling of escapism and enjoyment.
It’s true, though that after a hard day at work, reading can sometimes seem tiring, especially if work involves extensive reading on page or on screen. So here’s where we can start getting more creative…
Art for Art’s Sake
What could be simpler than a pencil and a piece of paper? But these basic tools are the start of a great journey. Drawing not only frees your mind from the concerns of work, it also boosts problem-solving skills and decision-making. You may not believe it, but a few years ago, scientists revealed that doodling actually increases productivity, memory and receptiveness.
It doesn’t have to be drawing. Any craft will bring similar benefits – origami, cross-stitch, etching, colouring…, the list is endless. Creative writing or journaling also brings this relaxing-yet-stimulating effect. And you never know where such activities might take you. The best-selling Water for Elephants started life as an exercise for National Novel Writing Month, before being made into a film starring Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon!
There are lots of other ways to switch off from work, which not only help you get that much-needed relaxation, but also make you better at doing your work when you return to it. Why not try cooking or exercise or playing music? The crucial thing is to do each of these activities as mindfully as possible, allowing you to get the most out of them and to emerge from the other side refreshed, boosted and ready to go.
Author: Sophie Lauder