Space out. It does your brain good.
Taking a shower. Driving a monotonous road, and the kids aren’t asking me questions. Working out. The last few moments before drifting off to sleep.
These are all moments when I feel like I have the best ideas. Near epiphanies, sometimes. They sneak up on me like my daughter with an ice cube for the back of my shirt. In fact, I found in doing research my book that there’s scientific evidence for our brains finding its best ideas at rest.
When I sit in front of the computer, deliberately trying to remember what I need to look up or who I need to write, I’m at a loss. But give me a moment of silence when I’m about to pass out, and suddenly, all these ideas and to-dos come flooding my brain.
This isn’t accidental, actually. There’s something about letting your body rest that allows your brain to move. When you purposely allow yourself the freedom to just space out, you explore new fields and remember how to move.
Do you allow yourself the freedom to run on autopilot a few minutes each day? If you’re like me, it’s not as often as I should. Parents have so many mental balls to juggle—school schedules, dental appointments, menu plans, financial goals, discipline issues for each kid at various stages for different actions, not to mention work obligations.
Running a household and bringing up the next generation takes creativity. It requires out-of-the-box thinking to nurture hearts and guide children on the path they were meant to take. So does being an innovative thinker in your field, loving your spouse the way he or she best hears love, and being a helpful member of your community, whatever that looks like.
If you don’t give yourself the gift of downshifting a few times per day, you’ll ultimately run on auto-pilot, and your spirit will putter out. Your drive will wane. You’ll enjoy parenting less. You’ll resent all your other obligations.
I love the story of Susannah Wesley, a 17-18th century mom of 19 (Charles and John were two of her sons). At least once per day, she would put the bottom of her apron over her head so that she could “be alone” and pray. The children would still physically be around her, but they learned that once her apron covered her head, she was gone. It was normally only for five minutes or so, but somehow, those small moments got her through the day.
How could this look for us?
Photo by Luis Markovic
• Set your alarm a few minutes earlier than when you need to rise, and spend your first few waking moments mentally preparing for the day.
• Keep a notepad with you in the car and by your night stand. When you suddenly think of that great way to encourage your son to treat his little brother more respectfully, jot it down.
• Don’t turn on the TV most nights of the week. Enjoy that blissful silence.
• Trade daytime babysitting with another mom, and spend those alone hours with a journal and coffee.
• Exercise a little every day.
Don’t try to be superwoman, and don’t forget to refuel often throughout the day. It’s hard to be a parent, and it’s hard to juggle life’s tasks. I tend to be a workaholic, so when I finish a project, my instinct is to jump right on to the next one. But you know? Sometimes it’s okay to just put up your feet with a novel and wander off.
Let your brain and your body rest often. You’ll be more creative, positive, and recharged.
I wrote a version of this post almost three years ago, and it still totally rings true for me today—so tweaking and republishing it here is just as much for me as it is for anyone. When are your daily little snippets of time that provide space for your thoughts to flow?
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