Vegetables For Your Brain
Sunday, I read an article in the Birmingham News that originally ran in the Washington Post called “The Power of Idle Thought”. The author, Alan Lightman, is a physicist, novelist and professor in Humanities at MIT and no doubt has way smarter thoughts than I do. He describes a day where he has scheduled his day like he always does with efficiency - carefully controlling around work and family to get the most production possible out of every minute. Arriving 30 minutes early to an appointment with his accountant, he is annoyed that he has 30 minutes to waste and unable to spend them productively. He has no phone (how is this even possible?!), book or magazine with him and is left spending that time idle. The article goes on to discuss the evolution of communication and the increase in speed at which we receive that information. The telegraph, revolutionary at the time it was invented, transferred data at 3 bits per second. Today with internet and cellular data, the rate is 1 million bps. It is incredible how much information we have at our fingertips and the change has occurred in just a few short years. Of course, just last night I was so impatient and annoyed that it’s 2018 and I should be able to load a webpage on my laptop while simultaneously streaming a football game on the ESPN app on my TV without it affecting the HD picture. (True story, this happened Saturday night and I got a total side-eye from Bailey)
Lightman states with all that we’ve gained in the information age, we have lost the ability to just sit still. Work follows us around via smart phone and our time off is shrinking to where we spend an average of 72 hours a week at work or working from home. I sit here on a Sunday working and spend many Saturdays catching up from the week before and planning for the week ahead. I am terrible at work boundaries and sitting still.
So how do we unplug or take a break? Here are a few suggestions:
- Turn off notifications on your phone. Who can ignore that red dot or banner on your phone? If you can, you must be a super hero. If anything, turn off social media, news and email. I get notifications for calls and texts only.
- Speaking of social media. Get it off your phone. I’m down to Instagram because I like to post photos of my dogs, books and food. I deleted Facebook off my phone over a year and I don’t miss it. I just deleted Twitter again - I have a love/hate relationship with it.
- Separate work and personal phone. I know a couple people who do this, and it’s saves sanity…and marriages.
- Sit down to dinner with no TV and phone-free.
- Take breaks – get up from your desk for a couple minutes each hour.
- Walk – phone free.
- No electronics before bed. Create a routine before bed without your phone.
- Incorporate 5-10 minutes of meditation in your day. Here are 10 benefits according to lifehack.org
- Improves immune system
- Improves fertility
- Promotes stress reduction
- Improves self-acceptance
- Improves self-confidence
- Improves relationships
- Improves creativity
- Allows for pain relief
- Improves concentration
- Fosters a feeling of “wholeness”
Another thing I’m terrible at making time for. If I don’t do it in the morning, it doesn’t get done. New rule for me: no listening to NY Times The Daily podcast until meditation is complete.
You know those things in life that you need and ALWAYS feel better after you do it so why don’t you do it every day – I call them “vegetables”. The list above is vegetables for your brain. It needs time for recovery to process everything that has happened that day – all 10 hours of 1 million bps it received. Today we have more to process and spend less time idle. This can’t be good. Thank you, Mr. Lightman, for reminding me I need more vegetables.