According to an article on Newsweek.com, Why Your Brain Never Really Rests, scientists have ignored the brain activity in the background as the brain is not really active doing anything. Since scientists doing PET scans and MRI's assumed this activity was meaningless, they actually took it out of the results from the scans.
When someone is lying still and it seems like the mind is blank, the brain activity is really working hard. The very idea of default activity was so against the norm for the scientific community that when Marcus Raichle discovered it, his paper on the subject was rejected. The brain might be very active in the areas where it seems as if nothing is going on.
The brain is in the "default mode" when we sleep, stare in to space, undergo anesthesia or even when we are sitting motionless like in a moment of meditation and relaxation. The brain consumes 20 times as much energy during this time as compared to times of thinking, feeling and using our senses. That is a lot of energy consumed for the brain to be at rest. So while one may say the brain is at rest, it truly is not at rest.
The default mode of the brain seems to be preparing our minds for future situations including creating images about what to expect from future situations so we are prepared for those moments. There are many synapses taking place in the visual cortex of our brain during this default mode which suggests that the brain is creating mental images that help us make sense of the images in real time. The default mode is active when we are not taking in information and processing events from our day. It is a time when we may be pulling all kinds of information together including other people's perspectives to help us play through possible scenarios which help us plan and prepare for our moments ahead.
Just think of how much our brains are doing while we are in this default mode and then consider just how much we may limit the capacity of our brain when we keep ourselves too busy. We need the down time and the rest whether it is relaxing on a beach or at a pool, taking a leisurely walk, taking an afternoon nap or doing meditation and relaxation exercises. If we constantly stimulate our minds, we may be missing out on some of the most important revelations that will help us navigate through life in a much better and more balanced way.
I cannot help but think of the times that I've struggled to solve a problem. In one case, I was on a client site and spent all day trying to solve an issue. Finally I went home and just completely let go of it from my mind. I knew I had just a few hours to solve the situation the next day but I also realized that the best thing I could do was to just let go of it and get my brain off of the problem. Lo and behold the next morning when I walked into the client site, I solved the problem in the first 15 minutes. My brain had a chance to analyze all scenarios and all the information and input from the day to come to a solution that worked.
It is very important to give our minds a rest during the day and if we do this even for a few minutes, we'll be far more productive than if we just keep pushing through our day and pouring those gallons of caffeine into our body. Our brains offer us much more than we sometimes realize and often times, we are the ones holding ourselves back. Let us give ourselves what we need and watch how much our brain gives us in return.
Images: NASA/courtesy of nasaimages.org
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