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Friday, April 22, 2016

Take A Load Off: Resting the Brain has big Rewards!

Debra E. Marvin (who really has a hard time with this...)

If you don't believe me, and your doctor, and your body, Scientific American has the proof. Taking a mental health holiday, whether it's two or three hours, or a month away, is good for you. Not only will your body rejoice, but your brain and those all-important creative juices will reward you for it.

While prolonged idleness (I'll let you determine what prolonged means to you) may be frowned upon, down time is essential to your health. Duh, you're saying.

"Downtime replenishes the brain’s stores of attention and motivation, encourages productivity and creativity, and is essential to both achieve our highest levels of performance and simply form stable memories in everyday life."

"Eventually this mysterious and complex circuit that stirred to life when people were daydreaming became known as the  default mode network."

I love knowing that even the non-essential parts of my brain have a default. Sure, the brain never rests (we're talking life vs. death for one thing...) and even sleeping doesn't significantly reduce its need for energy, but giving it a conscious break from our 'normal' work, allows the brain to toss ideas around. 

I imagine we've all had the 'answer to a question' come after we've ignored it for awhile. Often, great ideas come to us when we do manual, labor, idle nothings, or activities with little conscious thought: gardening, doing the dishes, taking a shower.  Bam. We're a stinking genius, just because we let the old brain off the leash.

Scientific American suggests that the default mode network is more active in very creative people who use daydreaming to solve problems.  "Epiphanies may seem to come out of nowhere, but they are often the product of unconscious mental activity during downtime." For the full article from author Ferris Jabr, see:

Personally, napping would be a dreamy way to replenish my brain, but it's more likely I'd use the "one hour of TV" or the "Pinterest Pinning zone-out" method. For optimal results...I find that making things with my hands is the best way I replenish my writer brain!

What about you? How do you refuel?

Debra E. Marvin tries not to run too far from real life but the imagination born out of being an only child has a powerful draw. Besides, the voices in her head tend to agree with all the sensible things she says. She’d like to live just a wee bit closer to her grandchildren, but is thankful that God is in control, that He chooses to bless us despite ourselves and that He has a sense of humor.

Other than writing light-hearted romances and gritty gothics, she has pretty normal obsessions: fabric, peanut butter, vacations, British dramas and whatever mystery series she’s currently reading. Visit her at, @debraemarvin on twitter and Debra E Marvin on Facebook and Pinterest, but not her house because she usually has dirty dishes.


  1. I *so* needed this right now. Our culture treats rest--even Sabbath rest--as a luxury. Taking a Sabbath is a commandment, though, and God made us to require rest. It's a way we place trust in Him.

    Why is this so hard? I think our culture idolizes busy-ness and productivity. But we are absolutely more productive when we've rested.

    1. With so much on our plates, Sunday is no longer a day of rest (Sabbath day or first day, notwithstanding...) When possible, I make Friday night my 'night off'. I suppose we could quit writing, but I'm not sure that's the answer, so it's a matter of forcing a 'time out'. Ordering ourselves to the corner (with a good book!)?

  2. Deb, I've increased my physical activity levels this last week. Today I'm tired and sore, so after kids went off to school, I took a two-hour nap. Nice. My usual week is work on writing stuff until kids get home (4pm). Evenings are family time. As long as I'm not working on a writing deadline, my weekends are family time too. My April-May should be my busiest time of the year (3 ms deadlines and an auction). Thus I am greatly looking forward to our family vacation at the end of May.