We know it’s important to take good breaks. We want to work for a certain period of time (NASA says no more than 90 minutes or so) and then take a break. Repeat. Making waves as we oscillate from being on to being off.
But, do you know that HOW you take a break matters?
Science says some breaks are better than others.
According to Kelly McGonigal (referencing the American Psychological Association) in The Willpower Instinct, here are the good stress-relief strategies: “exercising or playing sports, praying or attending a religious service, reading, listening to music, spending time with friends or family, getting a massage, going outside for a walk, meditating or doing yoga, and spending time with a creative hobby.”
And, here are the bad ones: “gambling, shopping, smoking, drinking, eating, playing video games, surfing the Internet, and watching TV or movies for more than two hours.”
Which, of course, begs the question: What do YOU do to take a break and to relieve stress?
Kelly tells us WHY some breaks are better than others. She says: “Rather than releasing dopamine and relying on the promise of reward, the real stress relievers boost mood-enhancing brain chemicals like serotonin and GABA, as well as the feel-good hormone oxytocin. They also help shut down the brain’s stress response, reduce stress hormones in the body, and induce the healing relaxation response.”
She continues by saying that “Because they aren’t exciting like the dopamine releasers, we tend to underestimate how good they will make us feel. And so we forget about these strategies not because they don’t work, but because when we’re stressed, our brains persistently mis-predict what will make us happy. This means that we’ll often talk ourselves out of doing the very thing that will actually make us feel better.”
I like to think of our choices as “energizers” vs. “enervators.”
Some things energize us. Others enervate us.
We want to get really good at knowing what behaviors fall into each bucket. And then swap out the enervators for some energizers.
Remember: Every time we rock a +1 when we almost did a -1 isn’t just a gain of one. It’s actually a gain of TWO.
+1 instead of -1 = +2.
Aggregate and compound all those little +2s over a day and what do you get? A pretty awesome day.
Over a lifetime? A pretty epic life.
+2. +2. +2.
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