MindEdge Online Learning

A Rested Mind Is a Working Mind


A Rested Mind Is a Working Mind

Blog Post Heading

Blog Post Content

By Maria Carolan
Editor, MindEdge Learning

We all look forward to the halcyon days of summer: soaking up the sun’s rays, spending time with family and friends, reading a book or taking a catnap under a flowering tree. What we are really looking forward to is rest. But what is “rest”? The word has been in the English vocabulary for so long that we may have forgotten what it stands for. And its true meaning might surprise you.

If you’re like me, you think of rest as a state of unconsciousness: of shutting your eyes momentarily to a reality overwhelmed by daily tasks and heightened by technology’s torrent of Too Much Information. But a simple Google search proves that the definition of rest is the opposite of what it has come to mean. The roots of the verb “to rest” are “to remain” and “to stand.” The essence of rest is, in fact, about being fully conscious—being present, still, and grounded in the here and now.

It follows that in a state of true rest, of being present, we are open to receiving all the world has to offer: new experiences, new people, new ideas. Basically, when we rest, we are able to learn.

So, is becoming a better learner simply a matter of being well-rested? Yes, but this isn’t a free pass to conk out in front of Netflix.

Activities that let our minds rest are somatic, often repetitive, and thus meditative. These may include sitting on a beach while waves crash and fall, doing things around the house (things we enjoy!), and the pandemic classic: taking a walk.

Much has been written about the cognitive benefits of walking—probably because writers take a lot of walks. To quote just one, Friedrich Nietzsche: “All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.” That’s because walking, or taking a spin around the block of any kind, requires little effort on its own and allows our minds to rest.

Of course, walking is only one way of putting our minds at ease. We each need to find meditative activities that we can easily access, as a way to clear our heads.

When our heads are clear, they aren’t empty—far from it. They are working in the background to connect dots we have concentrated on plotting, at our desks or workstations, in the hours leading up to the break. Switching from the active mindset to the rest mindset is essential. In the rest state, we can synthesize thoughts we worked hard to form when our minds were active.

According to the National Institutes of Health, the brain needs to take short breaks to process information fully. After a period of “focused learning,” scientists recommend that you perform a low-focus activity, such as walking, before returning to work. Taking a walk can minimize anxiety and prevent burnout. And it can also ensure that the information you learned in “deep focus” gets properly stored in your brain. It’s when you are at rest in a low-focus activity that your brain synthesizes what you’ve just learned and forms the neural connections that embed that learning in your long-term memory.

Now, here comes the tough part: incorporating true rest into our daily routines. This takes discipline. I know, I know, you’d rather cut off your arm than put down your smartphone. So would I. But we need to try.

Another challenge of the digital age: when we are working, we need to focus intently on the work at hand. We need to apply ourselves fully to learning while our minds are active—so that when we put them to rest, we will have more information to synthesize and can make deeper neural connections.

Artists are fond of saying that “creativity happens at rest,” and some of it does. But the real truth is that creating a work of art, solving a problem, or learning anything significant happens both at work and at rest. If we remain stimulated all the time, instead of taking breaks to expose ourselves to the beautiful present, we won’t arrive at the important conclusions that we seek.

So let’s step away from the desk, away from screens big and small, and into the world. It’s summer, after all. And we just might learn something!

To learn more about MindEdge’s catalog of for-credit college courses, click here.

Copyright © 2024 MindEdge, Inc.