Life @ U of T

Introduction

Take a Break

Take a Break

Sometimes, if I focus on one thing for too long, it feels like my brain might melt and lazily drip out from my ears. It isn’t a nice feeling. Chances are you know what I’m talking about (minus the melting brain, maybe?).

I don’t think human beings are meant to stay so intensely focused on a single topic for such a long duration of time. Even if you’re reading up on the most interesting thing in the world, you’ll want to take a break eventually. In fact, taking a break is probably good for you, both physically and mentally. It might even help with the learning process.

Whenever I get stuck on something, I go for a walk around my block or in my local park. There’s something about taking a walking break that clears my mind almost instantly, and motivates me to dive back into my work even if it’s a little challenging. It’s also good cardio!

This is a picture I took while walking through a local park. Caption: I find that going for a walk helps me think through things.
I find that going for a walk helps me think through things

Diffuse thinking is what your brain does when you aren’t intensely focused on one thing. For example: I might ask you, “Who played Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz?” Assume for a second that you don’t know the answer to that question (if you actually don’t, sorry!). You focus on trying to remember the actress’s name, but no luck. Hours go by, and while you’re doing something else, say taking a shower or cooking dinner, you realize the answer is Judy Garland.

Taking a break doesn’t mean you stop learning. The best way to look at it is like your brain is a computer, and you’ve decided to run a program in the background. Sometimes, it might even be a good idea to pause your work and then quiz yourself on what you remember once you’ve returned. This way, you can see how much info you’re retaining and where you might need to improve.

This is an image from Waterlicht, an art installation that was at the Bentway. Caption: Gave my readings a rest last Sunday, and went to go see Waterlicht.
I TOOK A BREAK SUNDAY NIGHT and went to go see Waterlicht

We all have to rest and recharge every once and a while, so I went ahead and generated this short list of break ideas. Most of these you can do just about anywhere and in a short amount of time. The point is to shift your focus elsewhere for a moment, to let your brain do its thing.

– going for a walk

– people watching

– taking a shower or bath

– journaling

– mindfulness meditation

– listening to music

– power napping

– daydreaming

– drawing

– talking with friends

– doing unrelated work

– checking out an event

– flipping through a book or a magazine

There have been so many times where I’ve had writer’s block. Sometimes I can’t get that opening paragraph or thesis right. Or, maybe I know what I want to write about but don’t know how to write it yet. I go cook dinner, walk, or people watch for a bit. Afterwards, sometimes it’s like the essays start to write themselves.

How do you take a break?

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