Brain Food: The Seven Ingredients for Mental Well-Being
"[I]t seems we've entered an ERA of OVERWHELM.
A time when too many people's mental well-being is being stretched through multi-tasking, fragmented attention and information overload.
The trouble is, we are short on simple, clear information about good mental habits.
Few people know about what it takes to have optimum mental health, and the implications of being out of balance.
Without good information about the mind and brain, we may be stretching ourselves in ways that may have bigger implications than poor eating habits."
-Dr. David Rock, the executive director of the NeuroLeadership Institute, writing for the Harvard Business Review blog, "Maintain Your Mental Well-Being"
Click here to go to the web version if you received this via email.
Every now & then I read something that's so wise, yet so simple--that rings true to my own experiences--that helps me to better understand my everyday reactions & feelings--and then gives me clear directions on how to make positive change happen in my life.
That's exactly what discovering Dr. David Rock & Dr. Daniel Siegel's, "Healthy Mind Platter" has done for me. Riffing off of the USDA's brand new Choose My Plate recommendations for a healthy diet--Rock & Siegel have incorporated the latest neuropsychological research to visually share with us the 7 daily activities needed for "good mental nutrition."
Sometimes you just have to hear common sense advice from an "expert" to really believe it!
- Ever notice how cranky, impatient, & fuzz-thinking you feel after a night of too-little sleep?
- Is there any comparison between a long walk & heart-to-heart talk with a close friend versus connecting via emails, texts, or phone calls?
- What about all those constant interruptions at work--or at home--when you're trying to complete a project that takes a lot of mental focus? The emails, phone calls, barrage of questions, comments, and the daily work chatter. Can anyone really concentrate in a cubicle office? What about the sheer joy you feel when you're so focused on a project that you completely lose track of time?
- And how often do you allow yourself the luxury of 100% do-nothing piddle around unscheduled time at home? Rarely--I'm guessing. Whoever just sits on a park bench, their couch, or in their backyard--or drives in their car or "ambles about"-without being connected or plugged into something that takes up all their attention--like the radio, an iPhone or iPod, a cellphone, a laptop, a book/magazine/newspaper, or a companion? I'm talking about 100% quiet time to just think or reflect. No one I know.
This is a topic close to my heart--and one that I've written about often. How can we find the right balance between purposeful work, family, friendships, self, obligations, & health? How do we fit everything into our lives without making ourselves crazy busy, unfocused, stressed out, feeling put-upon, or unhealthy?
What can we cut out? What should we add in?
Rock & Siegel's Seven Essential Mental Activities for Optimum Mental Health
"This platter has seven essential mental activities necessary for optimum mental health in daily life. These seven daily activities make up the full set of 'mental nutrition' that your brain needs to function at its best.
By engaging regularly in each of these servings, you enable your brain to coordinate and balance its activities, which strengthens your brain's internal connections and your connections with other people."
The seven essential mental activities are (click here to go to Rock's full blog post):
Focus Time. When we closely focus on tasks in a goal-oriented way, taking on challenges that make deep connections in the brain.
Play Time. When we allow ourselves to be spontaneous or creative, playfully enjoying novel experiences, which helps make new connections in the brain.
Connecting Time. When we connect with other people, ideally in person, richly activating the brain's social circuitry.
Physical Time. When we move our bodies, aerobically if possible, which strengthens the brain in many ways.
Time In. When we quietly reflect internally, focusing on sensations, images, feelings and thoughts, helping to better integrate the brain.
Down Time. When we are non-focused, without any specific goal, and let our mind wander or simply relax, which helps our brain recharge.
Sleep Time. When we give the brain the rest it needs to consolidate learning and recover from the experiences of the day.
Consider this, folks! Four of the activities essential to mental health involve No Purposeful Action! That's right--to feel our best we need to carve out daily time to wind down, chill out, play, & sleep! All activities that aren't goal-oriented.
Big thanks to my daughter-in-law who emailed Rock's HBR Blog post to me yesterday--at work--completely interrupting my focus (just kidding!)
Apologies to all of you if this is "old news"--the HBR post came out on June 3, 2011.
As for me, it's totally liberating to learn that Down Time "doing absolutely nothing," Time In "taking time out to just sit quietly & think", Play Time, and Sleep Time are as important to my well-being as are healthy food, exercise, purposeful work, and friendships. Doing nothing will never more be considered a "guilty pleasure"--it's an essential one!
And it's so validating to learn that what I know in my heart to be true for me: Focus Time, Connection Time, & Exercise Time are all key players for happiness & well-being.
What's your opinion of the Essential Seven?
Any tips on how to make time for them all?
Do you agree or disagree with Essential Seven?