The Logistics of your Mental Load

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Paving the Way for Creative Thought

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You’ve probably heard the phrase “Work smarter, not harder”, but what about “Think better, not more”? According to a study published in Psychological Science last month, when we are consumed with a high quantity of thoughts (i.e., “high mental load”), our ability to think creatively is significantly hindered.[1]

According to the study, individuals possess a “natural tendency to explore and…favor novelty”; however when their mental loads are high, their minds will seek out the most familiar solution in an effort to conserve limited mental energy. When their minds are clear, on the other hand, they are more likely to move beyond routine responses and default to an innovative mode of thought.

There are benefits to having quick, routine responses whenever they are balanced with creative thought. Unfortunately, the latter tends to be overshadowed by mental loads that build up as a function of our daily lives, whether it’s ruminating over all of the things that we need to accomplish at work before the end of the day, memorizing the kids’ weekly schedule, or running through our “mental recipe box” to decide what to make for dinner. Then there are the more pathological forms of rumination that can lead to depression and/or anxiety. Regardless of origin, all of these “mental loads” accumulate, decreasing the capacity for creative thought while increasing the risk for stress-related diseases.

So what can we do to help clear our minds and improve our creativity? Moshe Bar, a neuroscientist and professor at Harvard Medical School, suggests that meditation is one of the most powerful tools in battling mental load. “Meditative practice helps free the mind to have richer experiences of the present,” he notes, recommending that everyone try it at least once.[1] The “mental dump” has also become a popular way of freeing up space for creativity. This buzz phrase refers to the act of writing down everything that comes to your mind, acknowledging that you will address these issues when you are able, and focusing on the task at hand (and theoretically the creative thoughts should now have plenty of room to flow!).[2] Other suggestions for clearing your mind including exercise (with music to activate the frontal lobe), taking power naps,  and talking with friends. [3]

[1]Bar, Moshe. (2016).Think Less, Think Better. The New York Times. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/19/opinion/sunday/think-less-think-better.html?_r=0

[2] Frey, Chuck. (2013). How to Clear your Mind or Distractions and Free it up for Creative Thinking. Retrieved from http://www.innovationmanagement.se/2013/05/29/how-to-clear-your-mind-of-distractions-and-free-it-up-for-creative-thinking/

[3] The Huffington Post (2014). 6 Ways To Clear Your Mind From All The Clutter. Retrieved from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/18/ways-to-clear-your-mind_n_4981108.html

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I’d rather be fishing…

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National Fishing and Boating Week 2016

June 4-12 is National Fishing and Boating Week, sponsored by the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation. Throughout the month, many states offer “free fishing days” when anyone is allowed to fish on public bodies of water without purchasing a fishing license, salmon stamps, or inland trout stamps  (6/17/16-6/20/16 for Illinois). Find free fishing days in other states here: Free Fishing Days 2016.

Recreational fishing presents a chance to escape from the daily grind and spend time with family or friends on or near the water. It also provides an opportunity to bond with children while helping them develop an appreciation for waterways and wildlife. Fishing offers a number of health benefits as well (infographic courtesy of Bass Pro Shops)

health benefits of fishing

So get out there and take advantage of some of the beautiful waterways near you. Not sure where to go? The Recreational Fishing & Boating Foundation offers a way for to you find great spots and can be even be narrowed down by species of fish: www.takemefishing.org/where-to-fish-and-boat

Learn anything you’ve ever wanted to know about fishing:  www.takemefishing.org

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Find Your Gorilla: Career Lessons from Sir David Attenborough (LinkedIn Pulse)

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Find Your Gorilla

Sir David Attenborough (who just turned 90 years old this week – happy birthday!) is a British naturalist and documentary maker. He has captivated children worldwide with his television programs and documentaries on the wonders of nature. His career has not only been a very public one, but it is one that he has filled with his own passions. And it is a career that has inspired many children around the world to follow in his footsteps.

Richard George, contributor to LinkedIn Pulse, identifies three lessons that we can all take from Sir David’s incredible career. All of us may not be interested in travelling the world, studying animals and plants, and sharing those findings with the rest of mankind, but we can certainly find our own dream roles full of interest and passion – we can find our own gorillas.

Three lessons from Sir David’s career:

1. Find your passion, or something that drives you
Figure out what it is that gets you out of bed in the morning. You may not currently be working in your dream role, so find aspects of your job that allow you to expand on your other interests. Sign up for a more creativity-based project, take classes in a skill that you have not quite developed yet, or work with people that can teach you elements of your job that you have never explored.

2. Take risks
Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. As Richard points out, “the greatest and most wonderful things we do often happen as a result of putting ourselves at risk and grasping the things that scare us.” Do more things that you would normally shy away from, such as public speaking or leading your coworkers. Test new ideas. Reach for that promotion. You may not succeed every single time, but you will certainly learn crucial lessons all along the way.

3. Don’t worry so much about what clothes you wear
While presentation can be important, it is your content and connections with others that matter most. The more distractions we can eliminate, the more barriers to communication we can break down. Find something that works and stick with it. Then move on to bigger and more important decisions.

Read Richard’s full LinkedIn Pulse article here. And for more about Sir David, check out his biography.

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