Where and when do you get your best ideas?
- In the shower
- While you’re jogging without headphones
- Lying on the beach
- Hiking in the forest
- Waking up at 4 a.m.
- Folding laundry
- Chopping firewood
- Your list…
What do all these things have in common?
The absence of a task that requires focus and attention to task.
When we are just hanging out, living in the moment, daydreaming, doing rote work that doesn’t require focused attention, jogging…our brain slips into what is called our “default network.” Morgan Freeman gives us a simple explanation in this video from Our Amazing World.
The default network in our brains is active when we are passive.
“The default network is a basic network with surprising functions. The default mode network is comprised of several areas of the cortex that are most active when no external tasks demand our attention,” says neurologist and radiologist Marcus Raichle in an interview by Svend Davanger.
Rather than ceasing to be active when we are not involved in a goal-directed task, our brains are just as busy when we relax. However, when we’re chillin’ the default mode network is the most active area of the brain—our personal experiences and autobiographical memories. It deals with our own episodes of life, such as: What did I have for breakfast? Wasn’t that a great movie we watched together last night?
Isn’t it strange to think that his large area of our cortex deals with what may seem to be insignificant and random memories that are very personal? This input from our body and the world around us pass through this area of the brain before it sorted and stored in our memories. This very personal function has everything to do with how we get along in and view the world.
In a time what we might label “mindless relaxation,” our brain is interpreting, evaluating, sorting, and storing. No wonder we get some of our best ideas, experience “aha moments,” and solve problems during our down times.
And the coolest thing, to me, is that God not only designed this, but he told to practice down time. God called it Sabbath, and he wasn’t only referring to one day in seven, but to margins of relaxations that are a part of our everyday lives.
Try it, and see what comes to mind.