Did you know that the human brain represents approximately 2% of the body’s weight, but receives 15% of its cardiac output and 20% of its oxygen? Because our personal and professional effectiveness is determined by how effectively we use our brain to think, make decisions, manage our emotions, and take action, it is important to make sure our brain is well-nourished and cared for. This means that we must exercise our brain with challenges beyond our normal capacity; it also means we must give our brain sufficient rest and recovery.
Thinking uses a great deal of energy. In order to perform at our best, we must consistently replenish ourselves mentally. The consequences of insufficient mental recovery range from ineffective decisions and poor execution to loss of creativity and increased anxiety. The key to mental recovery is to give the conscious, thinking mind intermittent rest.
In his book, How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, author Michael Gelb asks an interesting question: “Where are you when you get your best ideas?” Gelb has asked this question to many people over the years, and the most common answers he gets include “in the shower,” “resting in bed,” “walking in nature,” and “listening to music.” Gelb observes that, “almost no one claims to get their best ideas at work.”
Gelb points out that even though Leonardo da Vinci was extremely prolific and productive, the artist took regular breaks from his work. While da Vinci was working on The Last Supper, he sometimes spent several hours in the middle of the day appearing to be lost in daydreams, in spite of entreaties from his employer to work more steadily. “It is a very good plan every now and then to go away and have a little relaxation,” da Vinci wrote. “When you come back to the work your judgment will be surer, since to remain constantly at work will cause you to lose the power of judgment.”