Daily: Empty your brain for new perspective

Kristen Daily

“Wonderful things happen when your brain is empty,” said Maira Kalman, American illustrator, author, artist and designer. This quote defies the typical notion that we must have brains overflowing with knowledge and ideas. Truthfully, we find our maximum productive and creative potential when we “empty our brains” and take time to slow down.

Even when you are bursting with ideas, it’s good to record them and then empty your mind so that new ideas can form. You’ll see new possibilities and recognize desires related to your most important interests.

If you’re stuck in a pattern of thought, disconnect and empty your brain to gain perspective. This means slowing down, stopping and being quiet. Silence is golden, and it has enormous potential and benefits. But how do we accomplish this?

One of the oldest and most effective ways to slow down and decompress is meditation. In an article published by The New York Times entitled “How Meditation May Change the Brain,” writer Sindya N. Bhanoo discusses several studies surrounding the benefits of meditation and how these benefits are changing meditators’ brains.

In a study from 2011 published in an issue of Psychiatry Research, it was found that patients who meditated for 30 minutes a day for eight weeks had changed gray-matter density in areas of the brain associated with “memory, sense of self, empathy and stress.” An example of this is reduced gray matter surrounding the amygdala, which is an area related to stress and anxiety.

Today this sort of “mindfulness meditation” is becoming quite popular in the United States. It was introduced in the ’70s and traces its roots back to ancient Buddhist techniques. This form of meditation focuses one’s attention by paying close attention to breathing or particular objects, so that the mind relaxes but does not merely drift.

Of course, this field is still young, and results relating to the quality of life are hard to objectively quantify, but meditation has been linked to reduced blood pressure in coronary heart disease patients, longer attention spans, and an increased well-being and quality of life. Clearly, taking the time to meditate, however that may work for us, is important to our mental well-being.

Another interesting way to slow down is the “speed exercise.” I discovered this in a blog post by Leo Widrich, co-founder of Buffer, a smarter way to share on Facebook and Twitter, in a post titled “Slowing Down.” In this post he described the speed exercise, which involves walking a route at half the speed you normally would, so that you can decompress and take in details. He shared how his experience made him overall happier and more content because he paid attention to other human interactions and wasn’t caught up in his own stress.

Later, he went on to explain that making a habit like the speed exercise is actually making a habit to be happier and more content because you are committing to slowing down and appreciating what is around you.

This idea of slowing down and taking time to empty your mind wasn’t completely new to me, but it was interesting to see how to practice it through concrete examples. I’ve read and written about the powerful effects of journaling and the benefits of yoga, but simply stopping offers an entirely different perspective.

When you take time to slow down and meditate, you liberate yourself from the constant bombardment of media and technology. I believe that this can help you discover true peace and contentment. And though it may be fleeting, practicing this can build positive habits that allow you to be a happier person.

So instead of being overwhelmed, try emptying your brain for a fresh, positive perspective.