Doing nothing — or spacing out — doesn’t necessarily mean sitting and staring into the void. It can also be achieved by doing something monotonous that doesn’t require much thought, like taking a shower, petting a dog, brushing your hair, doodling, etc. As you perform such an action, your mind starts to wander in what’s called a “wakeful rest.” During those little breaks, you can focus on your body, your emotions, and hold off on any immediate stressful tasks.
Inside the brain
Using MRI, scientists have been able to see just how our brain reacts to those moments of wakeful rest. What happens is that our brain’s gray matter takes control. Neuroscientists theorize that this system of gray matter connects between different parts of our brains, which leads to effects such as creativity, clarity, better memory, and reduced anxiety. These effects help us better cope with the constant chaos in our lives.
Now let’s be practical
We rarely practice wakeful rest. While there are some things we do to relax (like scrolling through social media or watching TV), they activate more parts of our brain than we realize, which doesn’t set our brain back to default mode the same way as spacing out. So, how do you space out effectively? You follow these instructions:
Get a hobby: but make sure it’s one that doesn’t interfere with your day job or gives you performance anxiety.
A new environment: get away from the things that surround you while you’re working (like a desk and computer if you work in an office, cups of coffee if your day job is serving them to other people, you get the picture.)
Go off the grid: get away from your cellphone or any notifications you might be tempted to look at. This is your you-time.