stop your churning thoughts
engage physical action
allow mind to rest
Yesterday we received the first significant snowfall of the year. I spent a total of 5.5 hours (in 2 shifts) shoveling the driveway.
Today I made brownies.
I wasn’t even craving brownies at the time.
I just wanted to make something.
You might wonder, what does shoveling snow have to do with making brownies?
On the surface these things have little in common. Maybe nothing in common.
They are not directly related, but they share some common elements.
- Each got me away from my screens for a stretch of time.
- Each directed my energy toward a tangible purpose and outcome.
- Each had a clear beginning and end.
- I could see the fruits of my labor when I finished.
Most important: each got me out of a churning mind and into a flow state, while allowing my brain to rest.
Neither was a cognitively difficult task. That’s important.
One of the challenges with creative work is that it often has no clearly defined end point.
There’s always another blog post to write, a new idea to marinate, new strategies to consider.
When you run your own business it’s difficult, if not impossible, to fully get off the clock. If you work from home, you have the added stress of seeing your work around you. And if you create content, you almost always have the tools of your craft in your hand.
None of this is good for the brain. The brain needs time to shut off and recharge.
One of the best ways I have found to do this is to engage in activities that are systematic with low cognitive load.
Baking. Cooking. And, yes, shoveling snow.
The high amount of physical load of shoveling is actually helpful; it provides good stress for the body (if done safely) — similar to a hard workout.
And in case you have any doubt, shoveling is a workout. I walked over 8 miles yesterday without leaving the driveway, just from shoveling.
When I’m engaged these types of tasks — working with my hands or body, doing something repetitive, low cognitive load — my mind is free to wander off in the background. It allows the brain’s Default Mode Network to activate.
My eyes get a break from screens. My brain recharges. I get a workout.
And I get to eat brownies.
I’ll take that deal.