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What’s Love Got To Do With It?

What’s Love Got To Do With It?

Stepping along ancient cobbled stones, your senses flood with differing shades of ochre-painted houses and rainbows of flowers pouring from clay pots outside each doorway.  Winding your way to the town center you anticipate the scrumptious meal and delicious wine that awaits you. You are captivated by this community full of work, play, art and life at its fullest.  It’s hard to imagine that in the darkness of the middle ages, the world’s most visionary planners built towns like this one to promote health, happiness and productivity. As you stroll through the arched passageways of this beautiful Italian village you confirm their wisdom, as healthy and happy are exactly how you feel.

Whether this adventure is on your bucket list or conjures up an actual memory, you no doubt have experienced the amazing power of travel to literally light up your brain.  Neuroscience research is revealing how profoundly health-giving travel can be, both in the moment and for years to come.  And surprisingly, how you feel when you travel is a simple barometer for whether it is having a beneficial impact on your brain.  The more you love what you are doing, the more you light up your brain.

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Because the brain is a ‘use it or lose it’ proposition, cognitive function is highly dependent on whether we engage in a variety of interesting, fun, challenging activities that protect our brains from decline and disease.   Travel enables us to do just that.  Given that adult lives are often full of stress and everyday demands, travel becomes the perfect antidote.   It provides a welcome change from routine, new places and people to spark our curiosity, and we can take time out to rest and relax.  These positive experiences create powerful biological responses:

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  1. Feeling good releases chemical neurotransmitters that result in lower heart rate, higher heart rate variability, lower stress hormones, better sleep, and lower risk for heart attacks and strokes.
  1. Travel by its very nature taps a wide range of challenges and experiences. When we explore a variety of activities, particularly if different from everyday life, new brain cells are built and all sorts of new connections occur between brain “networks”. These help us learn to speak a new language, play a new game, enjoy different foods, or figure out which train to catch.  Drawing upon multiple and varied networks can even improve our senses, sharpen our thinking, improve decision-making, and enhance memory and resiliency.
  1. Through travel we have the opportunity to craft and enjoy activities and experiences that we love. But it’s important to go beyond the familiar.  The deeper, richer, more emotionally meaningful the experience, the greater positive impact it has on your health and wellbeing.  Activities that broaden or challenge our perspectives, that engage us with others in important ways, that drive empathy and caring – these are the gold nuggets waiting for discovery during our travels.  If you are loving what you are doing you can be assured your brain is enjoying the rewards.

Perhaps the most potent health benefit from travel occurs after you get home! Travel is the gift that keeps on giving, because the brain prioritizes positive, meaningful experiences when choosing what to remember – and the more emotional, the more powerful is our memory of it.  These memories last longer and trigger memories of other similar experiences.  So we can relive our wonderful travel adventures over and over again with the same boost of feel good neurotransmitters. In fact, these biological boosts are so powerful they can overcome future stress and even reverse depression.

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The combination of loving what you’re doing, exploring a variety of activities and deeply meaningful experiences while tapping multiple brain networks – these all add up to a virtual health bonanza in every travel adventure.  Building a rich store of happy memories is a sign of both a well-lived life and a resilient brain.

So, before you take your next vacation do your brain a huge favor:

  • Think carefully about your next travel adventure
  • Choose places you love or are excited to go to
  • Plan and anticipate with excitement and joy
  • Find a balance between new, different and challenging activities, and those that create peace and restful relaxation
  • Be curious, playful, caring
  • Make real connections with your environment and its people
  • Build empathy with others through acts of caring and service
  • Most of all, love what you do and look for the joy in every moment
  • Then when you get home, sit back and enjoy the memories as often as possible
  • Repeat

Featured photo credit: JeniFoto via shutterstock.com

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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