Spending time on holiday or relaxing in a new location, especially somewhere stimulating and inspiring, can be a useful way to interrupt our regular thinking behaviour and give us the important opportunity to rewrite our brains and stimulate new business ideas. Hence Theresa May suddenly concluding a general election was needed.
Research from travel firm ebookers.com revealed more than three in ten employees say going on holiday makes them more productive at work. Yet, as a nation we are poor at taking time off – one in four UK employees do not to use their paid holiday entitlement according to Canada Life Insurance. But with another bank holiday nearly upon us, it’s worth understanding how a break can stimulate new ideas and create those epiphany moments – it certainly worked for Theresa May.
1) The power of the subconscious mind
As we relax on holiday, our “thinking, feeling and intuitive” parts of our body – our head, heart and gut – recalibrate themselves. In our busy, stressful, day-to-day working lives many of us operate primarily in our heads. We think far too much, overworking our rational minds to make sense and drive our thoughts and actions.
Taking a break creates the time and space to reconnect with the heart and how we really feel about things, helping us align ourselves with our natural intuition. Relaxation helps bring the head, heart and gut into balance. When they are fully integrated, our decision making is clearer and more robust.
2) How brain waves rejuvenate the mind
Our brain waves and subconscious mind play a key part in our mind’s rejuvenation. Beta, Alpha, Theta, Delta and Gamma are the five brainwave frequencies that affect our state of mind, determining how we think, feel and act. Each frequency is measured in cycles per second (Hz) and has its own set of characteristics.
Beta (14-40Hz) is typically our waking consciousness wave, associated with a heightened state of alertness, logic and critical reasoning. Many adults operate primarily at Beta. Whilst Beta waves are important for effective functioning, they can translate into stress, anxiety and restlessness. If you live in your head a lot, chances are your nagging inner critic becomes louder the higher you go into Beta range!
Alpha (7.5-14Hz) are the deeper relaxation waves usually present when we’re in a more creative, daydream or mindfulness state. People tap into Alpha waves more easily on holiday when they let go of over-thinking and connect more with their feelings, think outside the box and programme the mind for success. Spending more time in an alpha state heightens your imagination, memory, learning and concentration. Your intuition becomes clearer and more profound the closer you get to 7.5Hz.
Theta (4-7.5Hz) are the mindfulness and sleeping waves, including our all-important REM dream state. We experience these momentarily as we fall sleep and again as we wake up from deep sleep. People often report having vivid dreams when they are on holiday, as their mind relaxes. This is where we experience real insight and creativity. The Alpha-Theta border, from 7Hz to 8Hz, is the optimal range for the creative power of the mind. At this frequency, we are conscious of our surroundings but our body is deeply relaxed.
Delta (0.5-4Hz) are the deep sleep waves, the slowest of the frequencies experienced in deep, dreamless sleep. Delta is the realm of our unconscious mind, linked with real regeneration. This explains why not having enough deep sleep is detrimental to our health, wellbeing and productivity.
Gamma (above 40Hz) are the fascinating insight waves, with the fastest frequency at above 40Hz. Significantly less is known about this state of mind, but initial research shows Gamma waves are associated with bursts of insight and high-level information processing. It’s what Theresa May would have slipped into when she reached her decision.
3) Putting it into practice
Relaxed on holiday we typically spend less of our time in Beta and more in Alpha and Theta waves. Our brains have the space to create new neural pathways so we can change outmoded behaviours and re-programme our brains. Rather than pushing and forcing things, we are receptive to receiving and attracting things. This is how we supercharge creativity, and stimulate new business ideas and career insights.
Think carefully about when and how you create time to relax. Doing activities you enjoy, especially outside in nature, stimulate an Alpha state. Walking, going for a run, playing golf, cycling, or even gardening can be triggers. We can also boost positive brainwaves by incorporating time for mindfulness, meditation and breathing. Fit whatever time you can spare (from three to 20 minutes) into a daily routine so it becomes a habit.
Listening to an app or audio exercise on your commute can also be a great start to the day. Just like becoming fitter, becoming more relaxed and mindful involves commitment, training and practice. By understanding our different brain frequencies and using these different relaxation techniques to proactively move between them, we can harness that creative, intuitive holiday feeling anytime and anywhere, whether at work or at home. Just like Theresa May, you’ll have your “ah ha” moment.
Carole Gaskell is founder of Full Potential Group, specialists in high-impact coaching, team and leadership development.