As I mentioned in a previous post, one of the benefits of an Esalen relaxation massage is that it brings mental clarity. This occurs through spending time in a deep state of relaxation that is nonverbal and can also be nonconceptual. Upon re-emerging to a more normal state of awareness, your usual mental pathways have had a break and there is an opportunity for new pathways and connections to form. This can bring new solutions to a problem you’ve been working on, just like sleeping on it can do. John Steinbeck said, “It is a common experience that a problem difficult at night is resolved in the morning after the committee of sleep has worked on it.” Taking a break from thinking about the problem allows for a fresh perspective to arise.
Impact of Stress Hormones on ThinkingStudies have also shown that when we are in a more relaxed state, our thinking is more effective. One reason for this is because of the impact stress hormones such as cortisol have on our neural networks, impacting memory and learning, and channeling energy to the part of the brain responsible for the fight-or-flight response.
Activities that Improve Mental FunctioningAccording to Psychology Today author Christopher Bergland, these activities improve mental functioning:
Eight Habits that Improve Cognitive Function
- Physical activity
- Openness to experience
- Curiosity and creativity
- Social connections
- Mindfulness meditation
- Brain-training games
- Getting enough sleep
- Reducing chronic stress