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How Your Brain Tells You To Take A Break

We all need breaks to make it through the day. Perhaps you have days where you need 10 breaks, while other days you can power through with just one or two breaks. So, what’s going on there, and what can you do about it?

Time magazine has some answers:

That decision [to take a break] apparently hinges on a specific signal that at its peak — say, when your muscles are screaming that you can’t do another rep or your brain refuses to focus on the page — prompts you to quit. And when your body and brain are refreshed and ready to go again, the signal quiets down and gets out of your way.

None of that should come as a surprise; we have all had those moments where we simply couldn’t concentrate any more. However, it turns out that breaking point might not be set in stone:

The peaks and valleys that trigger these decisions, however, are not pre-set: they’re influenced by how much effort you’re expending and how big a reward you expect from the work. The bigger the reward and the smaller the effort required, the more likely you are to keep going until you’ve done what needs doing. As you work, it seems, your brain continuously calibrates your breaking point in relation to your expectations of gain.

Powering through work is all about motivation, and Time suggests that your brain can recalibrate that motivation on the fly. It’s a good reminder that when you need to power through a project, rewarding yourself really works, even if you do it at the beginning of a project.

However, a real work-free break is just as important if you feel the need to take one. You might even be able to take a strategic nap.

How Your Brain Tells You When It’s Time for a Break [Time]

Picture: Tom Brandt/Flickr