When it comes to maintaining physical health, we all know how important a balanced diet is. However, we seem to be less clear about what we need to maintain a healthy mind.
Dr. David Rock, executive director of the NeuroLeadership Institute and author of Your Brain at Work, believes we are living in a “time when too many people’s mental well-being is being stretched through multi-tasking, fragmented attention and information overload,” and asserts that we are now facing “an epidemic of overwhelm.”
In response to this epidemic, Dr. Rock, in collaboration with Dr. Daniel Siegel, has created what he calls the Healthy Mind Platter. This platter offers seven essential mental activities that are necessary for optimum mental health, and provides the full set of ‘mental nutrition’ that your brain needs to function at its best. Here they are:
When we closely focus on tasks in a goal-oriented way, taking on challenges that make deep connections in the brain.
When we allow ourselves to be spontaneous or creative, playfully enjoying novel experiences, which helps make new connections in the brain.
When we connect with other people, ideally in person, richly activating the brain’s social circuitry.
When we move our bodies, aerobically if possible, which strengthens the brain in many ways.
When we quietly reflect internally, focusing on sensations, images, feelings and thoughts, helping to better integrate the brain.
When we are non-focused, without any specific goal, and let our mind wander or simply relax, which helps our brain recharge.
When we give the brain the rest it needs to consolidate learning and recover from the experiences of the day.
Of course it’s all about balance.
Just like it wouldn’t be healthy to eat only carbohydrates, so too you shouldn’t just live on Focus Time without much Sleep Time. The point is to understand the full spectrum of essential mental activities, and then try to provide as many oppourtunities for your brain to develop in different ways.
When I first came across the Healthy Mind Platter I was deeply challenged to find more balance in what I was putting into my mind.