The Healthy Mind Platter - Down Time

by DevorahTockar 01 Apr 2021

Article 6 of 8 Theme Focussing on the Healthy Mind Platter created by Dr Daniel Siegel and Dr David Rock

Disclaimer: The original framework of Healthy Mind Platter can be found at https://drdansiegel.com/healthy-mind-platter/ The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the intended views of the creators of the Health Mind Platter; Dr Daniel Siegel and Dr David Rock.

Downtime.

It's time to do nothing. 

Have you ever been listening to music and before you know it, you are dancing with your eyes closed and have lost your sense of time and place? Or have you been colouring in and not realise that you’ve been sitting for an hour? This is downtime! This is being in the flow. Maybe it happens when you’re flipping through a magazine, scribbling, soaking in a bath or dancing in the rain. You may see it when your child is engrossed in an activity and humming quietly, or dancing around in the park. 

Downtime means doing nothing. Siegel and his colleagues say that it is disconnecting for integration and insight, and it involves “inactivity, doing absolutely nothing that has a predefined goal". Downtime happens when we are ‘in the moment’ and being spontaneous.

Downtime is actually intentionally having no intention, of  consciously  engaging  in  doing  nothing specific or  “pre-planned,” a process of  disconnecting from intended  directions  and  surrendering to daydreaming” (click here for full research paper).

We are so used to filling up each day with meaningful, practical, goal-oriented tasks that doing nothing can actually be quite difficult. In these moments of silence, our fears and worries may creep in causing us to consciously/or subconsciously avoid the silence. Sit with the feelings, let them flow and take up space, and then they’ll move on, making space for other feelings.

We may hesitate to create downtime because we feel guilty about taking away from our endless to-do lists. Leaving the dishes in the sink, or the laundry unfolded or a work memo for the next day  in order to have down time is not easy, and you may tell yourself that you’ll feel better with the dishes done etc. It can be hard to carve out guilt-free down time but when we realise the importance of doing this activity every day then it will get easier. 

Showing our children that we care for ourselves and purposely make space for ourselves models self-restorative care.

We need downtime and our children do too. If we overfill our children's days with playdates and extra-curricular activities then we run the risk of not creating the space for much needed down time each day. 

What does the research say about downtime?

When we disconnect from deliberate, goal-oriented, conscious thinking it allows for integration. It is in these quiet moments that the relationship between previous knowledge and experience and new ideas, or insights unfolds. 

Ok, but what is insight? Insight is The Aha Moment! When the light bulb goes off above your head and things suddenly seem clear. Insight can mean recognising that a problem is, in fact, a problem or suddenly becoming aware of solutions!

Downtime creates the empty space for us to fill with new ideas, to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information and apply it in a new way.

I'd like more of that! It's a pretty good reason to try and get some downtime in your day :) 

Down Time Challenge

Pick one and let us know how you go 

  • Say to yourself each day "I deserve downtime and my mind needs it for integration".

  • Pick a realistic time for downtime each day.

  • Start small, and intentionally make the space-time alone in your room, go for a walk, have some tea on the balcony etc.

  • If someone disturbs your downtime say "Dad/Mum is having some downtime, I'll be with you in X minutes".

  • If you notice your child having downtime, resist the urge to move them along to the next task too quickly. 

That’s all from me today. Give the challenges a go. They may not be easy at first but are well worth it as you will see for yourselves. Know that we are in this together and get in touch to take the conversation further.

Chat again soon,

Devorah T

Disclaimer: The original framework of Healthy Mind Platter can be found at https://drdansiegel.com/healthy-mind-platter/ The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the intended views of the creators of the Health Mind Platter; Dr Daniel Siegel and Dr David Rock.

Further Resources:

Leave a Comment