By Katie Ricklefs

Posted in Stress - 8 months ago

The Brainy Benefits of a Bustling Schedule

The Brainy Benefits of a Bustling Schedule

The word “busy” doesn’t exactly radiate good vibes, does it?

In fact, it might be your go-to excuse for turning down drinks after work with coworkers, the reason you say no to a volunteer opportunity, or why you’ve never learned to play the guitar. The same goes for your clients. That might be why you have to reschedule meetings more than once for a portfolio review.

But what if you and your clients could increase brain function simply by having a full day?

A recent study published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience found that busier people tend to have better cognition.

Cognition is a loaded term that refers to mental processes, including thinking, knowing, remembering, judging, and problem-solving. These are skills needed to carry out any task, higher-level functions of the brain like language, imagination, perception, and planning.

Busyness is largely subjective. It’s time spent occupied, engaged, and not at leisure. Respondents discussed how often they had too much to do and whether tasks affected their bedtime, for example.

Researchers tested more than 300 adults, ages 50 to 89 and found a link between busyness and better processing speed, working memory, episodic memory (long-term memory that involves the recollection of specific events, situations, and experiences), reasoning, and crystalized knowledge (understanding that comes from prior learning and past experiences).

For clients needing a little extra motivation to stay active, researchers point to other correlational studies that report benefits of high levels of cognitive, social, and physical activities that might help delay cognitive decline, increase longevity, and reduce the risk of various diseases like Alzheimer’s and other causes of dementia.

If all signs point to increased health and mental function, why not sign up for classes and lectures that interest you and schedule more coffee meet-ups?

The stress factor

While that might sound great, you don’t want to spread yourself too thinly.

“On the other hand, busyness could be detrimental to cognition if it heightens stress substantially, as prolonged stress is harmful to the central nervous system,” the study said.

Busyness often carries a negative connotation. High levels of engagement can mean less time for relaxation, self-examination, and brain recharging. Plus, people are more likely to multitask when they’re busy, causing them to become distracted and perform lower in certain situations.

You already knew that. Try answering an email and talking to a client at the same time. Doing so will almost certainly cause you problems.

Finding balance

The key is finding balance. What this study didn’t discuss, and what may almost be impossible to test, is busyness and how it relates to enjoyment.

If you’re stressed and daydreaming about other ways to spend your free time, it might be best to re-evaluate your priorities. On the other hand, spending time learning a new hobby and going to bed each night wondering where the day went can be fun and exciting.

Going beyond your personal experience, it’s likely you advise more than one client who can benefit from hearing this information—especially those who are workaholics. Consider sharing these study results with them.

After all, there’s nothing wrong with testing the waters. Try saying “yes” and seeking new opportunities, because you never know what might make your brain happy.

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