A fascinating article in Scientific American outlines recent neuroimaging research about the necessity of mental downtime, concluding that without exception,¬†mental downtime (identified by neurologists as the utilization of the “Default Mode Network” of neural connections, when a person isn’t actively problem solving or focused on an outcome) is critical to productivity and continued high functioning.

Author Ferris Jabr states, “When we are resting the brain is anything but idle and that, far from being purposeless or unproductive, downtime is in fact essential to mental processes that affirm our identities, develop our understanding of human behavior and instill an internal code of ethics.”

The article goes on to discuss American norms regarding low rates of vacation or being “unplugged” from a job, and suggests alternative work schedules and company culture-shifts that might¬†not only boost productivity, but also health, happiness, focus capacity and a sense of purpose of employees.

This is particularly interesting in the context of counseling, which is often considered an extraneous indulgence, but actually functions as the provision of a designated space to pause life, allowing for value clarification, identification of meaningfulness, and development of personal awareness – exactly the type of reflective activity that neuroimaging research suggests is so necessary to healthy cognitive function.

Read More: Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime