Remember that scene in Men in Black 3 when the world was about to end and our heroes had no idea how to save it? Their solution: Eat some pie.

It turns out that when you have an”unsolvable” problem, distracting yourself for a while may be the best path toward a solution.

Here’s the scenario: You’re facing a problem for which you don’t have a solution. You think about the problem obsessively, but keep coming up empty. Then, you give up and take a break. While you’re doing something else, “Bam!” the solution hits you.

dr amenNeuroscience explains (and proves) this phenomenon (Creswell, 2012). fMRI scans show that when problem-solvers take a break from focusing on the problem, the brain regions that were active during the focus period reactivate while the subject is distracted, on a break and focusing on something else.

In other words, when you think about a problem and potential solutions constructively, then take a break, your unconscious mind keeps working to solve the problem. Research shows that periods of focus followed by periods of rest and distraction yield better decisions and solutions.

This is so reliable that scientists can predict who will find the best solutions based on these important periods of rest.

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References

https://www.cmu.edu/news/stories/archives/2013/february/feb13_unconsciousthought.html