Mental blocks are stressful and sometimes painful things to experience and quite hard to overcome. When you have a mental block, your own brain is preventing the recall of memories or your ability to understand something.

Remember your school days. Did you ever feel like no matter how many times the teacher explained something, you just couldn’t get it into your mind? What about trying to recall information you previously knew, but now can’t seem to find the memory in your brain at all? These are both examples of mental blocks. Writer’s block is also a type of mental block which is difficult to overcome.

Mental blocks can be caused by a deep lack of focus, such as that caused in times of great stress. They can also be the result of repression. When we’ve experienced traumas and events in our past we wouldn’t like to think about, our psyche’s shove it down deep for us, so we never have to be reminded of the difficulties. This makes it very difficult to remember correctly if one day we want to, turning it into a mental black.

Overcoming mental blocks can be challenging to say the least – but not impossible. Scientists have spent years researching how to overcome mental blocks and have come up with several, science-backed strategies for you.

3 Strategies to Overcome Mental Blocks

Nature

As it turns out, our Mothers were right all along. Going outside does make us feel better and help us overcome mental blocks. Many studies have been done over the years into the theory that we can overcome mental blocks by spending time in nature.

One study in particular, from the University of Stanford in California, has proven what we often assumed. These studies were based on a theory that was published in the 1980s. Attention Restoration Theory (ART) is the theory that nature can restore all kinds of memories and focus which has been lost.

This study, carried out in 2008, then again in 2015, proved once and for all that spending time in nature provided all kinds of cognitive benefits, including overcoming mental blocks. Participants were given tests on memory, alertness, mental wellbeing and other types of cognitive functions. They were then split into groups and sent on two separate walks. Some walked in an urban environment while the others were sent to a natural area.

When the participants returned, they were tested again. Those who walked in nature showed an impressive increase in all their previous results, especially memory and general mental health. In a second experiment, participants were only shown photographs of natural or urban landscapes. Still, the results were the same.

These studies ultimately proved that nature can help us overcome mental blocks. If you’re struggling to locate a memory or focus on some studying, you could try spending time outside (or even just looking at pictures if you don’t have time).

Exercise

Another old wives’ tale has always told us that exercising will help us overcome our mental blocks. Science has now proven that to be true. A study by the University of British Columbia investigated whether exercising really does improve cognitive functioning, and by association, help us overcome mental blocks.

Their experiments showed that regular aerobic exercise actually boosts the size of the hippocampus – a part of the brain responsible for our verbal memory and learning. Exercises like strength training and balance didn’t yield the same results. In order to reap the benefits, you have to get your heart pounding and your body sweating!

The study concluded that there are both direct and indirect ways that exercise helps us to overcome mental blocks. Aerobic exercises have direct health benefits on the brain. These include reducing inflammation and stimulating the release of chemicals that affect the health of current brain cells and the growth of new ones.

More blood flow and healthy brain cells definitely aid us in overcoming mental blocks. Indirectly, exercising reduces stress and tension, improves our mood and helps us to sleep better. All these things contribute to clearer thinking and less confusing brain fog.

This exercise can be as simple as going for a walk (consider it being in nature too for a double whammy) or even cleaning. Anything that gets your heart rate higher than usual will ultimately help you to overcome those tedious mental blocks.

Napping

Finally, snoozing in the day has been recognized as beneficial, instead of just “lazy”. Science has now proven that taking a nap during the day can, in fact, help you overcome your mental blocks.

Research from the Weill Cornell Medical College has shown that napping can improve our overall cognitive functioning. They studied the results of several experiments that looked into the effects of napping on thinking, processing, and mental blocks.

In all the experiments, the participants were tested using monitors while they slept, as well as mental tests after they woke. These psychological tests included reaction times and vigilance. No matter the method, the results were always the same. Napping improved their cognitive abilities and helped them think clearer and learn faster.

Now, this strategy is still in the early stages of experiments, but it’s one I firmly agree with. The skeptics question the benefits of long naps due to the grogginess and confusion we feel when we first wake up. This is known as sleep inertia.

Some advocate for shorter naps as they show better cognitive results immediately after waking. They assume this makes it easier to get over mental blocks. However, overall studies show that the length of the nap didn’t matter. There was no difference seen in the results once a delay was given for the sleep inertia to fade.

So, next time you’re feeling blocked and can’t seem to overcome it, try packing it all in and taking a midday nap instead!

References:

  1. https://news.stanford.edu
  2. https://www.pnas.org
  3. https://www.health.harvard.edu
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  5. https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat
  6. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com
Becky Storey

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