Introspection can motivate, benefit mind

Summer has finally arrived, which means three months of great weather and plenty of exciting things to do, whether it’s in Los Angeles or back home. What better way to decompress after nine hard months of school life?

But for many students, the season isn’t a time to simply kick back. Especially for upperclassmen, the onset of summer break signals the coming of something much more stressful: Internships and jobs.

With ever-more competitive job markets making life difficult for college graduates, the importance of summer work has grown — but robbing yourself of time off isn’t the answer.

It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of trying to prove yourself through summer jobs and internships.  This isn’t a bad thing — working hard at a job is definitely preferable to loafing around in pajamas and eating Cheetos while watching Breaking Bad, no matter how pleasant the latter might sound.

But forgetting to use the summer to mentally decompress can have downfalls of its own, too, and new research from USC suggests that not taking the time to breathe and reflect can have tangible effects on the way we grow.

Rest Is Not Idleness,” co-authored by USC assistant professor Mary Helen Immordino-Yang and published by the scientific journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, examines the neurobiology of the brain at “default mode,” or basically in rest. Not having enough time to rest your mind and “look inward” for reflection can, according to the research, be a roadblock to sustaining moral development, emotional analysis and mental well-being, as well as exacerbate anxiety and negatively impact motivation.

“We focus on the outside world in education and don’t look much at inwardly focused reflective skills and attentions, but inward focus impacts the way we build memories, make meaning and transfer that learning into new contexts,” Immordino-Yang said to USC News.

So what does this really mean? Immordino-Yang notes that rest and inward thinking doesn’t just mean chilling on the Internet. Instead, true benefits come from taking the time for genuine introspection and letting your mind wander naturally: Think more Zen Master than couch potato.

“Consistently imposing overly high-attention demands on children, either in school, through entertainment or through living conditions, may rob them of opportunities to advance from thinking about ‘what happened’ or ‘how to do this’ to constructing knowledge about ‘what this means for the world and for the way I live my life,’” Immordino-Yang said.

Though she references children, the point still applies to college students — especially ones in high-stress, practical performance-based environments.

Daydreaming and abstract reflection might not have any place in the office, but giving yourself the time to do so, whether it’s at the beach or in bed, plays a critical part in personal and mental growth.

More than anything, it’s important to keep in mind that work isn’t everything — even when the pressure to get a good job might deem it so.


Eddie Kim is a senior majoring in print journalism and is editorial director of the Summer Trojan.