A “Case of the Mondays” Is Good for Your Brain

Monday. While it may launch us back into the workweek, Mondays represent a fresh start. And as it turns out, there are subtle clues in our Monday behaviors hinting that our brains our better primed to make decisions then than they usually are.

Google searches for the word “diet,” visits to the gym, and formal commitments to pursue goals all spike on Mondays. (Similar effects were found for other calendar “landmarks” like New Year’s Day, the start of a new school semester, and one’s own birthday.) Google searches for information on how to quit smoking peak on Mondays as well.

By demarcating one epoch of our lives from another, we’re free to see beyond our past failures. These pivot points cause us to step out of the weeds, so to speak, and think about the bigger picture. It’s as if on Mondays, we tend to stop fussing about whether we’re climbing the ladder fast enough and check to see whether that ladder is leaning against the right wall in the first place.

Stepping back from the details long enough to consider a change of course is critical to our personal and professional success. The trouble is that it’s something we rarely get a chance to do. Instead, we were on autopilot—and failed to even realize that there was a decision we could’ve made.

Our behavioral tendency to go with the flow reflects a fundamental truth about the way our brains are built.Our brains are simply incapable of scanning the sea of potential choices that surround us moment to moment and thoughtfully considering every possible decision we can possibly make. Instead, our brains leave it up to our unconscious to make the vast majority of choices about our behaviors.

For some reason, Mondays (and the first of the month, New Year’s Day, etc.) rattle us enough to cause us to stop and consider whether or not we’re headed in the right direction. They propel us to consider a decision that we might otherwise have skipped over altogether. That marks an important opportunity to improve how we behave both at work and at home.

Summing-up: It seems that there’s a natural tendency to pause and reflect at the start of any new time period. By intentionally building distinct breaks into our routines. We may need to pull back from the day-to-day flow altogether, as opposed to just marking its peaks and valleys, in order to become more aware of the choices we can make, big and small—and then actually make them.

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