The sunset that made me think about thinking

It was a usual day. Thoughts stormed through my mind as I walked home from the lab. Pending assignments, rent payment, catching up on readings, calling my family. I felt overwhelmed by a mountain of responsibilities. For a moment, I looked up at the evening sky. It was a beautiful blend of light crimson red, fading yellowish-orange and a hint of light pink. The mélange of colors made me stop walking and pause to look more carefully.

The colors seemed to slowly blend and change their patterns, as if putting up a final, unforgettable show before everything melted into darkness. However, I had to rush home as deadlines were knocking at my mind’s door. Behind me, the colors slowly started to bid me adieu, dissolving into the horizon with the sun setting down.

That night, I could not concentrate on my work. Though it was nothing new or rare, my mind kept going back to the sky I had seen that evening. The colors had caught my attention and made me pause despite the rush I was in. Does a daily occurrence like a sunset deserve special attention? Does anything deserve our special attention other than our schedule, work, friends, and family? Do we really need breaks from our daily thoughts and activities? These questions  forced me to take time to contemplate, something I rarely find time for anymore. 

I decided to set aside my work, turn off my phone and step out into my apartment complex’s garden. It was a clear night and a few stars were visible. The silence calmed my mind and the broad sky filled my heart with positivity. I returned to my readings rejuvenated.

Ever since that night, I have questioned my priorities around work, productivity, and time management. I think it’s important to prioritize our education and work, but at the same time, it is equally important to pause and take a breath. Everyone needs to stop and give their minds and bodies an opportunity to unwind. 

For many, this might sound like a rare luxury, given that large workloads are often  a common reality. But pausing for contemplation boosts our creativity and helps us to think with more clarity. A 2021 National Institutes of Health study shows that taking short breaks helps our brains to learn new skills more efficiently, and an article from Psychology Today points out how breaks help the thinking part (prefrontal cortex) of our brain to function more effectively.

Pausing also gives our mind a space of its own and an opportunity for reflection. In today’s high-tech world, we are extremely dependent on the internet for ideas, information, and opinions. Thus, originality has almost taken a backseat. Mental breaks from our daily schedules can bring back those original ideas and our creative selves, and I’ve found this to be true in my daily life. For instance, I had almost stopped painting, one of my passions, because of my workload. The sunset that I witnessed shook the artist in me and ever since, I have made it a point to paint once a week, no matter how busy. 

The sunset marks the end of a day. It also marks the beginning of rewinding from work and responsibilities. The day’s end brings the opportunity to pause and reflect, be ourselves, giving our minds the respite they need. The mind gets to run free. So, give it a try, take a break from your schedule and tap into yourself.


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