10/20/2010 08:47 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

No Time For Downtime? 8 Tips for Improving Cognitive Function (PHOTOS)

Do you feel stressed, tired, fatigued, rushed, drained, zapped? Join the club. Add an economic crisis to multiple jobs, kids, elderly parents and a body-crushing lifestyle and lots of Americans feel whacked-over-the-head overloaded.

What's the antidote? Simple: use your body the way it's built. If you want your brain to work well, you first want to know how your brain works. Hint: it's not a machine. It is a living, wondrously inventive, rapidly renewing organ. You see your hair grow, your nails grow, but do you see your brain grow? That's what your brain does during rest, your body's rebuild-and-renew program. To get your brain to work better, here's rule number one: rest for success.

Ask the rats at UCSF. As the New York Times described, researcher Loren Frank found that rats sent exploring need to stop and rest in order to develop long-term memories. If you want to learn, you need to rest -- and that's not including people's first definition of rest, sleep.

When I ask humans about rest improving their brains, I get different answers. One reporter in Dallas explained, "I can't rest; I'm in the newsroom." A news editor in Sacramento told me the opposite, that she was so wiped by working early-morning hours, holding two jobs and raising a two-year-old that she forced herself to rest for an entire weekend -- to really sleep, and not do any work. Afterwards she felt rejuvenated, filled with new ideas and new energy -- in other words, rested.

So here are eight simple ways to get your brain in full working order and have fun:

No Time For Downtime? 8 Tips for Improving Cognitive Function (PHOTOS)

So don't believe Woody Allen when he says in the movie "Sleeper" that the brain is his "second most favorite organ." Make it your favorite organ. Treat your brain as the creative, wondrously renewing center of your mind, and it will treat you well, working better and letting you laugh a lot more. When you use your body the way it's built, you'll change your appearance, your productivity, and your pleasure. Change your brain, change your life.