Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Maybe you're thinking too much

Our brains go back and forth between focusing and not focusing. You might think that focusing requires more energy. Not so fast, Sparky.

Srini Pillay, M.D., is a part-time Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School. He writes:
When you unfocus, you engage a brain circuit called the “default mode network.” Abbreviated as the DMN, we used to think of this circuit as the Do Mostly Nothing circuit because it only came on when you stopped focusing effortfully. Yet, when “at rest”, this circuit uses 20% of the body’s energy (compared to the comparatively small 5% that any effort will require).
The DMN needs this energy because it is doing anything but resting.
Under the brain’s conscious radar, it activates old memories, goes back and forth between the past, present, and future, and recombines different ideas. Using this new and previously inaccessible data, you develop enhanced self-awareness and a sense of personal relevance. And you can imagine creative solutions or predict the future, thereby leading to better decision-making too. The DMN also helps you tune into other people’s thinking, thereby improving team understanding and cohesion.
Okay, I think he's saying that day dreaming is a good thing, and that it requires work. He offers several suggestions for getting in this state, including:
Using positive constructive daydreaming (PCD): PCD is a type of mind-wandering different from slipping into a daydream or guiltily rehashing worries. When you build it into your day deliberately, it can boost your creativity, strengthen your leadership ability, and also-re-energize the brain. To start PCD, you choose a low-key activity such as knitting, gardening or casual reading, then wander into the recesses of your mind. But unlike slipping into a daydream or guilty-dysphoric daydreaming, you might first imagine something playful and wishful—like running through the woods, or lying on a yacht. Then you swivel your attention from the external world to the internal space of your mind with this image in mind while still doing the low-key activity.
I'm beginning to like this DMN/PCD thing, especially since this appeared in the Harvard Business Review, which is the first thing I read every morning.

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