Endogenous pharmacotherapy – stimulate your brain at least through rearranging your home

Without a doubt, the biggest power humans hold is their minds. What is mind, really? Some mistakenly call it a brain, some call it intellect, and granted, there are overlaps here that are hard to ignore, there are distinct characteristics that define the ‘mind’ that are only pertinent to it.

Mind is both a set-up, i.e. the brain, and an event-space where events are “code” for anything from input stimulation to output thought, database and connecting associations, chemical triggers, nourishing substances, and toxic intruders. It is a universe in itself with rules and obeying or less obeying particles. A democratic universe where it is difficult to determine who is in charge since there is no part that is in charge all the time allowing for surprise, creativity, and randomness that no machine will ever achieve.

That is not to say that it will not get pretty close – and for certain tasks that will suffice. But in a world where authenticity is what is most valued,  a world and a value that mankind created for mankind, in order for that world to successfully exist, it is required that mankind remains atop of the machine, even if only slightly.

To do so, every authentic individual should use and feed their mind carefully – above all else.

As grand as all this sounds, the process does not need to be as dauntingly academic or dense. Mind maintenance can actually be very simple. One of the key talents of the mind is reliance on brain plasticity. This beautiful flexibility of adaptive reordering is like a self-cleaning oven. You just need to turn it on, and the magic begins.

There is a growing body of data linking environmental enrichment to increased brain plasticity. The stimulating environments that we interact with have the ability to release beneficial neural mechanisms that recharge our minds. Extrapolating, maintaining a certain level of change in our immediate environment, the home, allows us endogenously to constantly nourish our minds. This is now a reality that was perceived but not yet demonstrated, sensed but not seen.

Our homes are some of the most immediate habit-forming traps.  Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love habits. But if habits are all there is, you cannot help but wonder what else is there to live for.

Before I design anything before I give anyone suggestion to anyone question that a client asks about their home I always ask what their habits are. What works and what does not. What they like and what they do not. And I wheel them into thinking what they like to do, how could they do it differently than how they think; including, for instance, where is the best spot to sit in a room and what do you want to be looking at. And then find a few more spots to allow you, later, to vary a little bit, move things around, reshuffle, and reset. This will force you to form plastic changes in your brain the same way that you do, for instance, when you travel and you learn the map of the new town you’re in.

Do you know how we all say that younger brains learn faster? While this is true, it is not solely because of our brain aging after, but because through living we develop and apply inhibitions that are in indirect correlation with brain plasticity. When young, we have a low level of inhibition. Behavioural, habitual, risk-related, and so forth. The more inhibited or self-inhibited we become, the less our brain develops plastically, the less malleable it becomes. We inadvertently short-circuit our own minds.

Intuitively accurate, now it has been demonstrated that habit and over-habitualization of our lives trigger under-stimulation which essentially makes the brain lazy.

Surprisingly in all this, is that you do not need life-changing experiences to stimulate your brain and have it recharge.

Substantial effort is spent in methods and therapies that clear your brain of thoughts, release it from the stress and anxiety of daily pressure and intangible loads.

Little there is, by contrast, that focuses on how to add healthy stimulation to it to replace the high-pressure kind. In eastern practices stimulation becomes the opposite of relaxation and as such, by default, bad. Relaxation seems to be the one thing that is longed for.

Without doubting its benefits, I don’t believe relaxation is the answer to everything. It’s is great for pausing, regrouping, and only sometimes, recharging. But now we don’t ever question that power of relaxation is the supreme choice for a better life. It’s a given. When did it become so? Is it really that much better for the brain than purposeful and positive stimulation?

Where I grew up, grandparents and elders used to tell the young to get going, to do things, to go out there and live and experience life. To leave the sitting and doing nothing for when they are dead. Life is movement. Death is stillness. The youth was never told to relax. Did they relax? Sure they did – but never overdid it.

When is that transition, from when you should not relax to when you should? In university? Later, when relaxation is the opposite of work in a balancing act? That gives a bad rep to both, work and life.

Relaxation in that it stops your mind race is fabulous when your mind over-races. Which unfortunately is the case with so many people in the developed world, so many days of the year.

The problem with that is that relaxation means doing nothing. And I do not mean physically nothing, but mentally nothing. I would argue that too much meditation, too much ‘zen’, rests the brain too much. Puts your mind at too much of a halt.  Like a muscle that forgets to stretch, forgets its own ability to move at large, and limits itself to the slight nuances, stepping not too far from stillness. Stiffness inevitably occurs.

I can’t help but thinking that this is one of those controversial topics that many may disagree with. The proponents of relaxation are the ones that need it most. So have it, I say. I just hope that once you’re relaxed, you can get up and do something other than going right back to what has stressed you, to begin with.

This article first appeared in My 2 cents on design
how to curate a better lifestyle through design
part of SURPRISE  \\ a DOCHIA FOCUS monthly lifestyle series

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