I’ve always wondered about speed. Speed of our mind to be exact; thoughts, memories, actions being formed, that cauldron where they are not yet done but are certainly germinating.
Is the speed of mind ruled by the same rules as physics? Is it, maybe, that our brains function as a particle accelerator? What if we look at thoughts as constantly shifting while unstoppable neurons are electrically charged and pushed to produce their maximum energy, which we use for different purposes?
In our current western society, we often see this incredible brain movement, this organized (well… sometimes unorganized) mind-accelerator, as a bad thing. We’ve developed almost a fascination toward the benefits of stopping this process, inexorably wanting to push our brains to a squeaking halt and yearning for ample relaxation. Yet this induced brain pause, if constantly polarized against its opposite, extreme stress, is arguably one of the worst things you could do to yourself. If our mind follows the rules of physics – or in a scenario where we explain our mind through the laws of physics – then rules that cover creep and stress would also apply.
Simply put: as you expose yourself to constant stress, there are only two things that can happen, and in both of them, you permanently deform your mind as it loses the elasticity needed to recover. The only questions are: how much and, does it ever stop.
The long-term instability of this cycle will result in either some sort of stabilization as the ongoing life stress is caped to a manageable point or, in a complete loss of “mind elasticity” that, with the constant pressure, sets itself upon an unstoppable down-spiral. That’s the one you want to avoid.
The cycle of extreme stress and extreme relaxation is terrible for the brain for two reasons: if the high stressors return repeatedly, the strain on your being will take a toll. Then your only way to cope is this stopping of activity, the “vegging” or “doing nothing” or “meditating” which, granted, has its pleasantness and benefits if done in a reasonable proportion to other activities.
We know now for sure that longevity and health are associated with the activity of the brain, not its pause.
If the pause needed to relax the brain after stress is only present to complement never-ending pressure, then the break is actually damaging mental health. It does not eliminate the stressor; it manages its outcome for a bit without impacting the fact that the stress will actually return, and the cycle will repeat itself. And it does so by stopping one of the most robust internal mechanisms that help us live well and long. It’s easy, then, to understand how having a long-term alternating cycle of two damaging patterns, high stress and complete relaxation, will not help you live a better life.
If you’re in this cycle, how do you get out of it and build a healthier one?
You start by accepting that a fervent mind is healthy and you should not over-stop it and that its elevated state can be maintained without chronic stress as the inevitable outcome.
I think we don’t give enough thought to the possibility that we can, actually, change a lot more in our lives than it may appear at first sight.
Meditation and relaxation are nothing if you do not put the power they give you to good use and instead fall right back into a stressor.
This series brings light on the many bits of our lives that can, when focused on, enhance our own potential in using our minds for ourselves and indirectly for a greater good, as opposed to for the betterment of others at the expense of our own.
Get beyond the statistics. Gaining focus is only a first step.
This article first appeared in My 2 cents on design
how to curate a better lifestyle through design
part of CHANGE \\ a DOCHIA FOCUS monthly lifestyle series