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Creativity Life & Philosophy

Head to head

Two people live inside our heads, one left-brained and analytical and the other right-brained and more free-flowing and creative. Together, the two opposing cognitive forces work in harmony.

There’s also a part of the brain that spaces out and permits the subconscious to connect the dots. The mind works like a dishwasher amidst sleep and daydreaming, cleaning out toxins during times of rest. 

The mind’s left-right dichotomy provides a double-helping of self-narration. Certitude leads to extremes that preclude the emergence of infinite variety. Multiplicity makes one dizzy, a toss of abstractions.  

The quest for fact and the art of spontaneity is a tussle between who we are and where we want to go. Cognitively busy, all we can do is listen to ourselves and deploy the headwork that’s needed most.

Categories
Life & Philosophy Psychology

Brain on fire

Like putty, we can reshape the brain. The mind is elastic, not stagnant. We can birth new neurons until the day we die. 

Yet, we live on with the assumption of slow decay, where aging is a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

While most of what happens in the world is a consequence of natural, universal laws, there’s no stopping the expectation for improvement. We have to demand progress in all realms of life (biological, personal, relational, etc.) even if it means we have to fake it.

There is, of course, no reason to brainwash ourselves with motivational quotes and self-help books that try to shut our eyes to reality.  

Lest we dump problems on tomorrow, we can change today. Experience teaches us to move on with new knowledge. 

Positive psychology demands a different mode of experience. Happiness shall not be forced, but knowing it’s up to us to foster satisfaction compels us to act with just a bit more hope.

Categories
Life & Philosophy Psychology Science Tech

Information is the sum of parts

The brain is just a collection of tangled wires with neuron connectivity levels. We call its output ‘information’ because we need some way of describing chemical synchronicity.

The computer works the same way.

On the inside, it’s a collection of chips and wires with various voltage levels. What we see on screen is what we label as information.

Information is the same name we give to brain chemicals and computer voltage to describe organized chaos. While negative beliefs and rusty chips impair memory, the function of the thinking mind or active motherboard set rules for action. 

Furthermore, the conflict and synchronization between man and the machine (i.e., science fiction) continue to be the mother of invention.  

Information is the sum of parts, and it allows us to go beyond the robot. 

Categories
Life & Philosophy Science

We can redesign our brain

“Who you are depends on what your neurons are up to, moment by moment,” writes David Eagleman in his book The Brain: The Story of You.

The classical textbook tells us that our brains are immutable after a certain age, that in fact, our neurocognitive code is set in place right after our teens.

But today’s neuroscience studies show that the mind remains forever elastic. By staying challenged and interested in new experiences, we can plant even more brain cells and make even more connections.

Writes Sharon Begley in Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain:

William James, the father of experimental psychology in the United States, first introduced the word plasticity to the science of the brain, positing in 1890 that “organic matter, especially nervous tissue, seems endowed with a very extraordinary degree of plasticity.”

Sharon Begley, Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain

It’s therefore vital that the information we choose to digest and how we categorize it ameliorate the brain’s flexibility rather than deteriorate it.

We may be born with a set number of preconditions, but that will never account for what we can gain from trial and error. Neuroplasticity ensures that we can redesign our brains as we wish.

Categories
Creativity Life & Philosophy Tech

Where it sings

A mind running on the “factory setting” defaults to organizational distraction. Everydayness overtakes what was inherent fascination.

A mind surrendering to the television or the internet sits stuck in a ludic loop of changing the channels or flicking to the next app.

A mind in search of its stimulation stumbles upon daydreams and mind wandering.

The mysterious power of doing nothing intends to fill in the void. There is no lapse in creativity.

Boredom is where the synapses sing.

Categories
Psychology Science

How complaining affects the brain

“Don’t whine, don’t complain, don’t make excuses, just do the best you can do,” said UCLA coach John Wooden.

It turns out the coach was on to something.

Recent studies show that complaining every day changes the structure of the brain.

Harmful behaviors such as complaining, if allowed to loop within the brain continually, will inevitably alter thought processes. Altered thoughts lead to altered beliefs which leads to a change in behavior.

Our brain possesses a something called the negativity bias. In simple terms, negativity bias is the brain’s tendency to focus more on negative circumstances than positive.

Dr. Rick Hanson, a neuroscientist and author of Buddha’s Brain, explains negativity bias:

“Negative stimuli produce more neural activity than do equally intensive positive ones. They are also perceived more easily and quickly.”

Fortunately, the brain is plastic, which means it can allow more positive emotions to work alongside more negative ones.

Writes Alex Korb, author of The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time:

“In depression, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with the brain. It’s simply that the particular tuning of neural circuits creates the tendency toward a pattern of depression. It has to do with the way the brain deals with stress, planning, habits, decision making and a dozen other things — the dynamic interaction of all those circuits. And once a pattern starts to form, it causes dozens of tiny changes throughout the brain that create a downward spiral.”

Your hopes and fears may be in your genes, but that doesn’t spell doom. One of the most practical things we can do to counter negative thinking is practicing meditation. “Neurons that fire together, wire together,” said neuroplasticity pioneer Donald Hebb. 

If forcing positive thinking feels inauthentic, try watching your thoughts instead. Being a neutral observer will help you rise above the whole notion of emotional sidedness. As with any self-improvement mechanism, daily practice and momentum is the key to long-term success.

Categories
Life & Philosophy Productivity & Work

Procrastinators can be finishers

We are told to ship it; release it before it’s finished, get it out of our hands so we can get the feedback we need to iterate and perfect our product. It’s a grueling process that fires up the anxiety. Is this thing going to work or go out to the void?

In his latest op-ed Why Do Anything? A Meditation on Procrastination Humanities professor and author Costica Bradatan writes:

Procrastination and mourning are tied tightly together: for to procrastinate is to mourn the precariousness of your creation even before you bring it into the world.

We are stuck between thinking and action, for which we have no choice but to finish what we started:

The procrastinator is both contemplator and man of action, which is the worst thing to be, and which is tearing him apart.

Procrastination is the purest form of idleness. And it is the brain’s neurons that dictate what we decide to do. “Who you are depends on what your neurons are up to, moment by moment,” says David Eagleman in his book The Brain: The Story of You.

So if neurons predict our fate but the mind is plastic, we should be setting up the entire system to prepare for better decision-making. For starters, we can make a list of the things we can control. But there will never be any guarantees that it’ll work. That’s where the habits and enthusiasm come in to help us overcome the fear.