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The art and science of mind wandering

https://nesslabs.com/mind-wandering

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The art and science of mind wandering

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Our Wandering Minds

Our Wandering Minds

For at least two thousand years, our minds have been wandering away from the object of focus.

Mind-wandering is a factor of a human mind and varies according to how vivid a person’s thoughts are, how deep into the thought the mind goes, and how many of those thoughts are fear-based(like guilt or worry).

Mind-wandering is common in monotonous jobs and may be useful too.

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The Neuroscience Of Mind-Wandering

Our brain’s executive system is active during any goal-oriented task, where there is a level of focus required.

During a period of passivity, the large scale brain networks become the default mode networks and work in tandem. This is our period of rest, where the entire brain is in a relaxed but highly active state.

This period is when we let our brain generate spontaneous thoughts while not being focused on anything.

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The Constant Mental Oscillation

Our brain is oscillating between two different brain states: Focused thinking and Diffused thinking. This is the reason people have shower thoughts or sudden solutions to problems that are bothering them for long.

These two modes of thinking allow us to merge creativity with productivity.

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Use Your Distraction

Procrastination and mind-wandering, in general, can be a useful distraction and you can do the following to make the most of them:

  1. Accept your mental oscillations between the focused and diffused states
  2. Block time for letting your mind wander, like going for a walk, or to cook a meal.
  3. Meditate or do breathing exercises to reduce any negative mind-wandering.

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Ordinary and altered states of consciousness

Ordinary and altered states of consciousness

Altered states of consciousness can only be defined if there is an understanding of an ordinary state of consciousness.

While scientists can't agree on a clear definition, alte...

Modulating states of consciousness

  • Excessive dancing, meditation, and mind-altering plants were used in ancient civilizations to modulate the activity of the mind.
  • In 1892, the term "altered states of consciousness" was used to refer to hypnosis.
  • William James introduced the scientific investigation of mystical experiences and drug-induced states into the field of psychology.

The five altered states of consciousness

  • Pharmacological. These altered states include short-term changes caused by psychoactive substances, such as LSD MDMA, cannabis, cocaine, opioids, and alcohol.
  • Psychological. Hypnosis, meditation, and music can lead to altered mental states.
  • Physical and physiological. An altered state of consciousness is achieved through sleep, where dreams dissociate one from reality.
  • Pathological. A traumatic experience causing brain damage can lead to an altered state of consciousness. Other sources include epileptic or psychotic episodes.
  • Spontaneous. Daydreaming and mind wandering can cause altered states.

The Goldilocks Principle

The Goldilocks Principle

Just like the fairy tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, where the preferred porridge has to be neither too hot nor too cold, and the preferred bed has to be neither too soft nor too har...

The Optimal Level of Stress

Whether it is the stress that is taken by schoolchildren or workplace challenges, we have to find an optimal level where there is just the right amount of pressure. There is a balance that has to be achieved for stress levels (which comes from external factors) and anxiety (which is usually through our internal thought mechanisms).

Stress to some extent is beneficial as it releases hormones like cortisol in the brain, increasing your performance in the short term while enhancing brain functions.

Healthy Levels Of Anxiety

  • If we are occasionally stressed out or worry prior to a big presentation, we are well within the healthy levels of anxiety and it can be our motivation as well.
  • If we are unable to sleep at night, have constant health issues or are unable to eat, then we are in the unhealthy stress/anxiety territory and need to take corrective action.

Tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon

Tip-of-the-tongue phenomenon

The tip-of-the-tongue, or lethologica, is a common phenomenon where memories seem to be momentarily inaccessible.

Bilingual people seem to experience more tip-of-the-tongue...

How to manage the tip-of-the-tongue state

Next time you experience a tip-of-the-tongue state, don't retrieve the information from memory. Instead, look up the correct answer. Repeat it a few times or write it down to help with encoding.

People that experience the tip-of-the-tongue state often suffer from incorrect practice time. Instead of learning the correct work, they are learning the mistake itself. For example, some music students who claim to practice diligently can get worse over time. This is because they keep on repeating the same mistakes, instead of using deliberate practice. They actually train themselves to make mistakes.