Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sensory Enrichment, Attention, and Stubbornness

Man, I've still not quite 've gotten the hang of the writing habit yet. Look at that boring title . . . but anyhow, I've begun reading a potentially valuable book called Evolve Your Brain, which examines changing one's self through the neuroplastic perspective. In pursuing my mental health (as per my primary new year's resolution) I've been examining both psychological and neurological perspectives, and reading up a little on neurology has been an astonishing help.

The author of the book is slightly mystical, as he believes in such things as being able to separate an immaterial mind from the body or that others can transfer "healing energy" by placing their hands on an injury, but otherwise his science in neurology seems to be well-grounded. Any thinking reader should be able to separate the mystical content that doesn't belong from the well-founded science.

So far the biggest revelation it has offered to me is just how important it is to pay attention to a particular endeavor in order to be able to initiate the desired brain change. You can't complete a task passively in the hopes of forming the right change, or to form better habits by coasting: You need attention and concentration.

It brings to my own attention (natch) just how much I allow my attention to lapse throughout the days, particularly when I involve myself in what I believe to be a very life-advancing task. How much value am I giving up daily by simply not paying attention? How many things are there that I'm not moving forward on become I do it passively? For instance, could my knife skills (for my chef-aspirations) be being held back by my not paying intense enough attention?

I need to pay more attention, give more awareness to that which is important. But it also brings to my attention how certain environments are harmful to my attention, such as my apartment (where recreation is an easy coming temptation). Am I not only not paying attention enough, but also putting myself in environments where attention is hindered?

This also makes me realize how stubborn I can be in examining certain premises. I had a problem for years with my computer: I can be my most productive in front of it, but I detest being held captive to it like that. The irony I've been stubbornly ignoring is that despite that fact that I can be most productive by my computer the facts are that my hangup of being near it for so long is making me act otherwise. I'm not being maximally productive, I being distracted and surfing idly around. My qualm with being in my apartment for so long is making my attempts at productivity self-sabotaging, as I think being here makes me inwardly rebel in a fashion.

I've noticed I have no such distractions at other places I choose to be productive, such as the bookstore or library. When I'm there all I'm concerned with is the task at hand, and even if I do have a computing device with me such as my Kindle Fire I'm still not tempted to play around, and use it only for the tasks I'm undertaking. My concentration is simply a lot better.

Several months ago I actually performed a "sensory enrichment" experiment to see what kind of benefit it could have on my life, in which I try switching up the roads I walked on, reading in different locations, visiting a nature park, etc. It was surprisingly beneficial to my well-being: All the new and constantly-changing sensory data really livened me up. But since then I've drastically cut down on my attempts at varying up the sensory environment.

Perhaps, given I intend to change my whole being, I need to take that more seriously again. If attention is truly a key component to inward change, and if my attention is better in other locations than it is at home, then I need to go where my attention can be its best.

My hangup, of course, is that I'm afraid that leaving all my electronic to-do lists will render me less productive, which is why I've been procrastinating on the practice. But I must face facts: If I'm still being unproductive despite being near a productivity machine, then I need to let go of the practice because my theory isn't supported by what reality really is. Besides, I do have a Kindle Fire, so all I need to do is carry that around and make my to-do lists portable. There's a solution if there's a will.

To pursue true and valuable change, regardless, may likely require that one drops certain practices for a while in order to pursue more valuable ones. Sometimes values not only need to be in a hierarchy, but also in a particular order. Being at a PC where I can type and research is certainly a value, but it's a greater value to me to defeat self-sabotaging and unproductive habits in favor of instilling better habits, so maybe I need to be away from all these to-do lists for a while so I can focus on the greater values, by which at a later date I should be able to come back with a better mindset.

This requires letting go of a lot of ideas I was attached to. For one, I depend on the internet a lot of my psychological visibility, so I fear that abstaining would weaken my friendships or make me inwardly frustrated. But again, I'm not seeing the facts for what they are. I can so easily abstain without missing my old habits, and the better habits will be more enjoyable besides.

In short, I propose making a major change to my routine where I ditch all these darn to-do lists I've assigned to myself so I can focus on better inward change my changing environments. It may mean that I may not get as *much* done . . . but what I do get done will be much more valuable to my life. I just need to think and restructure. To reiterate, if there's a will there should be a means. I just need to figure out how to make my lifestyle more portable.

And somewhere in there I'll tackle my poor writing skills as well. Whoo am I out of practice.

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