Welcome to That’s Philosophical, A newsletter that won’t leave you bored, I promise. Twice a week, I send you inspirational ideas to become a more mindful person in a world that can’t take a break.
You can read the web version here.
Being bored is one of the most misunderstood and mistreated feelings in the world. If we are not doing anything, then we are just lazy, right?
But boredom is more than doing nothing.
Not every moment you spend alive will be full of emotions. Sometimes life is just… boring. But these moments when you are alone with yourself can be extremely helpful for your mental health.
Our brain can’t analyze information right away. It needs time to understand some things. Remember lying in bed thinking of all the brilliant arguments you could say to the person you were arguing with earlier?
Most progress is made while you are alone with your thoughts, processing whatever you were doing before. It’s just like building muscles. They are not growing while you are at the gym, but when you are at rest.
The Threat to Our Mind
In the modern world, it’s becoming less likely that one will be bored. With such easy access to smartphones and an infinite amount of entertainment, it’s hard to not pick the phone up when we don’t have anything to do.
Today, an average brain is constantly stimulated and everyone is slowly becoming addicted to information. It went to such an extent that it’s now rare to see a person just sitting on a bench doing absolutely nothing.
Using your phone while you have spare time is far worse for you than you would think. Here is what science says:
Which Brain Mode To Use
Our brains have two modes according to most researches, and each of them is responsible for a certain task.
The most important mode in our brain is the Diffuse, or Default mode (there are also Focus and Salience modes). We get our most creative ideas when the Diffuse Network of neurons in our brain is activated. This mode helps your brain to analyze everything and make connections between various thoughts or ideas from different fields.
This mode is activated when your brain is not occupied by any activity at all. You can call it daydreaming.
Yes, the most important mode, which is essentially thinking, is only activated when the mind is free of information. With the rise of smartphones, it’s becoming harder and harder to just think.
We Are Not Thinking
Instead of using the Default mode, we are now heavily reliant on the Focus mode that helps us concentrate on a task. Listening to a new podcast episode, watching YouTube, or chatting with friends is much more interesting than doing nothing. We are now used to being engaged in something.
Humans became so connected to each other all around the world, that they forgot about themselves. We show up for everyone and everything that we care about online- at the cost of our own mental health.
Two modes can’t work simultaneously. If we are not using the Diffuse mode, it means that we are not using our analytical skills to better understand and learn whatever we are letting inside our heads. We come up with ideas, recall memories, self-reflect while daydreaming.
Some Smart Guys
Great minds, like Thomas Edison, or Salvador Dali used this mode to come up with innovative ideas. If a hard task challenged Edison, he would sit in a chair and place his hand holding metal balls above a pan on the floor. Then he would take a nap to enter the Diffuse mode. As he entered a deep stage of sleep, his palm would relax dropping metal balls on the pan and the noise would wake him up. Then he would get back to work with a problem solution that his brain kindly generated for him. Salvador Dali used a similar method, but he used keys instead of metal balls.
All the innovative ideas weren’t born while the person was in the middle of something, most of them were born while our brains were combining different ideas together to come up with something unusual.
How To Not Become a Walking Potato
So if you want to get your brain back, the first step is being mindful of your consumption. Then you will be able to stand against the temptation of opening your phone again.
Your brain takes some time to switch modes, so be patient. But don’t worry, it’s not hard to do this, you can run, meditate, wash dishes, or just shower on autopilot and your head will take care of itself. I came up with a lot of ideas while I was just watering trees and lawn in my backyard.
Just make sure you are not going to be distracted by a notification, podcast, or audiobook playing in the background. You need a pure, healthy moment of solitude. Be serious and treat it like therapy for your mind.
A quick walk outside is great for your mental health too. Show yourself some love and do nothing for a second. No news, no negativity, no positivity, no memes, just you alone with your thoughts. It will make a big difference in your life and now you have an advantage over those who constantly occupy their mind with content.
Self-love practices, like meditation, are becoming more and more popular in the modern world. People are realizing the importance of shifting attention from the outside to the inside and treating yourself with calmness.
Maybe it’s not an addiction to information, but to not being bored. We are now so scared of our own thoughts, that we would rather mindlessly scroll than actually tackle whatever is inside our minds.
One of the reasons why I wanted to start this newsletter is to share the message of taking a break from the world overflowing with all kinds of entertainment. So take a break, you might not feel like it, but your brain will thank you.
Remember that aloneness is not loneliness. Aloneness is a state of being, loneliness is a state of feeling. Being alone doesn’t have to be hard or scary. It’s an eye-opening experience for most people.
It’s counterintuitive how with so many skills being practiced by human civilization, the one that hardly anyone ever remembers to practice is just doing nothing.
Go ahead, treat your mind with some nothingness!
Thank you for reading, use your default mode and have a great weekend!
A good reminder for me when we are heading into a weekend in lockdown. It's good to give the brain a break.