Focused versus Diffuse Thinking
What do you do when you just can’t figure something out?
For zombies, it’s pretty simple. They can just keep bashing their brains against the wall. But living brains are a lot more complex. It turns out, though, that if you understand just a little bit of some of the basics about how your brain works, you can learn more easily and be less
Researchers have found that we have two fundamentally different modes of thinking. Here, I’ll call them the Focused and the Diffuse modes.
We’re familiar with focusing. It’s when you concentrate intently on something you’re trying to learn or to understand.
But we’re not so familiar with diffuse thinking. Turns out that this more relaxed thinking style is related to a set of neural resting states.
The Importance of sleep in learning
You might be surprised to learn that just plain being awake creates toxic products in your brain. How does the brain get rid of these poisons? Turns out that when you sleep, your brain cells shrink. This causes an increase in the space between your brain cells. It’s like unblocking a stream.
Fluid can flow past these cells and wash the toxins out.
So sleep, which can sometimes seem like such a waste of
time, is actually your brain’s way of keeping itself clean and healthy.
Everybody has some issues with procrastination. Because if you’re working on something, it means you’re not working, on a lot of other things. But some people have more issues with procrastination than others.
When you look at something that you really rather not do, it seems that you activate the areas of your brain associated with pain. Your brain, naturally enough, looks for a way to stop that negative stimulation by switching your attention to something else.
But here’s the trick. Researchers discovered that not long after
people might start actually working out what they didn’t
like, that neurodiscomfort disappeared.
So it seems what happens when you procrastinate, is something like this. First, you observe, and get a cue about something that causes a tiny bit of unease. You don’t like it, so to make the sensation go away you turn your attention from whatever caused that unease. You turn toward something more pleasant. The result, you feel happier, temporarily.