Blog: Is This Thing On?

Is This Thing On? #1

A speaker begins addressing an audience, but no one can hear him. He leans into the microphone and asks, “Is this thing on?”

The question can be applied to anything that doesn’t function as it should. My brain fits into that category.

Now and then, it makes me bump my shoulder against a door frame. That hurts, and I ask how I could possibly forget where my body ends?

I checked into it. Most of the related medical conditions are caused by alcohol abuse. I don’t drink.

And yet, to let me slam into a door frame, my brain must get distracted with a thought other than don’t run into that. This is strange. My brain’s primary purpose is making sure I don’t hurt or kill myself. It tells me not to eat at McDonald’s, for example. The coffee’s good, though.

Why then, does the brain wander? Daydream. Imagine. There must be an evolutionary benefit, or we wouldn’t do it. What’s that benefit? How does it work?

We have something in our brains called a default network. It stimulates thought unrelated to what’s going on around us. That’s the how of daydreaming in a nutshell. What about the why?

Daydreaming gives us a sense of fulfillment, according to studies. But there’s a catch. You’ll feel worse if you daydream about drastic changes you’d like to see.  

You can’t get from here to there in one giant leap. You know those lottery commercials where someone is doing their happy dance? Stop watching those. They aren’t helping. Have your aspirations but step them out.

For our species to survive, it wasn’t enough to ward off tigers and get enough food. We needed happiness. Fulfilment. Daydreaming helped with that, so evolution kept it in. That’s why I bump into door frames. Now that I know I do it because I want to be happy, I don’t hate it so much.

Worrying is the opposite of daydreaming. When we worry, our brains focus on what’s going on around us. We ask, “Am I safe? Will I run out of money? If another world war breaks out, will I have enough cheese?”

We worry that our microphone may break at the worst possible time. What to do then? The better question is what to do now?

Your biggest fears weren’t born inside your head. They came from outside. It wasn’t a fair fight. We’re bombarded by warnings of personal and global doom in every media. Let’s call it “Nighism”. As in the end is nigh!

So, what can you do right now to deal with Nighism?

A simple but incomplete answer is turn off your television. The radio, too. You don’t need to stay informed of things that mess with your happiness and are going to happen anyway. Turn off your damn phone, too. It’s a phone, not your friend! 

When I let things get to me, I think of a box of kittens. Better thought. Instant relief. Unfortunately, if you don’t like kittens, you’re screwed.

When my first wife died in 2014, one better thought saved my life. No, it wasn’t a box of kittens. Valerie pulled me out of grief by getting me to focus on that one thought. She said, “Start your day with it and remember it as often as you can.”

One day I’ll tell you what that thought was, but not now. It might get in the way of you finding the thought that works for you.

Less worrying, more daydreaming. That works. Buy shoulder pads.

Larry Lalonde