Updated: Oct 15, 2020
I have made a discovery that could change the face of dieting forever!
Let me explain…
I have put myself on my annual pre-Christmas diet, because I like to lose a bit of timber so that I can devour my own body weight in After Eight mints, profiteroles and pigs in blankets during the festive season.
So, yesterday, I was sat on my settee, eating a slice of toast with minimal butter. (Now, butter is one of my weaknesses and I do like to lash it on with abandon.) As I sat nibbling my scantily clad toast, I realised that by the time the butter met my taste-buds, it had been overly diluted by the dry toast.
Then I thought, “what if I turn the toast upside-down?”.
It was quite amazing!
It was even tastier than the previous incarnation of excessively dairy laden toast.
My tongue was overjoyed!
This got me to thinking about a piece of research I did a few years ago, around creativity and the brain.
You see, the brain likes to take the path of least resistance. It doesn’t automatically prompt you to try things in new ways, unless there is a problem with the old way that needs a solution. Even then, your brain wants to stick to the same old beaten path.
Most of the time, people keep to the old ways, because their brains are literally wired up to do so. This makes it tricky to change their patterns.
Your brain wants you to reach your destination via the motorway route.
If you took the scenic route though, you would have a more pleasant journey and would take in some lovely views. The journey would be more fulfilling. You might find a nice pub to have your lunch in that you would never have known about if you had gone on the motorway and eaten some uninspiring, limp, pre-packed fayre from the services.
So, how do you get your brain to comply?
Well, you need to get your prefrontal cortex to take a little break, so that it isn’t stubbornly relying on the previous logic that it has become so fond of.
To find a solution to a problem, you need to take the scenic route. You need to gain access to the neurons in your brain that are not on the motorway route.
Well, for starters, you can start eating your toast upside-down.
This effectively tells your brain that there are other ways of doing things than the way you have always done them. When it turns out just as well, or even better, this opens up your brain to new possibilities.
You can have a go at this with all kinds of daily rituals, but you don’t have to limit this to things you already do.
You can treat yourself to wholly new experiences, and again, it signals to your brain that there are more opportunities for the brain to create new neural pathways, which also brings about new learning and skills.
Another thing to do, and you may recognise this, is to mull over the problem (it may not be a problem as such, but I’m using this as a point of reference) and then forget about it. Go off and do something that doesn’t tax your brain, but does occupy it just enough to take your mind away from the problem.
Then, as if by magic, your subconscious brain will take over and it will take a little trip, looking for experiences, skills and knowledge that can be applied to the situation in hand, which you would not have consciously thought of.
This used to happen to me a lot when driving to work, when I was a teacher.
Even now, when I have planned a training session, for example, I will have ideas just fly into my head whilst driving. It always happens.
It’s like magic.
The trick is to take your mind off the problem, so that you are not using logic and so that your prefrontal cortex does not allow its power to inhibit your creativity.
Ever wondered why you are more inclined to get up and blast out a song on karaoke when you’ve had a few sherbets? Your prefrontal cortex has been temporarily disabled and one of its functions is to creat inhibition within you. That’s one of the reasons that we can end up doing foolish things too.
You might find that you have really great ideas more readily when you’re ploughing through a carafe or two with your friends. Your prefrontal cortex is taking a back seat.
So, what can we do with this information?
Well, don’t start drinking at work, so that you can impress people with your wild creativity. That would not be advisable for many reasons.
Do try forgetting about the problem and coming back to it later, when a few ideas have popped into your head without any conscious effort.
Also, if the problem is something that is not likely to keep you awake at night, you can think about it before you go to bed and let your subconscious mind have a field day on it whilst you are sleeping. I find that I wake up with all kinds of crazy ideas when I do this. Some of them are better than others.
Do try seeing what you could do in a slightly different way to usual to alert your brain to the fact that you don't need to stick to rigid and habitual ways of doing things.
You never know, you might find some fabulously inspired ways of being more efficient, meaning you can spend the extra time doing something else that will nurture your mind, like mindfulness or gratitude.
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