She opened her kitchen window, which she isn’t supposed to do so since it’s the middle of winter, but the breeze – the breeze smelled like burning pine wood on a bonfire. And her brain wandered.
Do not listen to podcasts when you’re washing the dishes. You are robbing yourself of an opportunity to mind-wander. Mind-wandering enables you to attend to the things that are bothering you which are sitting away from your consciousness. Have you ever had those days when you cannot think clearly, no matter how you focus? This so-called brain fogging is a result of consuming too much input, which in turn gives a superficial feeling that you are learning something. In theory, having access to a vast amount of information should be beneficial and an aid in making wise decisions. However, it seems to do more harm than good. The human brain can only process a certain amount of information at a time, and when surpassed, cognitive overload occurs. Both decision making and consuming large volumes of information tires our brain, that is why thinking about what to eat seems so difficult when in fact you have limited options in your fridge.
The intrusive thoughts
The last thing you want to have are intrusive thoughts. How many have you had lately? How many emotional ideas are partying in your brain right now? Intrusive thoughts are often repetitive and won’t go away, and the more you think about them, the more anxious you get and the worse the thoughts get. They appear unexpectedly, with a sudden whoosh, and bring about a high level of tension and worry.
The Notebook (Not Nicholas Sparks)
One thing – buy a notebook and it will fix both of them. Okay, not that simple. In 2001, 35 students were tasked to write about their thoughts and feelings, as terrifying as it sounds, and after seven weeks were found to have larger working memories. In another study where students were instructed to write down negative personal experience, it resulted in greater working memory and lesser intrusive thinking. Experiencing and writing negative thoughts are two different things, so when the latter is done, there is an opportunity to see what really is going on.
Not appreciating writing might boil down to how it was introduced to us when we were younger. We needed to compose a perfect essay, no grammar mistakes, correct spelling all the way, not to mention the structures that we have to follow, all that to achieve an excellent grade. However, when you do freeform writing to express your deep thoughts, these technical matters are irrelevant.
Write as much as you can. Here, there are no word limits, no structure to follow. Let your emotion flow through your words. Let go of the brain fog or all those intrusive thoughts. The biggest benefit of offloading your worries into writing is having mental space to use for other significant tasks. When you don’t know how to start, think about what an American novelist once said: You only need to stare at a blank piece of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.
Pinewood burning – that’s how she described the wind that night. So many memories in every aroma of that evening wind. It felt like a hug from an old friend, like laughter in the middle of conversations over a cup of warm coffee, and like the warmth of the silent nights back home. Oh, how clear these memories danced in her mind.
Photo by Xyza Vasily Dela Peña