The perks of mind wandering
Plus, a recipe for hope.
“Memory doesn't work like a recording device. You don't just record the event and play it back later. The process is much more complex.”—psychologist Elizabeth Loftus
Small wander. For all the benefits of “being present” and “living in the moment,” the human ability for mental time travel is, in some ways, a gift. In an interview with Discover magazine, psychologist Anna-Lisa Cohen explains that our default cognitive state largely involves daydreaming or being detached from the present moment. In other words, our minds like to wander. We spend a lot of time reflecting on past experiences and imagining our lives in the future. This can lead to rumination and anxiety, but it also allows us to have cognitive flexibility. When we mind wander, “the imagination is involved,” Cohen said. “Psychological barriers are lowered. Suddenly, ideas, concepts and possibilities that we might not have considered have a better chance of coming to mind. There is a fluidity to our thinking.” A little wandering can be a good thing.
Learned hopefulness. We all want a better future, but hope doesn’t always come easy. At Scientific American, psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman writes about a concept called “learned hopefulness.” He says that “hope isn’t something we either have or don’t have.” In other words, hope is flexible. And when hope seems in short supply, there are ways to cultivate more of it. Referencing the book Learned Hopefulness: The Power of Positivity to Overcome Depression, Kaufman says we can do this by “engaging in small doses of positivity.” This might mean reaching out to an old friend, or complimenting a stranger. “Worrying has helped us survive, but these pebbles can tip the scale and keep us in a downward spiral if we worry too much,” Kaufman writes. “Positive thoughts are like feathers. They can outweigh the pebbles—but you need a lot of them.”
Great thinkers. Our feelings are responses to the world around us, right? A friend gives you a fun gift, you feel joy. A driver cuts you off in traffic, you feel frustration. But what if that’s not entirely accurate? What if our emotions are more like predictions that we can manufacture and control? Listen to learn more.
ON THE HIDDEN BRAIN PODCAST
Are Your Memories Real? We rely on our memory to understand the world. But what if our memories aren’t true? This week we talk to psychologist Elizabeth Loftus about the malleability of memory – what we remember, and what we think we remember.
ON THE MY UNSUNG HERO PODCAST
Biar Kon’s Story: Biar Kon tells the story of a stranger who approached him on the street in Nairobi, Kenya. He says she “sowed a seed of kindness” that he still carries with him today.
Don’t forget to send us the story of your unsung hero! Record a voice memo on your phone and email it to email@example.com.
Why is it better to have round manhole covers than square ones?
LAST WEEK’S PUZZLE
What is always in front of you but can’t be seen?
Answer: The future
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Hidden Brain is a game! Do you struggle to recognize people after you've met them? Do you like games and puzzles? If so, check out Hidden Brain Daily Challenge, our new app available on Apple iOS! It features our very first game, designed to help improve your facial recognition skills. Check it out here.
A MOMENT OF JOY
Got the travel bug? You can take a virtual drive in cities around the world while listening to local radio stations.