The brain is brilliant! I love it, but you need to know how it works to get the best out of it!
Take the other day when my son had lost ‘his’ cushion. He looked everywhere for it and, after exhausting every possible place he could think of, he roped me in. Admittedly, I fully expected to find it quickly, with my ‘Mum’ eyes!
However, I couldn’t find it anywhere either! It had us completely baffled! How on earth could a fluffy grey cushion simply disappear? After trying all the ‘normal’ places such a lounge accessory could end up, such as behind the sofa, upstairs in the games room, the washing machine…we started to think we were going mad!
It was only when I finally gave up and sat down on the recliner chair, that it suddenly came to me in a flash of inspiration! And low and behold, there it was! It had fallen down the gap between the back and the reclining bottom half, hidden away in the mechanisms of the chair!
Result = 1 happy teenager and a Mum trying to remember what she was doing before getting embroiled in the Big Search of the week!
But, what has this got to do with how the brain works?
Well, when we ask the brain a question, it has to come up with an answer – it’s brain law!
The problem is, the part of the brain used to problem-solve is the frontal lobe, also home to the conscious mind. And the conscious mind’s primary job is to keep us safe – constantly on the look out for threats to our safety. It is also a relatively small part of the brain, only being able to hold approximately 7 bits of information at any one time.
So, when we have lots of information we’re trying to juggle and remember, such as our To Do lists, things we’re worried about, what we’re going to cook for dinner tonight, when we’ll be able to finish that report for the boss…the conscious mind can get really clogged up and this is when we start to feel stressed and overwhelmed. All this information whizzing around in our heads, taking up precious resources in the one area needed for reason and making decisions from!
However, when we take ‘time out’ and give our conscious minds some space to ‘offload’, it allows our subconscious mind to open up and take up some of the slack. The subconscious is where we store all the information we’ve learned during our lifetime, from the big stuff such as how to walk and talk, use a computer or drive a car, to the smaller things like where we left our keys or cushions! It is also where we store memories and experiences as well as being the creative part of the brain – useful for that ‘out of the box’ thinking!
So, when we put all this information together, what do we have?
A very useful solution!
When we want to remember something – such as where we last snuggled up to our favourite cushion – we need to quieten and calm down our conscious mind and allow our subconscious to take front of stage so it can either retrieve a useful memory…or get creative and come up with some suggestions of where the cushion could have landed!
Very often, this happens when we don’t even realise we’re doing it. Ever come up with brilliant new ideas when you’re in the shower? Or the answer to a problem you’d spent hours trying to solve and finally given up on?
Yep! That’s the conscious and subconscious minds working in brilliant harmony and doing what they each do best.
When I work with my clients, who are often stressed or overwhelmed by their current circumstances, I always encourage them to get ‘out of their heads’ (conscious minds) and into their creative space (subconscious) or body (and soul) to quieten the noise and create space for the inspiration to flow.
Simply changing your physicality, getting out for a walk, singing along to the radio or doing some mindfulness practices, can all be really helpful.
So the next time you find yourself frantically searching for your keys/cushion/answer to a problem…
…create some space….and allow the answer to find you!