Forget Netflix. To improve your life stream DFN.
Discover What Dreams are Streaming on Your Default Mode Network “All important progress made by the human race has its roots in daydreaming.” - Eda LeShan Nobody believed him at the time (1929), but Hans Berger, the inventor of the ECG (electroencephalogram), was the first person to propose that your brain is always busy, even when you appear to be at rest. (I'd like to think that he came up with this idea while daydreaming.) Many decades later, Berger's theory was proven true. With advances in brain imaging technology in the 1990s, researchers discovered a surprising level of brain activity in subjects whose brains were supposed to be at rest and not involved in some experimental task. In 2001, researcher Marcus Raichle called the brain activity during the resting state the “default mode network,” and interest skyrocketed in the surprisingly busy resting brain that used only 5% less energy than the “active” task-oriented brain. Think of your default mode network (your DMN) as your daydreaming channel where your brain is busy revisiting past experiences, anticipating future outcomes, or exploring creative solutions to some of your life’s most vexing challenges. Sadly, few people bother to intentionally tune into their own private mind-wandering station anymore because there are so many other seemingly more exciting options beckoning on assorted screens. A recent survey of Android users found that, on average, one third of waking hours was spent staring at phones in 2021, a 30 percent increase from 2019. Add countless entertainment options on tv screens to that tally, and you can imagine how little time is left to tune into your own imagination station. “Social media could be very strong in terms of bringing people together, but it also takes up so much of people’s time that I wonder if we’ve lost the ability to daydream.” - Patti Smith What is lost when you never daydream? You lose access to your unique desires, your creativity, and… yourself. You may think that you’re not an artist and that losing access to a deep well of creativity is no big deal, but you are a creative person. You design your life. Valuable time that could be used to pay attention to the yearnings of your inner self, imagine possibilities, and search the corners of your mind for meaning is being stolen from you. So how do you tune into your DMN? One solution, that digital anthropologist Rahaf Harfoush recommends, is to give your brain a break from external stimulation and take 15 minutes to stare at a blank wall (or a black tv screen). If that feels too hardcore for you, make it 5 minutes, or do what neurologist Wendy Suzuki recommends: give your mind a bubble bath and go for a screen-free headphone-less walk, allowing your random thoughts to wash over you. If you want to actively program what appears on your DMN in a way that a study out of UCLA suggests will make you happier, use it to plan your weekend as if it were a vacation. Researchers found that it wasn't necessary to spend money to get the happiness effects of a vacation mindset that daydreaming can enhance. I find that if I gently pose a question to myself, tune into my DMN and go for a walk, multiple answers will spontaneously appear. For example, I have a terrible track record when it comes to gardening, but wanted to decorate my balcony, so I tuned into my DMN and asked how I could achieve my goal without condemning a plant to an untimely death. My DMN suggested that I engage in make-believe gardening and plant artificial plants to save real plants from my toxic thumbs. It also suggested that I place a small fountain in a pot, and create a flower pot scene with items from my favorite discount home goods store...
Thanks DMN! Meditation or therapy can help manage the tendency of some DMNs to rerun programs that feed anxiety or depression, but don’t let this possibility deter you. It’s important to examine the programming of your default mode network because you can be assured that, whether you watch it or not, its programming is playing in the background of your mind and subconsciously directing your life. “I try to maintain a healthy dose of daydreaming to remain sane.” - Florence (of Florence and the Machine) Welch Get Fully Charged on your Default Mode Network
“Creativity can’t be forced. Take breaks and zone out to find new inspiration.” Siona Peterous, NPR, January 11, 2022.
“8 Ways to Entertain Your Brain.” Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D. Psychology Today, September 7, 2021.
“How I Freed Up Time to Daydream.” Tish Harrison Warren, The New York Times, January 16, 2022.
“Treat Your Weekend Like a Vacation.” Cassie Mogilner Holmes, Harvard Business Review, January 31, 2019