Today’s blog topic is taking a little longer to reveal itself to me than have some others. It’s been an unusual Monday because of Columbus Day, or as I would prefer to think of it (along with more and more jurisdictions each year) “Indigenous People’s Day.” There was no mail, of course, since it is a federal holiday. Our grandson’s school was closed, so he, his mom, and his 7-month-old brother came to visit! That made today extra special.
Let’s see if I can list a few of the things that happened during their five hour visit: making microwave potato chips, tuning a ukulele, playing duets on the piano, pulling baby toys out of the attic, preparing and eating lunch, preparing and drinking two bottles of formula, mashing and eating and getting covered in banana, watching deer in the front yard, taking photographs, taking a nap, completing some tax forms, singing, laughing, crawling around on the floor (all five of us), running inside and out, starting to create a play, playing indoor soccer, discussing how much brains enjoy questions, taking/making several phone calls (some personal and some business), lots of hugging, and more.
Then this evening, after they left and there were just the two of us in the house, I was reading an article in “Mother Jones” that made a reference to the fact that multitasking doesn’t really happen. I’ve known that, even though it did seem like a lot was happening simultaneously during those five hours today in all five of our brains. When we think we are feeding a baby and watching a digital tuner and talking to an 8-year-old at the same time we are noticing that it’s time to start preparing lunch, it feels like all those things are happening simultaneously. But that’s not how our brains work. Brains shift from one thing to another–very quickly. They don’t multitask.
The article makes the point that all those rapid shifts are stressful. Not only do they use up glucose (the “fuel of the brain”). They also result in the production of cortisol, the stress hormone. The article makes many points, some contradictory, but one suggestion that I can really relate to is that to let your brain recover, you should use your down time (or be sure to create down time) to completely tune out and let your brain daydream. Daydreaming can be restorative.
As it happens, I’m quite far over on the introvert side of the introvert/extravert scale. For me, that restorative, daydreaming down time isn’t an option. I have to go there, even after a relatively brief period of as much fun and joy as today was for me. It sounds like even extraverts can benefit from taking some of the same restorative, daydreaming, down time. I’m not sure exactly what this means for folks with ADHD, except that it may be one more thing pointing in the direction of mindfulness.
I can’t make definitive statements about any of this, because I’m not a scientist. And there is also the fact that the article contains some information that appears to contradict the idea of the beneficial effects of daydreaming (though there may be a significant distinction between daydreaming and mind-wandering, but that js another topic).
If this general subject interest you, and you would like to read something a little more focused than my mental wanderings this evening, check out the Mother Jones article as well as the book and author that were the subject of much of the article, The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload by Daniel J. Levitin.