My previous post would elude to you that I am a perpetual busybody. That I thrive on constantly being on the go and encourage others to do the same. To a point this is true, I thrive in stressful situations and have pretty good time management skills as a result. Despite the impression you may have received from my last post, there is a time and a place for comfort. As important as exercising your brain is, resting it for a bit is just as important. There is a merit to taking time to just mentally (and sometimes physically) shut down.
For the most part, I like to think of myself as a pretty relaxed guy, despite being on the go. Being able to relax and take things in stride makes a hectic life more manageable, more joyful and less of a burden when things feel like they won't quit stacking up. I have prided myself in my ability to compartmentalize and relax all the thoughts in my brain going crazy. For someone who USED to be on ADD medication, I don't do half bad.
Then I found out that ability is a direct result of genetics.
A couple of weekends ago I went to the Museum of Science and Industry here in Chicago with my parents. At the YOU! exhibit, they had what can only be described as a relaxation competition. The object of the game was this: the two opponents sat opposite of each other at a table with electrodes strapped to your head. These electrodes were connected to a computer that connected to the table itself and two monitors, each showing our brain activity. On the table was a metal ball that correlated with the brainwave data. The more relaxed your brain was in relation to an opponent, the more the ball rolled in your opponents direction. Ultimately the object of the game is to relax your brain more than your opponent and cause the ball to roll all the way to their end of the table. Once the ball reached either end of the table, the game was over.
This game has it's own set of ironies. The more you thought about winning or stressed about the end result, the more likely you were to lose. So the only way to win the game was to not actually care if you won the game.
Anyway, they strapped the electrodes to dad and I's head, hit the game start button and the game began.
Did I mention there was a huge audience of spectators watching us, delegating comments from the peanut gallery? Yep, so we had distractions too.
Most of the games between people lasted maybe 45 seconds to a minute. According to Mom, Dad and I were there for at least 5-10 minutes. We were both in the zone. We had shut down and our stress levels were almost flat lined on the monitors. Before the game, the moderator suggested focusing on one object and one alone. I focused on a tiger I saw while running at the Lincoln Park Zoo the previous weekend. Dad was thinking about a view from the Smokey Mountains. Initially the crowd was impressed by our concentration and the fact that the metal ball stayed right smack in the middle of the table. We were given the nickname "Yoda taking on a Ninja Warrior." Eventually they became bored with watching two guys sit in total silence and began to try and make us laugh. Ultimately, Dad and I both laughed. He laughed a little harder than me, spiking the brain waves and allowing me to win by default.
It was a fun game but also taught me a lot about the importance of relaxation. I used to try and shut down with my iPod in or in front of a TV show. However, I've learned that taking out all the distractions, just zeroing in on one thing (or nothing) is the best relaxation technique out there. I've even began to apply this on long runs, letting my brain shut down for a 7-13 mile run.
Shutting down is as essential to life as living it up. How do you shut down?