Last week I was talking to a friend. After initial how are you’s we drifted on to the most burning topic today: COVID-19. I was surprised to learn that my friend was very pessimistic about the whole thing and even believed that it is the apocalypse. I tried to point out that most countries are fighting the pandemic well and scientists are optimistic that we will overcome this soon. Despite my excited explanations, he seemed very upset.
Getting back home I thought again about our conversation. Then it dawned on me that my friend always seemed to be in some kind of problem. Every time we met, he talked at length about his problems at work, in his family, his colleagues and so on. For a person with a seemingly normal life; with a normal family, normal job and normal everything, he surely had a lot of problems!
Then suddenly I saw the core of his issue: his overthinking mind.
Best of the times
Steven Pinker is a Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. He is known for his advocacy of evolutionary psychology and the computational theory of mind. In his famous book Enlightenment Now he relies on extensive data to irrefutably prove that we occupy the best era that mankind has ever seen.
Yes, we live at a time of pandemic, racism, economic unrest and morons leading our countries. But still, a vast amount of data proves that our living conditions are so much better than someone who lived almost 50 years ago. And no, we can’t argue with factual data.
But still, people are dissatisfied. More and more people, like my friend, are not happy with their life. Mental Depression is on the rise globally. Communities and even whole nations are complaining despite apparent opulence and decline in crime rate.
The Blue dot effect
I think we are experiencing the Blue dot effect; a human tendency Mark Manson explained in his book Everything is fucked. He relies on the experiment of showing people a screen full of blue and purple dots. They are asked to click the button corresponding to the color of majority dots. First trials will have more blue dots. After 50 or so trials most of the dots are neither purple nor blue. Nevertheless, people clicked the blue button.
Like those who saw the blue dots when it was not there, we tend to see problems when there are none. We unknowingly blow up our simple discomforts into titanic proportions and lament over it.
Maybe it is because our mind is an inherent problem solver. Like the genie that came out of the lamp, who needs to be given work constantly mind needs problems to solve. If there are none, it will conjure up one and try to solve it. Thus putting us in unnecessary pressure.
Is there a way out?
If you are not convinced, observe someone who always laments like my friend. It will not take a clinical psychologist to deduct that most of the crushing worries that he carries around are brewed by himself. Everyone does this including us. But we don’t really see it.
So what is the solution for this? We sure as hell cannot solve all the problems that our mind creates. Then how can we stop making ourselves miserable?
What if there is a simple solution for this? So simple that we almost neglect it.
Give mind problems to solve. Keep it working like the genie.
In order to keep mind quite, we have to engage it. If we give problems for it to solve, the mind will be happy and direct its forces to it. Thus relieving us the unnecessary stress.
Problems can be anything; a word puzzle, a game of chess, a riddle. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as your mind is engaged in it. Philosophical and moral problems or a new form of exercise that is difficult to master may also do the trick, depending on your taste and inclination.
If you are more attracted to humanitarian problems, you can try and solve that too. If you love mathematics, try solving the greatest math problems of the century. Creative arts like painting, clay modeling, writing and so on are also effective. Even learning a tongue twister can instantly boost up your mood.
When the energy of the mind is thus diverted creatively, it will not bother us much. It is just like giving activity to your child so that she may not disturb you for some time.
Use the capabilities of your mind
Coming to think of it, our overthinking mind is not the real problem. It is our inability to effectively use the faculties of the mind that is the real problem.
Once we learn to diffuse the pent up energy of the mind in a controlled environment, it will be at peace.
So start off with that word puzzle today.
Thank you for reading. Please post your valuable opinions in the comment box below.