Meaningful Mental Meanderings

It has been a little over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic began to affect daily life in Chickasha and Grady County. 2020 saw many changes to everyday life as normal routines were upended and interrupted, and people everywhere began to face unprecedented medical, economic, and social challenges. Many people have also felt some of the intangible ways in which the pandemic has disrupted the established trajectory of their lives. These internal struggles can include the loss of a sense of time, a general feeling of ennui, brain fog, and the vague, unsettling feeling that you must be doing something productive yet feeling powerless to do so. 

While there are no easy solutions to uncertainties of this past year, books can help to ease some of the mental strain by providing accessible, self-directed learning and recreation, as well as a much-needed distraction from some of life’s more pressing worries. One book that addresses overcoming mental blocks is Tinker Dabble Doodle Try: Unlock the Power of the Unfocused Mind by Srinivasan S. Pillay (153.4 Pillay). The premise is that unfocusing your mind and letting it wander is key to unlocking its potential for both logical problem solving and creative thinking. Some of the ways in which to do that include self-talk, reverie, mind wandering, and “the all-important tool of daydreaming.”

The reason for this is that too much intense focus often leads to mental stress, which significantly narrows the range of ideas and is overly reliant on established neurological patterns. The kind of focus that produces scientific discoveries or writes engaging books is intense, but it is also very similar to Csikszentmihalyi’s “flow theory,” where the process of thinking or doing something is so enjoyable that it becomes its own reward.

One solution is to set aside time engaged in mental relaxation, which leads to both cognitive and emotional benefits. When there is no pressure to accomplish a specific task, the brain is free to form new connections and pathways that would otherwise not be possible. This is also very much aligned with the growth mindset, which asserts that the ability to think and learn is a skill that can be developed within everyone. 

There is a chapter dedicated to developing and cultivating creative thinking skills, which are often seen as an innate characteristic that happens with no explanation. However, as someone who spends a lot of time involved in creative pursuits, my experience is that creativity happens by developing new thoughts and ideas in unexpected places, making all the mistakes, and then problem-solving ways to correct all the mistakes, always being ready to learn new things, and having so much fun that I do not want to do anything else.

Neurological perceptions and thinking patterns are also highly individualized in many ways. Understanding your cognitive rhythm and interests can allow you to experience new intellectual horizons. The Chickasha Public Library provides many books that will enhance your cognitive abilities and focus in a variety of areas. This book, as well as many others in the NF 100s (philosophy and psychology) can open up new and fascinating worlds about the wonders of the life of the mind.  Tinker Dabble Doodle Try is a good way to learn how to quiet some of the brain chatter and create new paths of thinking, until one day (as this book beautifully puts it) “you will be fascinated by the jewels of your own intellect.”