Sunday, February 22, 2009

Get Into the (Neural) Groove

Sometimes ideas about how things work get stuck in my head and I'm not sure where they came from--T.V.? a conversation with a friend? A blurb in a newspaper? Not knowing the source makes me suspicious of their veracity. At times I have enough initiative to do some research, but today is not one of those days.

Having given that as an introduction, allow me to share my thoughts on what I've named (or heard somewhere and am now plagiarizing) neural grooves. The idea, based on real science or not, is that we fall into habits of thought and behavior because our neurons, after enough repetitions, become accustomed to a particular path, which becomes the easiest way to do things, or the path of least resistance--a "neural groove." Getting out of that path requires significant energy.

Is this accurate? At the very least, I'm sure I just jumbled things and oversimplified them a bit. I may have confounded some facts and some bits of pop culture. Or it may be complete mumbo-jumbo, the neuroscience equivalent of Christopher Lloyd in "Back to the Future." I guess the underlying idea, though, that change is hard, but can be exhilarating and liberating, is what I really want to emphasize. I've been thinking lately about some of my unhealthy grooves and how hard it is for me to get out of them.

But what if I could? What if I found a way to break out of the groove of constantly worrying about silly things, or tearing myself down over nothing, or coming home and wasting time instead of getting straight to the gym? Besides the inherent satisfaction of overcoming these tendencies, I can imagine that the feeling of change would be so refreshing. It would feel like the world was truly yours for the taking--and spending time doing something that wasn't habit would make each day feel new and full instead of monotonous.

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