Thursday, March 12, 2015

Stimulation - Mind

Keeping your mind active and engaged offers you an advantage over complacent or bored people in times of crisis. If you're asking “What if?” all the time and trying to work out solutions before a problem arises, you'll be a few steps ahead of someone who has a rude awakening when reality slaps them with a “it can't happen here” event.

Situational awareness is one result of mental stimulation. Paying attention to your surroundings will give you a chance to notice the good as well as the bad in our world.

  • Nobody can run at full throttle forever; we all need rest. The very lack of stimulation that sleep provides can prepare your mind to accept the next batch of problems.
  • Sleep gives your brain a chance to integrate the day's events and gives your body a chance to heal. This is the main reason sleep deprivation is considered torture in most places - the human brain needs downtime or it will start to act in unusual ways.
  • Be careful of any sleep aids you may take as they can cause prolonged grogginess and brain fog after you wake up.

Stretch Your Boundaries
  • If all you ever read is the same as what you already know, you'll find yourself in a rut. Discussing things only in an “echo chamber” where everyone has the same opinion results in what I call “intellectual inbreeding”, with similar outcomes. Spend any time on any of the mainstream forums covering guns, prepping, cars, politics, or foreign relations and you'll see what I mean. Dissenters are castigated and eventually banned, outside opinions are ignored or belittled.
  • When trying to deal with something that is by definition “not normal”, why should “normal” ways of thinking be the only option? Corporations used to refer to this as “thinking outside the box”, but it seems to have been changed to “heresy” from what I've seen lately.
  • Don't rely on any single source of information. Wander around and listen to others' points of view. At the very least, you'll come away with a better understanding of how wrong they are and what tactics they'll use to make their points.
  • Try reading a book outside of your normal genre. Listen to a different type of music. Strike up a conversation with someone outside your normal circle of friends. You may be surprised at what you may learn or you may have your suspicions confirmed, but either way you'll learn something new.

Keep Learning
  • I've only met a few people in this world that had learned all that they could. Generally they had to forget or lose something that they had previously learned before they could learn anything new. Rare and truly sad, but it can happen. Most of us can keep learning, and should. Learning new things opens up new ways of thinking and offers new ways to deal with unexpected events.
  • Picking up another language, even on a basic level, could be helpful in communicating with others. If you live in an area with a large immigrant population that may not speak English, do you know how to tell them to avoid dangers like downed power lines or washed out bridges? Can you communicate well enough to trade water for blankets?
  • Learning what you can of a trade could be handy if you need to make repairs on something and the repairman is out of touch. Windows and doors seem to get boarded up before and after common disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes - can you cut and hang a sheet of plywood without damaging yourself or others?
  • Learn to identify some of the local flora and fauna. Knowing what you can eat and what can eat you just might be important in an emergency.
  • Find something you enjoy doing and learn how to do it better or in a different way. Learning different paths to the same destination can offer an alternative when things go wrong. A friend of mine had a stroke last year and lost the use of his right hand from the nerve damage. Learning to write, type, tie his shoes, eat, and everything else with just his left hand has been a challenge but he keeps trying.

Avoid Stupidity
  • Stupidity stupefies, by definition. If you can name all of the Kardashians or the entire roster of the team who won the Super Bowl ten years ago, but don't know how to build a fire, you're in deep trouble.
  • Stay focused on the things that can help you and yours, and keep the trivial mind candy to a minimum. A diet of cotton candy may be easy to digest, but it wouldn't be a viable way to stay alive.
  • I place organized sports, conspiracy theories, and political obsession in the same category as soap operas and reality TV shows - mind candy that may be useful as a diversion, but dangerous as a steady or exclusive diet.
  • Unless you're training them, avoid stupid people. Stupid people do stupid things (at stupid times in stupid places) and you don't want to be around them when their IQ drops below room temperature.

  • Both physical and mental exercise can improve your mental focus. Physical exertion makes it easier to sleep and can help by providing a safe way to vent frustrations.
  • Mental exercise can be as simple as playing a game of logic or skill. The goal is to make you think instead of react, so reading a book on philosophy, history, comparative religion, or any other “soft” science can work.
  • My mental exercises are mostly math-based. I'm one of those weird people who likes math and logic problems, but I know others can get the same results from poetry or writing. Find something that intrigues you and challenges you, start simple and work your way to harder things.

Stay Flexible
  • Being too rigid in your ways of thinking and acting can hamper your reaction time when something unusual happens. Knowing that other ways exist may help you modify your plans if they don't work out.
  • “What would MacGyver do in this situation?” is one way to stay mentally flexible - choose the person or character that most fits your personality and abilities, but try to think from another person's perspective.
  • You don't always have to change your ways to accommodate others, but you should at least acknowledge that others may have ideas and manners that don't match your own.

Stimulating your mind isn't hard, but it takes a conscious decision to make it happen. The mind is a muscle - exercise it, or it can fail you when you need it most.

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