Monday, January 25, 2021

Rest versus Sleep

I do a lot of intense mental work. Periodically, I take a break and listen to part of an audiobook or watch something on TV or play a game. Under the doctrine of “a change is as good as a rest,” that should mean that a change is as good as a sleep right? 

 A report on a study led by Christoph Nissen, MD, PhD, and his team at the Medical Center, University of Freiburg, was published recently in the journal SLEEP. Sleep has a dual function for the brain: Unused connections are weakened and relevant connections are strengthened. Sleep after training improves performance on various tasks in comparison to equal periods of active wakefulness. Sleep is more than rest for improving performance. Resting does not substitute for deep sleep when it comes to keeping up with the intensive performance demands of daily life. Einstein posited that when you are working on a project or problem and take a break to do something else, that is a “rest” of sorts, although the brain may continue to work in the background on the original project or problem. In that type of scenario, a change may be as good as a rest. Sleep is different from rest, however. More tomorrow.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Time Perception Alteration

Can you do anything about how your brain perceives time, especially as you get older and/or when in a situation of lock-down?

Some say, “Yes.” Try including more unexpected and/or spontaneous activities in your routine life. This does not require leaving your home. Listen to a book on tape that is not necessarily a genre that you typically look for. Include more unpredictable experiences. For example, when you go to the zoo or an animal park you never know exactly what a creature will do and how it will behave. Enjoy the unpredictability of such experiences. There are “zoo” TV experiences that show the “back story” for many of the animals in the zoo. Programs about animal rescue, how Vets identify problems in creatures. You can vicariously enjoy that. Rotate the TV programs you watch so you include more genres. Some National Geographic, some travel, some games, some History, some Ancestry. You get the idea. The brain loves variety. Virtual is not quite the same as actual participation but it can beat boredom by a country mile. 

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Brain Tracks Time

According to Michael N. Shadlen, principal investigator at Columbia University’s Zuckerman Institute, has pointed out that portions of the brain that involve thought and cognitive function (e.g., planning, and executive control) can keep track and control of time. “Everything we do has to be controlled in time, otherwise we’d be simple creatures that react in the moment.” When it comes to time perception, emotions play a part. “People assign an emotional valence to every experience, including the passage of time. We color our experiences in ways that reflect our enjoyment or repulsion,” Shadlen said. For example, if you enjoy going to a concert or playing in a basketball game, you might wish they had lasted longer. On the flip side, if you dislike these events, you might feel like they took too long, or that time dragged by if not stood still altogether.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

EAI & Time

According to Pierce J. Howard, PhD, extroverted brains (estimated by some as 14-15 percent of the general population) use physically active strategies with more people, thriving on stimulation and activity. Without it, they tend either to get into trouble as they search for something to do or fall asleep until something stimulating comes by. Introverted brains (also estimated to be 14-15 percent of the general population) use more sedentary strategies with fewer people. They tend to become stressed and even ill with too much stimulation and need protection. The remaining 68-70 percent of the population represent the ambiverted brains who try to find a happy medium. They tend to gravitate toward environments with moderate amounts of stimulation. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that in some surveys extroverted brains tended to experience the most stress during lockdown; introverted brains the least stress, all things being equal; and ambiverts moderate amounts of stress based on what was happening in their environment. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Happiness & TIme

When you are doing something that you enjoy or that gives you satisfaction because you are providing a service to others time usually goes by quite quickly. First responders have reported that some days a shift just zoomed by, even if their duties often involved sadness. Children playing a game they absolutely love—in person or electronically—may lose all sense of the passing of time and be stunned, if not outright upset, when it is time for meals or bedtime. Although you may not have control over the environment or over every task you must do, attempting to approach it with joy and satisfaction may help the time pass more quickly. Hating what you must do likely will make time seem like it is creeping by and the shift or tasks will never be over. This may be a good time to work on one’s mindset. Aim for a positive, can-do mindset. While it may not speed up time, I may not slow it down, either. 

Monday, January 18, 2021

Fear & Time

According to Ruth S Ogden, PhD, and Catharine Montgomery, Liverpool John Moores University: “When we experience fear, we experience a sensation of more time passing than normal. This is because our perception of time is affected by our level of arousal.” Increases in activity in the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which prepares the body for the fight-or-flight response, are associated with a perception of lengthening of time. Imagine a time when you felt fear, perhaps listening to an unknown person banging on your front door or ringing the bell. You held your breath, and it seemed like forever before the banging stopped. Or you are waiting for someone and keep checking your watch because it seems an hour has gone by when it is only 10 minutes. Conversely, increases in the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which calms the body down, are associated with a slowing or shortening of time. That can be a benefit of implementing solid stress-management strategies. 

Friday, January 15, 2021

Stress, Emotions, and Time

Stressful moments can change the way you perceive the passage of time, as can emotions. Physical or social distancing during the pandemic also impacts one’s perception of time. According to Dr. Oden, “When I looked at what made time pass slowly, I found that being older (above 65) and having low levels of satisfaction with current levels of social interaction and high levels of stress were likely to make someone feel like lockdown was passing slowly. Conversely, being young, busy, and socially satisfied made lockdown pass more quickly… People with depression will often report that during periods of depression, the days drag by. This is reflected in lockdown experiences and sheltering in place. Being socially unfulfilled (which is associated with depression) is associated with a perceived slowing of time.