Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Reduce Change Blindness with Awareness

I love this experiment investigating change blindness, unfortunately not available on-line. So I’ll explain. A confederate of the experimenter is asking the subject questions. Two people walk between the confederate and subject carrying a door, briefly blocking the subject’s view of the confederate. When the door passes, a different confederate is asking the questions. Change blindness refers to the incredible fact that a large percentage of subjects did not notice that they were talking to a different confederate. In other words, imagine you’re talking to your friend John, two people walk between you and John with a door so you can’t see John, and Ralph replaces John. You don’t notice that instead of talking to John, you’re now talking to Ralph. Pretty weird, huh?

We do this all the time with the people in our lives. We go from one dysfunctional relationship to another—different person, same issues.

We feel angry with one person, then the next and the next, never seeing how our own reactions trigger our anger. It’s not really the other person. They’re interchangeable. We don’t seem them. We mindlessly go through the same motions getting the same results.

It’s like smoking. You’re already on your next cigarette before you’ve enjoyed the first. Sometimes you don’t even realize you’ve lit another one up. Eating is also very much like this for most of us.

Awareness refers to just the opposite attitude. Awareness is about really noticing the things in our lives. That includes our own behavior as well as that of others. It is about paying attention with curiosity. It is about being deliberate in our actions. It is about noticing what’s in front of us, be it door, person or different person.

          Oh yes, you’re a different person, Ralph not John. I don’t have to expect the same from you.

          I just finished smoking a cigarette, do I really want another?

          This pasta is good, do I want more or have I had enough?

If we try to see and not allow ourselves to be blind to what’s in front of us, we’d notice when we’re talking to a different person. We’d care to hear what they’re really saying, and what we’re really saying and doing.

To reduce change blindness for yourself, practice being more aware by really paying attention while you go about one of your routine activities, like brushing your teeth, eating or walking. See how much you can notice about a routine behavior.

         •  Find out more about mindful awareness is in my newsletter.

         • You don’t have to be depressed to get a lot of good ideas from
            The Mindful Way through Depression, by Williams, Teasdale, Segal & Kabat-Zinn.
            I love the CDs.

          • Listen to Kabat-Zinn free

Thursday, February 4, 2010

In a Rut? Get Creative

Apparently, it’s not that difficult to be more creative. Csikszentmihalyi suggests a variety of steps to take in order to do so. These are some steps that I found interesting, and fairly easy to implement. As in all tasks worth mastering, climbing out of a rut does take a bit of doing, so beware: some work is involved.

Enhancing your curiosity and interest in the world is a good start. Incorporate surprise into your daily life.

Be surprised – notice how things are unusual, different and interesting. This could be something as simple as noticing the pot bellied pigs I passed on my drive the other morning. Wow! I don’t see too many of those on a daily basis. They’re kind of cute.

Surprise someone – be different in what you do, say or how you look. Have a meaningful conversation with someone you normally just say hi to.  I could have surprised those pigs by starting a conversation with them.

Investigate surprising things – if I’d been more open to my experience, I would have pulled over and had a good look at those pigs. If I’d really been thinking I’d have whipped out my phone and taken a picture which I could have used for this blog.
Another tip for developing your creativity is to get in flow, i.e., bring more flow to your life.

Daily positive goals – have a goal each day that you look forward to. It doesn’t have to be big or particularly significant in the grand scheme of things. Just important to you, like finding out about your kid’s day after school (good luck with that one). Meeting goals gets us in flow.

Do it well – putting your all into any activity (be it running, walking or meditating) makes it more enjoyable. Do one thing at a time; no multitasking here. Concentrate on what you’re doing and focus all your attention on it. When you’re pushing yourself pleasantly hard, you can get in the zone.

Increase the difficulty – where possible, once you’ve mastered the basics, push yourself further. So you know how to make lasagna. But can you make a healthy, low fat yet tasty lasagna? Pushing the limits increases the likelihood of having a flow experience.
On your upward climb out of the mundane, a few baby steps are a great start.  Know that it’s like walking vs running. It’s a hell of a lot easier to start walking than running, but walking still good exercise on the road to health. And you know you can trust NPR on that.

Music to get creative with:  Check out Ke$ha’s Tik Toc.  This chick is really in the flow, and she’s not just another pretty face.