The world of science is full of “Eureka” moments, where a sudden insight or solution to a problem suddenly appears in the mind, from the story of Archimedes in the bathtub to Newton’s apple and Einstein’s theory of relativity.
There are two types of thinking, intentional and unintentional. Intentional thinking is thinking on purpose, which includes things like planning, analysis and problem-solving. Unintentional thinking is when our attention is drawn towards automatic thoughts when our mind wanders away from the present task. The thoughts that arise when our mind wanders can be negative, positive or neutral and about the past, present or future. Thoughts that arise automatically tend to be more negative for a number of reasons:
- They may be habit patterns about ourselves and our story that we repeat
- Our brains evolved with an inbuilt negativity bias, which accentuates things that are threatening or unpleasant over things that are safe and pleasant
- As they are automatic, mind-wandering thoughts are subject to the law of entropy, so run downhill from order to disorder
Neuroscientists have discovered a part of the brain called the default mode network that activates when our brain thinks there’s not much going on, for instance, cleaning your teeth or taking a shower. The default mode network is similar to advanced smart speaker software, like Amazon’s Alexa that operates in our heads, speaks in the first person, and tells us things like, “Still haven’t properly organized the holiday. Not looking at my best today. Are those bags under my eyes getting worse? and what about that difficult situation at work? I’m sure I’ll handle it whatever I do… “
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