Wednesday, 27 May 2015

知觉 | People need to get out more

Posted by: Dom Lowth

It turns out that thinking up ideas of interesting things to write about is actually really hard.

I was overwhelmed by the positive response I received after my opening post went up, but the idea of producing something like that every two weeks is a bit scary. Good scary though. I wasn’t expecting anyone to actually read my first few attempts, so it was a nice surprise when they did.

I hope it didn’t sound like I was having a go at you all, because I really wasn’t (honest), but reading through it again a week later, I can see why someone might get that impression. When Ryan and I started thunk, we promised ourselves that we’d steer clear of writing posts with an overly negative tone. I intend to stick to that. It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of pointing our fingers at everything we see other people getting wrong, pretending we've got it all sorted ourselves. Most of us definitely haven't.

So anyway, here’s something that's hopefully a bit more upbeat:

‘People need to get out more’: usually directed at teenagers by their parents, it’s a complaint that most of us are getting pretty used to hearing by now. I’d say I come from a family that’s generally very good at getting up and out, but I’m always surprised by the number of my friends who seem to spend an unhealthy amount of their time indoors.

When I say ‘unhealthy’, I’m not referring to a lack of exercise, or an unbalanced diet. The 2010s have been a bombardment of people suddenly deciding that they’re going to live healthier lives. Everyone’s started running, cycling, and eating leaves for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I have enormous respect for people who are genuinely pushing themselves to develop healthier and more energetic lifestyles, but that’s not really what I’m talking about here.

I’m talking about the ‘unhealthy’ mind-set that people are put in as a result of being shut indoors for hours on end. Having just been through exam period and the accompanying study leave, I’ve been subject to far too much of sitting in the same room, at the same table, staring at the same books. Strangely, what I found was that I actually got much more unhappy and irritable on the days that I wasn’t heading out in the afternoon for an exam. Sure, on some of the exam days I was very nervous, but I always felt mentally ‘in a better place’.

It was also the period of time spent in the house before setting off for school in which I began to get the most anxious. Once I was on my feet and out the door, walking down the old railway line to school, I was instantly more relaxed and in a much improved frame of mind. The little voice in my head could be heard again, reminding me that however much I tried to convince myself otherwise, I had actually prepared for the exam I was about to sit. Even whilst checking my notes as I walked along, and testing myself for the last time, I found I could sort through the jumbled stock of facts in my head without nearly as much difficulty and therefore generally managed to recall the stuff I needed to. This was reassuring, knowing that I’d be opening the exam paper in less than half an hour.

Well this is boring; bear with me.

Here’s my belief: the claim that ‘people need to get out more’ is actually true, believe it or not.

I’ve never been into all that ‘nature heals the soul’ stuff (if you are, I’m sure it does), because I think it’s so much simpler than that. Modern life means we are constantly surrounded by noise. White noise that is always there. It never goes away. It’s not necessarily unpleasant noise, but it stops us from just slowing down once in a while, and thinking.

If I’m working on my own in the house, I’ll put music on deliberately to fill the silence that would be there otherwise. Nowadays I almost won’t walk anywhere without listening to music either. Silence is too often associated with awkwardness and boredom, meaning we constantly try to eradicate it. We’ve become so accustomed to the white noise of modernity that we’ve forgotten what real quietness sounds, and feels like.

Next time you head out somewhere local, consider walking or cycling instead of jumping in the car as usual. Don’t do it just to burn off your dinner, or because you want to make your mum happy (although these are both definite advantages). Do it to make your mind healthy. If you live only a mile from school, why not walk in tomorrow, or cycle – without any music.

Being outside in the quiet gives you time to yourself; time to think. And thinking is something we don’t do enough of. Too often we let people think for us: our teachers, families, friends. We blindly follow the lifestyles celebrities tell us we should, and let the mental stresses of revising for exams take the place of the real, measured thought processes we actually need as human beings.

The word ‘thinking’ is defined online as ‘the process of considering or reasoning about something… using thought or rational judgement.’

Sounds kinda important to me. Give it a go. And trust me, it’s a lot easier outside.

Was that more cheerful? Oh well, I’ll get it soon.

Dom's listening to: ‘Soldier On’ by The Temper Trap
(but only when I've done some thinking...)

Read my previous post here.

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