Losing Custody of My Doodle

22 03 2016

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Is it me or does he look like Eric Roberts the younger years?

Of all the things that was the strangest over the past three years of living through the hell of divorce and separation, it was the cessation of something I have done for as long as I can remember that has struck me the most. I stopped doing it when, now I realize, it probably would have helped me a lot. No, it’s not that. (Yes, I know what you’re thinking.)

I stopped doodling.

For as long as I can remember, I have always been a doodler. It started out with me doodling tattoos and other bad reconstructive surgery on the pages of my mother’s TV Guide. Then, I doodled people a lot (especially women with big hair) and then, to keep it somewhat more innocuous, various 3-D shaded blocks with tunnels and elaborate Dali-like totem poles on the side margins of my notebooks. There has been plenty written about the neuroscience of doodling on focus and attention. For me, I think this is very true. 

I doodled so much that in a work-related deposition in front of a judge and court room, when my work documents were put up on a large screen, page after page featured memos with my wide eyed cartoon characters and brick walls for everyone to see. It was embarrassing, but I hope at least it was memorable.

I remember losing myself in a black ink doodle during a meeting at work only to be called on it in front of my colleagues. I was able to recall the exact conversation and even provide some input. The act of putting pen to paper in this way helped me concentrate and listen better. I was able to process what was going on in my head and around me.

And yet, barely one doodle between Spring of 2013 and now. Why? What could the correlation possibly be? 

For me, I think it has to do with the same thought process as my initial reluctance to try meditation. The idea of doing something that would focus me during a period of such extreme chaos was both foreign and missing the point (or so I thought) because when the ship is sinking, the last thing one should do is focus on one thing. However, this is exactly what is needed. For the Titanic, it was getting off the freaking ship! For the guy watching his family unfold in front of him, it’s getting off his mental sinking ship.

Instead of focusing myself in a 10 minute doodle to reframe my thoughts or a 10 minute meditation to try and bring myself to a single breath, I went into crisis control “to do” mode and it wasn’t good. These small moments of distracted focus (how’s that for a term) are critical, particularly when the world seems to be falling apart.

Now, it seems the world may be catching on with the onslaught of elaborate “adult color books”. I get it, though. We are moving further and further away from doing anything for extended periods of time. Maybe a coloring book or a doodling session is the thing to get us back on track, one stroke at a time.

Until next time,

Marc

Thanks for reading. If you would like to subscribe to my blog, I’d be most appreciative! You can also follow me on twitter @MarcKaye1. Thank you.

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Your Attention “Pain Ridder” Capacitor

27 01 2016

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Your Brain Capacitor. (Before you comment, this comes in various shades.)

I heard a really interesting Fresh Air program today on NPR. It was about pain, placebos, meditation and the intersection of all three. The person who was being interviewed, author Jo Marchant, (who had a fantastic female British accent so she automatically sounded knowledgeable), was talking about, among other things, something called “immersive virtual reality”, which is the use of virtual reality with patients to alleviate pain. 

An example she had referenced was specific to burn patients who were put into a virtual “snow land” of sorts that was demonstrated to significantly reduce pain associated with bandage removal and other situations that are so painful for these patients.

When asked to extrapolate on why this works, she explained that the brain can only have a certain capacity for attention, meaning there isn’t a whole lot for experiencing pain if something (better) is taking up most of the room.

I realize that the context of this interview was with respect to physical pain, but it did make me think about emotional pain, as well, which shouldn’t be too far off (and was also discussed in terms of stress).

Just like the most valuable time to exercise is often when you don’t feel like getting up from the couch, the best time to focus attention on less painful emotions is exactly when it feels easier to just wallow. Like so many things I have written about, this also falls into the “easier said than done” category, but what doesn’t that actually makes a difference?

There is something to be said for turning off Facebook, removing yourself from poring over old photographs and emails, not to mention thoughts, of whatever is causing you pain and forcing – yes, FORCING, yourself to do anything else (that is hopefully not destructive) – exercise, listen to music, calling a friend, going for a walk, podcasts, you name it.

There are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of distractions waiting for you and unlike all the times when they are not good (ie. driving, dinner, that work conference), this is one time when they can actually help you. Go for it and fill up your attention capacitor in your brain with a good, even shallow, but positive, distraction. (FYI – the attention capacitor is somewhere between the area that only remembers to hum tunes you hate and the area responsible for you never remembering the name of that new person you just met).

Here’s to your attention capacitor – may it be filled with a lot more good stuff this year.

Until next time,

Marc

P.S. You can listen to the podcast of this episode here: http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=464372009&m=464458795

It’s well worth it!





Fill your Comedy Prescription!

2 03 2015

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“No that’s ok, I’ll just stay in and watch my favorite program “Apathy.”

I was really fortunate to be part of two great shows this past week. One was a new show I produced and the second was a show I was invited to be on. They were both great.

Each had about 30 people in the audience, which depending on your frame of reference, could be either impressive or not. Trust me, it is.

It always amazes me the disconnect between attendance at these shows with just amazing comics – the audience was laughing hysterically at both, for example – and the difficulty in getting people out to shows. You get 4 to 6 comedians for anywhere from the price of a drink to $15 and it feels like pulling teeth.

I have had several discussions about this and the reasons behind it, what happened since the heyday of comedy in the 80s, how the internet may have “killed” live comedy, etc. etc., but none of that really matters. What matters is that there is a pool of talent that is just unreal. I guarantee, that for most of you, you can find a great show within a 30 minute ride, if not closer.

It keeps occurring to me that, in the same way Uber has “disrupted” the traditional way in which taxi services are purchased and managed, there is a business model for comedy that is also waiting to be developed and executed. The only big difference in my mind is with respect to demand. City dwellers will always need a cab ride to somewhere. Comedy as a demand? Unfortunately, not so much.

The demand is ready, though. Here’s the thing that people are missing: seeing a good comedian is one of the healthiest and rejuvenating things you can do because laughter is a drug. Like music, sex and yes, real drugs, laughter actually impacts your brain and the way you feel. If I could somehow reach out to the medical associations around the world and actually help write and implement guidelines for “laughter prescriptions”, I would do it.

This is not self serving. It is a real thing and yet we choose to sit at home and watch YouTube, which is not the same thing! In fact, the social aspects of laughing together, or listening to music or other things you can imagine doing “together”, have benefits far greater than doing them alone.

A little research on the scientific and health benefits of laughter reveals the following:

  • Dr. Lee Berk at Loma Linda University found, in the 1980s, that laughter helps in the regulation of stress hormones and were linked to the production of antibodies and endorphins, natural pain killers in the body.
  • In 2003 in the journal Neuron, it was found that humor can help regulate the brain’s dopamine levels associated with mood, motivation, attention and learning.

This is a real thing and I ask each of you – if there is one blog post that you forward on to the 1,000 people in your email distribution list or Facebook, let it be this one.

Go see a comedian! It costs less than a co-pay, it is incredibly good for you, there is no pain involved (sometimes just for the comics) and we have a chance to be part of a comedy resurgence when the talent pool is ripe for the plucking.

And, it last’s longer than sex (or that’s what I hear).

Until next time,

Marc








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