On trains and brains

Full moon in clouds over railroad

Hi everyone

I’ve rediscovered my love of train rides over the last wee while. I enjoyed them as a child and still do as an adult. The excitement of staring out of the windows at the passing landscapes, with the clickety-clack, clickety-clack of the wheels on the track. I find the motion of the train soothing for some reason and being close to the earth calming and reassuring.

Being quite poor, train travel was a cheap way of getting to faraway places for my family back in the day, and the bonus… bring your own food! Usually, this was my mom’s fabulous meatballs accompanied by boiled eggs from a cooler bag stored away under the seats.

On a recent train trip through the North Island of NZ, I marvelled at the engineering feats of the railway pioneers and the herculean efforts of the people who forged those early trails. They had to find a way to lay the tracks through some pretty inhospitable terrain, clearing paths and navigating treacherous mountains, valleys and forests.

Today, we all hop on the train and it makes its way easily and smoothly from one place to another. The more times we make the trip, the more familiar the landscape becomes and we start to look out for the landmarks along the way. Eventually though, if we make a particular trip often, we stop noticing the views around us as we become used to the journey. Now, we want to get from A to B in the quickest time.

It reminds me of our brains and how we develop beliefs and attitudes as adults. When young, we learn new information from all around us. Initially, it’s quite hard to lay down knowledge trails on our immature brains but the more we think in the same ways over and over again, the easier it gets. Eventually we arrive at conclusions quickly and effortlessly, travelling down the same well-worn paths of thinking we always have….and that’s good isn’t it?

Yes, it’s helpful from the point of view of preventing overload trying to process thousands of pieces of information coming at us during the day. The downside is, we can develop some habits of thought that might not be good for us. Leaping to conclusions without any facts or evidence is one of these habits and fostering negative beliefs about yourself that are unyielding is another.

To get around this, start to become your own scientist! Look for evidence that something is true or not – build your mental muscles as much as your physical ones. A useful trick is to challenge your own attitudes and beliefs by asking yourself:

‘Is this really true?’ ‘Is there evidence that this belief is not true?’ ‘Were there times when it wasn’t true?’

For example, if you believe that things never work out for you, ask yourself the above questions. Was there ever a time when things did work out for you? Why did that happen? What did you do then?

This makes your brain go looking for new information and it might start a shift in the way you see the world and yourself. It’s a simple but powerful ‘pattern interrupt’ that gets your brain moving down different and creative paths. Give it a try.

Take care and be kind to each other


Share your thoughts?