Rewiring your brain with fun pattern-interrupts

Ever notice how when you come back from a vacation, you just see everything in an entirely different light?

You get antsy and want to try new things, inspired by sights and sounds during your time away. Your mind is rejuvenated and it starts to process things in an (admittedly temporary) altered fashion.

But who can afford to jet off to an island in the sun everytime the ‘ole grey matter gets stodgy and the creative juices just aren’t flowing? I certainly can’t. So here are some alternative pattern-interrupts, on the cheap:

1. Swap handedness

If you normally do everything with your right hand, then for a day or a few days do everything with your left. (Or vice versa).

what can happen
Personally, I start swapping around words in sentences (or worse, swapping syballels around thiwin the same word). It’s kind of fun actually…

2) Get lost

Pick a bright, sunny day, grab your favorite cds, books, magazine, snacks… and go for a long drive/walk/hike/bike without referring to a map. Do not attempt to come home until you :

– are completely lost
– have stopped for something to eat in a completely alien place
– have walked around in a completely alien place

When you’ve done all the above, take out the map or even better, ask for directions to get you back home.

what can happen
Believe it or not, when you get home you’ll feel totally refreshed. Like you’re back from some giant adventure, as if you’ve slain dragons and swashbuckled with the best of ’em.
This exercise is particularly hard for people who love planning and routine. For those people, just tell them ahead of time what the goal (or lack of one is). So that they can plan for erm… not planning.

3) Watch other peoples’ TV.

Once in a while, of the shows and channels you would normally skip over or avoid like the plague, try and watch as many as possible. It’s even better if the show is targeted at an entirely different demographic to which you couldn’t possibly belong.

what can happen
OK, OK… no particularly useful or interesting side-effects that I know of, but it’s an interesting method of people-watching… As in stranger-watching. You will definitely learn a hell of a lot, so try it!

4) Create your own written alphabet…

…and then actually use it.
Guilty as charged here, too (I was a child, OK?!! Gimme a break).

what can happen
This is good way to flex those memory muscles – especially at the beginning when you’re trying to remember which one of your silly made-up-glyphs go with which letter or which sound. If you can progress to creating your own fully-fledged (or even partly-fledged) language, well then you’re one step ahead of me.

5) Draw a mandala

This is actually very easy to do. Take a piece of paper, and then right in the center, draw a small shape. (Mandalas normally have rotational symmetry so its nice if your shape has some rotational symmetry). Now keeping this symmetry in mind, add some additional elements around the outer edge, and keep going connecting more drawn elements spreading outwards from the center of the page until the drawing grows to fill most of the paper. Here’s an example of one my favorite mandalas that I did a long time ago.

what can happen:
Since you need to (somewhat) concentrate, like a lot of art it can have calming / meditative qualities. If you want. Otherwise I can’t think of any directly useful effects other directly exploring visual creativity. Unless you’re wanting to ‘read’ something into the resulting designs. Sometimes you can, sometimes you can’t.

6) disrupt someone else’s patterns

Surprise someone. Do something (nice?) they wouldn’t normally expect you to do.

what can happen:
Most pattern interrupts have a sort of echo effect though, so expect one to be coming right back at ya. Either way, it will be food for thought, for everyone involved.

7) Completely re-arrange your furniture

This is a great one – it’s like a 3D pattern-interrupt. Navigating the suddenly-unfamiliar territory will force you to encounter your own space the way a complete stranger would. Kinda.

what can happen:
Habits like where you normally put things / find things / do things will get a round of whoopass. The more granular the level of changes and repositionings, the better for shaking you out of habits you didn’t even know you had!


Anyway. Those are just some fun / easy exercises I thought I’d fess up. Good for toggling the switches in the ‘ole brain circuitry. If I think of anymore, I’ll add them here.

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