One of my favorite things about going on vacation is having more time to read. While I am too prone to motion sickness to read in a car, I am usually able to read on a plane. During several long flights, I ended up reading more over the past two weeks than I have read in the past few months. Here are a couple things I learned or thought about during my time away.
1. Three steps to better mental health. I finally read Dan Siegel’s Mindsight. Dr. Siegel is an American doctor who uses brain science to teach about neuroplasticity, which is basically the idea that our thoughts and interactions can change the physical structure of our brain and the way it functions. I imagine our brains as well-travelled dirt roads, with deep tire tracks. It’s easy to follow in the same grooves, but that doesn’t mean we can’t veer off in another direction. Eventually, the tracks will be just as worn in the new direction.
I love ideas that are distilled to their simplest useable components, and Dr. Siegel is a master at doing this. One of my key take-aways from Mindsight was that we can protect or improve our happiness and mental well-being be focusing on three areas:
- Attention. Dr. Siegel mainly uses mindfulness in his examples, but the idea here is to deliberately choose where you are focusing your attention.
- Novelty. New experiences help us build new neural pathways.
- Aerobic exercise. All the feel-good chemicals of aerobic exercise help boost our moods and have great benefits for our minds and bodies.
2. Thin places. This isn’t exactly sometime I learned over my vacation, but it is something I remembered. It’s a funny name, thin place. Sounds like everything or everyone should be very skinny. Or maybe they only serve rice cakes. But no, the term, which goes back to the ancient pagan Celts, refers to a place of transcendence, where the physical and divine are intertwined. According to the Celts, heaven and earth are three feet apart; in thin places that distance is shorter. I love this term, and think it would have been useful when I was thinking about spiritual homes. A thin place can be any place really, natural or manmade. It’s not the same thing as a religious place. Some religious sites might be thin places, but many are not. One person’s thin place is another person’s thick place. Maybe your thin place is a beach, or a mountain top, or a cathedral, or a library.
3. Luwak coffee. You guys know how much I love coffee, right? Well, I do. But this is one variety I don’t think I can get on board with. The beans used to make this coffee are first eaten and then defecated by an Asian civet. Our tour guide in Bali called it cat-poo-ccino. We tried it (because when in Rome) and it was fine, but not that good. Aside from the obvious ick factor, it’s very expensive and, while I haven’t researched it, I would guess that the animal welfare situation is grim. Not for me.
How was your week? Learn anything new? Have you tried any new delicacies, either wonderful or revolting?