There are so many voices demanding our attention. Marketers shout to us to buy their products. Politicians shout to us to vote for them. News pundits shout to us their spin on events. Reality shows, gossipers, friends, family, organizations we are a part of, so many different voices with different agendas shout their messages to us. If we are not careful, we can lose ourselves in all the noise and get caught up in what others want from us and loose connection with those people and activities that give us life.
This isn’t merely a metaphorical statement. The food we put into our bodies is critical to the function of our bodies. In the same manner, what we allow into our thoughts is critical to the function of our minds. Neurologists are beginning to understand how our brains clean up after themselves. What they’ve learned is that glial cells, cells that hold our brains together, also take out the garbage and clean up while we sleep.
You may have heard about Roomba vacuum cleaners. These are automated robots that cruise along on floors, pick up debris, and sweep them clean. In time, through its programming, a Roomba will cover all of the floor space. Glial cells function similarly. These cells, while we sleep, cruise around our brains, pick up debris, and sweep them clean. It’s a fascinating process. What’s more fascinating, is how glial cells differentiate between what is debris to be swept away, and what is of value to be filed away.
Glial cells make this distinction by what connections are present. Whenever our brains are being brainy - processing thoughts, solving problems, and so on - tiny neural connections are formed. The more time the brain thinks on something, the more connections are made. Therefore, the glial cells sweep away those things that have little connection, or haven’t been focused on or thought on enough to form lasting connections.
The ramifications of this are staggering! Think about it… What do you spend time focusing on? Knowing what you know now about glial cells, would you spend the same time thinking the same thoughts, puzzling over the same puzzles, dreaming the same dreams that you have been? What are you connecting with your thoughts? What are you tossing out like garbage? Do you need to reprogram your mental Roomba?
While the information may be startling, it’s also hopeful. We can literally think our way into a better being. Just as nutritious food builds up and nourishes our bodies, our thoughts build up and form our realities and perceptions. From what do you feel disconnected? From whom do you feel disconnected? Be mindful of what you put into your brain - and even more mindful of what you dwell on.
I wish life were as simple as thinking a thought and that thought would manifest. Alas, we also have to do the work to bring it about. However, we can get a head start by investing our minds in the activities and people we value. There’s an old saying: whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you are correct.