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How to Find Joy in 10 Seconds!

Make your world more exciting instantly...

R. Hedaya
Source: R. Hedaya

My wife and I were flying back to Washington D.C., from Denver just the other day.

As an aside she said to me, “Aren't these socks great!”

I said, “They are cute,” but I was really thinking: No not really. They are just a little annoying and strange. I don't really know what to make of them, and I don't understand the excitement you are having. I cannot relate at all to this.

Then I said, “I bet if my salience network were more like yours, I would think they are great.”

So, I took a closer look, and pow! I saw the socks in a whole new way. She literally had a garden on her feet. The socks were an experience, and an exciting one at that. I actually felt a very joyful experience at seeing this fun, vibrant, colorful garden right in front of me. I asked my wife whether that was what she was experiencing, and she said, “Yes, with everything around me.” Wow. How rich and lovely and alive is her world?

The "salience network" is a network of brain structures; the anterior insula and dorsal anterior cingulate cortex are two brain regions that are often active together as part of the brain’s salience network. It functions to tell us what is important in our inner and outer lives. When it is turned down, the world fades into a two-dimensional experience. When it is turned up, the object of your attention comes into high relief, evoking a living, vibrant experience. People seek such experiences using meditation, or mind-altering drugs, or have them in new environments. But I have to say now that I have learned that this experience is available to us anytime, anywhere. (I am even choosing to have another salient experience right now, as I look at the keys on the keyboard. I never realized that they are covered with a fine textured cloth for better traction and finger feel, and that they are wearing around the edges.)

All it took was looking closely at the socks, with focus, for 10 seconds, with the intent of really looking at them consciously. Comparing the two states of mind, I see clearly that I was initially registering the socks as almost two-dimensional, flat. But when I looked closely at them, they became alive, full of energy and fun.

My wife goes through life with her salience network turned up around art, space (i.e., feng shui, the effect of the built environment on psychological states), and religious studies. Mine is turned up in the areas of medicine, science, metaphysics, music, and children.

But this little episode showed me how easily we can turn up our salience network. All we have to do is focus on something closely for 10 seconds, and we can go into a new, exciting world, a quick vacation from our normal reality. Alice In Wonderland? Try it right now.