By LAUREL BOYD
“…Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things, (Philippians 4:8).
Ah, the lazy days of summer. July is the perfect month—there are still picnics and BBQs to attend, vacations to take, and pools to swim in.
In all the laziness of summer (and any other time as well), it is important to give your brain some lazy or downtime too. Does this seem contrary to what you’ve been taught? There is a huge market today for games to help sharpen our brains, and even keep Alzheimer’s away—and they are great, so let me explain. Our brains are our information processors. As we go about our day we have various experiences—some good, some bad, and most neutral. Sometimes with either good or bad ones, we have a need to give words to these experiences, which in turn integrates them through the brain and helps your brain with the processing of that experience. This is a concept you probably have already realized. When something good happens to you, you have a desire to share that—so you call a friend, or text a family member, or post it on Facebook. The opposite is true as well. When we have a bad experience we have a need to be understood and validated in that. This is one of our most basic needs in life and one distinction that make us human.
Sometimes in this day and age of continual media, we shut out the opportunity for our minds to actually process the various experiences we have had. Think about it. Anytime you are looking at a screen of any kind—computer, iPad, phone, DS, Wii, TV, the list really is endless—whatever is on the screen is dictating what you will think about. This is fine, good, and very often necessary. But can we get to the point where we are actually not leaving our brain with enough time to process?
This question came to me a few months ago when I jumped in the car to drive my 8-year-old son to basketball practice. He flopped in the seat and turned on his DS to keep him entertained for the 15-minute drive. I asked him to shut it off and just enjoy looking out the window—knowing that because his brain would not being specifically focused on something, it would process his day for him and kind of highlight to him what needed put to words. Sure enough, after approximately three minutes of silence I heard, “Mom, do you think I’m too short because someone at school today said…” Nothing earth shattering, but his mind was processing his day and that is what came up as needing to be put in words. That conversation would not have happened if he were playing his DS on the way to basketball practice.
This is true for anyone, not just kids. We need lazy time where our brains are not being told what to think about, but are allowed to just process. Amazingly, God made our brains with this built in system that it knows what still needs processed and will go there if given the chance.
I am well aware that often people use other things on purpose to dictate what they think about so their mind does NOT have to process certain things. Some experiences are extremely painful and uncomfortable and can even flood us emotionally. Unfortunately, since our brains were built to process, the vice needed to distract our minds over time will have to get stronger and stronger. Sometimes people use alcohol, drugs, or a number of unhealthy coping mechanisms to distract them from the thoughts in their minds. If that is the case, it can be very helpful to talk to a pastor or professional counselor trained in helping you process through issues in a safe environment.
Laurel Boyd, L.M.F.T.A., is a therapist at Summit Counseling of First Baptist Church Jackson. She specializes in couples, families, teens, and drug and alcohol issues. To contact her, please call 601.949.1949 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.