A couple of years ago I discovered that there’s a significant relationship between how much I feed my brain and how depressed I get. It’s not given me a total solution to depression, but it has helped. Back in my first marriage I used to get told off a lot for craving novelty and new experiences, and I was put down a lot for not being clever. It took me a while to get past all of that.
Brain feeding is a personal thing. Games don’t really do it for me – once I understand how they work I lose interest in playing them. When how they work is highly visual – as with chess – there’s limits on what my brain can do as well. Many different kinds of intelligence exist, so what’s frustrating for one person can be stimulating for another, and that’s no measure of the intelligence of either person.
I get a lot out of learning new skills. I also benefit from good non-fiction books, documentaries, and deep discussions with people who don’t just argue for the sake of it. I like kicking ideas around in non-competitive ways. I like figuring out how to do things. To my surprise, I benefit a lot from visually rich material. This has become evident in the last year, and informs some of my Netflix watching habits. I don’t think of myself as a visual person, but it turns out that lush and lavish depictions of fantastical settings do really interesting things to my brain.
I’m fascinated by how other people describe their brains – especially what goes on around brain chemistry. I don’t seem to experience reward and pleasure in quite the way other people do. But, really interesting things happen to my brain when I’m excited about ideas and am learning stuff. I don’t function well without a fairly steady supply of things to be excited about.
I’m fortunate in that there are a fair few people who are in my life who share things that feed my brain. Today, via social media I have appreciated art, listened to a lute duet and learned some things about how other people see the world. I’ve got better in recent years at seeing what to dig in with and what to ignore.
It’s taken me a while to let go of the shame-feelings I was encouraged to have. Yes, I do like novelty. Yes, I do get bored doing the same things over and over. I’m no longer prepared to think that makes me a terrible person.