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Access Your Aliveness: Pleasant Contrast

This lesson is a part of an audio course Hack Your Brain, Access Your Aliveness by Dave Wolovsky

Before we start, let's pause again, take 1 deep breath, and sigh it out with an audible sound.

Then prime your attention by acknowledging what you're currently doing.

In the previous lesson, we learned that the brain most clearly senses contrast and change.

In this lesson, we're going to see how internet media use this principle to hack our brains and control our life energy.

As more than 50% of the neurons in our cerebral cortex are devoted to processing visual information, visual signals are particularly influential for our emotions, thoughts, and understanding of the world. Our attention mostly follows our eyes.

Highly visual social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok give us a thousand moments of pleasant contrast with all the colors, cute animal armies, and people doing backflips off of buildings.

A little bit of this can be enlivening. It can change our mood somewhat, but there are quickly diminishing returns on our attentional investment.

We can get so much continuous visual pleasant contrast, the ability to start infinite videos with a flick of the thumb, that every other activity becomes less interesting and harder to start.

Eventually, even if our brain keeps being stimulated with new content, there are no more moments of Aliveness. Each video may have the contrast with the other videos, but the activity as a whole is actually very repetitive.

We're looking at one screen, doing the same thumb movement over and over, and experiencing similar emotional and motivational mental states. Search for the next video. Tap the next video. Watch the next video. Search for the next video. Tap the next video. Watch the next video.

Plus, as the AI algorithms learn what we like, the videos delivered to us become more and more similar to each other, giving us even less contrast.

It turns into a situation with us giving all of our attention but getting no extra life energy in return for it.

It makes us less motivated, and less equipped to actually improve our lives, and improving our lives is how we get the biggest life energy boost in exchange for our attention.

Real sustained pleasant contrast requires an actual variety of sensory and emotional experiences.

This brings us to one of our fundamental Aliveness strategies. Take the idea of thumb scrolling and apply it to your personal growth.

Put attention into improving all the areas of your life, just a tiny bit at a time, so your brain feels maximal real pleasant contrast per unit of effort.

Don't over-focus on improving any one area of life for too long in one sitting because your brain will notice the little bit of improvement in the beginning much more than similar subsequent improvement.

If we can break up our self-growth into short activities, separated by other, different types of self-growth activities, we're hacking our own brain for our own benefit.

Do some exercise, then work on your novel, then call a good friend, then eat some good food, then go back to your novel. Keep changing up your positive actions so that the brain maximally notices each one.

This healthy brain hack is a fast, easy way to build life energy.

You can create your own pleasant contrast whenever you want, and the more you do, the better you get at it.

Even simply bringing your attention from something neutral to something pleasant can sometimes be enough to find a moment of aliveness.

In the next lesson, we'll take a little excursion into the depths of the present moment and have an encounter with pure and natural, pleasant contrast.

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Written by

Dave Wolovsky