Have a think about your journey to school/work/shops today. How much of that journey do you remember? Do you remember scanning your Oyster card, who you passed by, turning left or right down a road? These thoughts struck me recently when I went around a roundabout and on exiting I couldn’t remember looking to my right to check for on-coming traffic. Then I tried to remember the entire journey and I couldn’t really remember much of it at all!
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) carried out an experiment by placing electronic wires in the brain of rats. They let them loose in a simple maze which had chocolate at the end as their reward. They found that on the first few runs their brains were a hive of activity – sniffing, scratching and experimenting with different routes. Over a week, the rats became efficient and found the chocolate with ease and directly. The electronic sensors showed that towards the end of the week they used their brains less – meaning they didn’t need to use them as much to get to the same goal. Source: Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit. This must be what’s happening in the mundane routines of our lives.
I began thinking about going a different way to work. It would be less efficient but it would get my mind going. On my way home from work the other day, I was parked on the M25 is standstill traffic. The radio suggested hours of delays, so I decided to take the next exit and try to work my way home on the smaller roads. I had no sat nav although I do think I have a good sense of direction, so I gave it a go.
My initial feelings were those of stress. I didn’t know where the roads were going and they were bending, meaning my mental map of where I was could be skewed. I was mentally trying to figure out place names and where they sat in the geography of north west London – thinking if I went through x, that would be a stepping stone to y. The London Underground map was a visual in my head and I could see the lines snaking towards home.
When place names became more familiar (like destinations on the front of buses) I became more relaxed. That is until signs started to disappear, then panic set in! Eventually I made it, and it was an exhilarating experience. I have since walked #1 son to school various different ways – seeing different parts of the neighbourhood, engaging their curiosity and having fun not knowing what’s around the corner.
This great blog sums it up perfectly:
As soon as you vary the journey a little, you notice new things, you appreciate it differently, and you stop treating the commute as a necessary annoyance. Upon reaching your destination, you’re more likely to feel positive, alert, and ready to deal with whatever comes your way.
Here are some suggestions from the same blog – you don’t need to limit this to the daily commute!
- Ride a bike instead of taking the bus. Changing mode of transport is just as effective;
- Take the same route as usual, but look up instead of down at the pavement. Challenge yourself to spot things you hadn’t noticed before;
- Make a point of studying a particular aspect of the route, like the distinguishing features on the front doors you pass, for instance;
- Find three or four ways to get from A to B and never take the same route two days in a row;
- Switch off your iPod. Listen to the world as you walk;
- Switch on your iPod. Let the journey and the music be one. Listen to different types of music each day and see how it changes the way you feel;
- Go further…walk the long way around to get somewhere. Leave more time and enjoy a leisurely walk off the beaten track. Who cares if you start off by walking away from your destination? You’ll get there in the end!
Go on, try it yourself! Post your photos and comments to the Wobble a Jelly Facebook page.
Remember, you can tweet me suggestions @jelly_wobbler