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Thinking better while moving

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volco
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I've found myself in this situation since i was very little: I think very vividly while moving. As a kid I used to paddle a tennis ball against the wall almoast compulsively while thinking of stories, but when I got to the computer ore the blank paper, the whole world I'd be creating disappeared.

I often find myself pacing a room, and always when I talk business, I do it walking, pacing around. If I'm sat I have to have a pen and draw something. For a while it was a cigarrette.

Now I find myself pacing around the room when needed to reply an important mail, and I just wish I could retain the the structure of ideas long enough to write them down.

I also found it might run in the family, my uncle can only speak on the phone while walking i.e., he's a businessman and all he does is talk on the phone.

I understand there're many people who have this particularity. Do you folks identify with it? perhaps a voice recorder could help?

The question is how to retain the concepts I integrate while physically moving.

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I would say try to associate what you are thinking about with where you are walking at the present moment in a vivid way. So if you are thinking at a certain time that you have to meet person X for business at 3 o'clock you could imagine that person doing jumping-jacks or something while wearing a big Flavor Flav style clock set to 3 o'clock at the exact point where you are in your "walk". Later on when you want to remember what you were thinking at that particular point in time all you have to do is mentally retrace your physical steps and assuming that you made the memory crazy (memorable) enough you should have no problem remembering it.

Yeah, it sounds crazy, but it works. This sort of mental "mapping" is what those that compete in international memory contests use, because it utilizes things such as sight and spatial mapping that are minds are good at to increase the efficientcy of things that they are not that good at such as rote memory.

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I've found myself in this situation since i was very little: I think very vividly while moving.

If you are a male this would fit with the research done by Michael Gurian who claims that there are differences in brain activity between the genders depending on the level of physical activity. He noticed that boys on average are less mentally alert in a usual classroom setting - when sitting in one place for hours trying to listen and much more mentally active when allowed to move around the classroom - when physically engaged in hands on activities. He says that boys do better when they move, when they do things.

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I feel the same way. My mind races when I'm walking around or doing other movements, but it kinda dies when I'm sitting. Whenever I want to think, I pace back and forth in my room and listen to my iPod. (I also find it easier to think when there is some kind of noise).

I don't know what to tell you except maybe bring a voice recorder with you and while your walking or doing other things, you can record your thoughts.

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I do this a lot myself, but, taking my own advice that will follow, I'll probably train myself to think while sitting down as my legs can't stay as active as my brain can (I get exhausted quite often).

My advice is simple: Form new habits. If you want to be able to think straight while sitting down, then sit down and will yourself to do it. Practice practice practice. At first it will be frustratingly hard, as you will find yourself either unable find the thoughts or would prefer to daydream. Sooner or later, in a time span as short as one or two weeks, you'll find yourself amazed that you struggled in the first place. However since you are a businessman I suggest you set some time aside to do this rather than trying to integrate it into your daily habits immediately, so that it doesn't affect the quality of your work.

I got similar results during my personal studies. At first I just couldn't keep my eyes and mind on my grammar book; I wanted to daydream as I always have since childhood: All day. But the simple act of just struggling to concentrate improved my concentration. Within a week I found my desires have changed; I found it more preferable to think than to daydream. In fact, it felt like I actually had to will myself to daydream as the urge to had died down so much. Even then any fantastic daydream I could conjure bored me.

Oh, and I almost forgot: Remember that the pain you will encounter in the process is necessary and given. The simple act of remembering that will help to ward off any feelings of despair or giving up.

Habits are ultimately the key to most, if not all, self-improvement ventures.

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well, I'm glad I've found it's not such an abnormal behaviour.

Sophia, I'll look into Gurian's research.

Ben, I think you nailed it by differentiating between daydreaming and thinking - but also on one's own control over one's own habits.

Meanwhile I'm not using a voice recorder but I'm carrrying a paper notepad all the time and is proving useful!

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This reminds me of Scrooge McDuck and his "worry room" which was later replaced with his "Pacing Wheel" in Duck Tales.

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The reason I bring this up is because I am the exact same way - I constantly walk around my house when I need to think (which is pretty much always). I hate sitting still. Even when I am "chatting" on the computer, I am rarely sitting still in my chair - I am hovering around the room constantly going in and out and I pace around the house. And every once in a while, I wish I had a "pacing wheel" like Scrooge McDuck had :)

Edited by KevinDW78
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When I'm in a car, everyone is quiet, music is playing, and speed is constant, I can develop huge creative fantasy worlds with interesting and unique characters, all of which die when I sit in front of a computer with Word open. When I am on the phone with someone and I wish to really engage in the conversation, I have to walk around my house. The only way I can really get to writing is when I have visual activity i.e.: a roleplaying game on the computer, when I am physically with people listening to me, or when I am very interested in a topic.

The only other time I get a good imagination going is when I am bored and waiting somewhere, like a bus stop. Lack of physical or visual activity, but also a lack of access to such, brings the need for anti-boredom techniques and thus the use of them.

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I know I provided an answer on this subject earlier, but this is more on a personal note after reading how this thread is evolving. I always have to be doing something myself and it has noticeable physical manefestations which people mistake for nervousness sometimes. If I am sitting "still" my leg starts bouncing or my fingers start tapping or I start playing with whatever happens to be lying in front of me. I've heard many comments such as why are you so nervous which has always confused me, because I'm not-- I just always want to get going or doing something. For some reason most people just don't understand this. But it is what is I guess.

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I also tend to think well having a relaxing coffee, smoking a pipe, or anything which to me places me in a calm aesthetic. I find myself happily sitting outside a coffee shop having a smoke and a latte thinking 'more than half of America doesn't know how to relax like this.'

That aside, I also have the restless legs problem, though not actual RLS, I tend to keep in motion. Many people think I'm nervous or impatient, but it's not the case at all. I think well while moving my legs or tapping my fingers in a musical beat.

Still with all of this, and barring the walking on a treadmill with a notebook technique (no room :)) I can't successfully write a paragraph of one of the many stories I wish to publish.

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Gurian does have a lot to contribute on this point in his research regarding how boys' brains differ from girls and how they have different learning needs than girls. As a former teacher, I can vouch to this, though there were always exceptions to this rule on both sides of the gender line. There's also a movement out there called Brain Gym that a lot of teachers, especially of young children, swear by. I never used the program in its entirity, but the basic idea was that certain movements produced higher levels of calm and mental focus. It made one more ready to learn. And I can attest to that, based on my personal tendencies. I find that I most definitely think better when I am moving. my greatest moments of clairvoyance of late have come when I am running hard on the treadmill. It's always struck me as somewhat bizarre that in those moments where you are sweating to death and gasping for breath and thinking "I should stop" or "how much further can I go" that one can also simultaneously be so purely focused on something much more abstract. (Like the notion of liberty and John Adams' political writings; for some reason I've been thinking a lot about those lately when I'm at the gym).

But has anyone else out there seen this new "treadmill desk" movement out there? There has been for many years, I guess, a subcult of people who have customized some sort of desk surface to attach to their treadmill. People started doing it to lose weight; to avoid having to sit still for so many hours while getting work done. Now there are companies who have actually started manufacturing these desks, to the tune of about $4k each. Not too long ago, on 20/20 or Dateline, I saw a piece about a company in New York that decided to install four of these desks as part of a study. Lots of employees volunteered, again, solely because they wanted to lose weight. Well, not only did they lose weight pretty easily but their productivity increased enormously. These desks, it is worth mentioning, don't go more than two miles an hour, so they are not sprinting by any means. The company was so pleased, they put these desks in their conference room and everything. Everyone is getting fitter and productivity is increasing. The news piece seemed to suggest that the increase in improvement was coming from the employees being healthier; healthier employee = more focus, or something along those lines. I would argue, however, that it was the movement itself that actually contributed to the greater part of the improvements in productivity because they were thinking better and their brain was being stimulated in all sorts of good ways. I was dissapointed that the news piece left that more or less undiscussed. I tried running this idea past my boss, and sad to say, he turned my request for a treadmill desk down. IRA rollovers would be so much easier to sort through if I myself was rolling... but the boss wouldn't bite.

studies abound out there, however, that suggest movement stimulates the brain so that it not only makes learning easier, but it makes the knowledge more permanent. The more parts of the brain that are firing at once, the more likely things/knowledge is to stick. As a gymnast I even found the reverse to be true; that thinking could help me move. When one was doing a difficult move,you had that focused thought that you relied on to get you through it. I always thought of a waterfall: its sound, its smell, its force, etc. I don't know why that image worked, but it did. I always concentrated on the thought of a waterfall if I ever had to do something physically challenging, and I still find myself resurrecting that old mental trick from time to time these days. But never when I am wearing myself down on the treadmill; for some reason running makes me think of political theory. Maybe I'm trying to run away from the political mess this country is in <_<:-)

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  • 2 weeks later...
But has anyone else out there seen this new "treadmill desk" movement out there?

No, I haven't until you mentioned it, but I just read about something that Victor Hugo did while writing:

Quote is from Victor Hugo: A Tumultuous Life written by Samuel Edwards:

Victor Hugo's desk was a slab of plain, polished wood which he hooked to a wall, and he stood in front of it, writing. "When an author sits at his work," he said at one of the literary gatherings, "the blood sinks to his arse when it should remain in his head, and there are too many who write with there arses instead of their minds."

I've found myself in this situation since i was very little: I think very vividly while moving. [...] Do you folks identify with it? perhaps a voice recorder could help?

I carry around a digital voice recorder with me while working, since if I get anywhere near paper, I can hardly refrain or restrain myself from writing on it. I used to carry sheets of notebook paper that I would hand cut into fourths and staple together - mini makeshift notebooks - that I would excersise my free writes on, but it was interferring with my work too much, so the voice recorder was the best investment that I had made, especially when I had a thought while driving to work or whatnot, and instead of writing while at a light, or even while driving, I just voice recorded it. When I have time I play them all back and make notations on what I said, organizing them into what goes into which book I was/or am working on at the time.

I had a near breakdown a few months back in April and May, where I HAD to write and not do anything else but. I took off nearly a half a month of work at the hospital to perform my writual. I used up 128 hours of PTO time, and spent nearly every minute of those hours writing. During those writing sessions I would pace my apartment, thinking about scenes, and the goal that I wanted to achieve with this particular novel. I couldn't sit still until I had to type it out onto my laptop. Other works that I have written I never paced at all, but then again I was in a library at the time...

Edited by intellectualammo
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I saw a documentary about the human brain recently, where they claimed that going out for a walk, in order to think, is a myth, and is actually counterproductive. But if i remember correctly, it was due to the fact, that your brain had to focus on a lot of other moving objects(other people, cars, dogs, obstacles in the road) and that hampered your ability to think...... So i dont think it applies for the "worry room"....

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I saw a documentary about the human brain recently, where they claimed that going out for a walk, in order to think, is a myth, and is actually counterproductive. But if i remember correctly, it was due to the fact, that your brain had to focus on a lot of other moving objects(other people, cars, dogs, obstacles in the road) and that hampered your ability to think...... So i dont think it applies for the "worry room"....

Could you provide a more specific reference for the documentary? I would be curious to see it, as I find this assertion ridiculous because these processes are handled by different parts of the brain. If moving required us to stop all thinking, I think that would make us worms, or something along those lines. Okay, maybe that's a little overdramatic, but we can process many kinds of stimuli at the same time; that's what makes the human brain so great. The producers of this documentary sound like their trying to degrade the brain's great capacity. But I would like to see the documentary because maybe they were more or less trying to say there's certain kinds of movement that aren't conducive to good thinking. Example: riding your bike through the busy streets of NY is probably not the best time to be thinking deep thoughts because you should be focused on life-threatening sensory input. Most of the movement we all seem to be referring to is movement that is already occuring within safe boundaries. How many threats can one face when one is on a treadmill, for instance. A periodic glance at the speed and incline suffices to keep one's physical efforts on pace, and is not enough to impair deep thinking. If your movement involves a setting where you might be having to dodge other objects, then choose a different venue to think in. :P

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Could you provide a more specific reference for the documentary? I would be curious to see it, as I find this assertion ridiculous because these processes are handled by different parts of the brain. If moving required us to stop all thinking, I think that would make us worms, or something along those lines. Okay, maybe that's a little overdramatic, but we can process many kinds of stimuli at the same time; that's what makes the human brain so great. The producers of this documentary sound like their trying to degrade the brain's great capacity. But I would like to see the documentary because maybe they were more or less trying to say there's certain kinds of movement that aren't conducive to good thinking. Example: riding your bike through the busy streets of NY is probably not the best time to be thinking deep thoughts because you should be focused on life-threatening sensory input. Most of the movement we all seem to be referring to is movement that is already occuring within safe boundaries. How many threats can one face when one is on a treadmill, for instance. A periodic glance at the speed and incline suffices to keep one's physical efforts on pace, and is not enough to impair deep thinking. If your movement involves a setting where you might be having to dodge other objects, then choose a different venue to think in. :D

It was the BBC documentary series "Brain Story", but i cant remember which part it was. All 6 parts can be viewed at Google Videos, but im not sure about the copyright stuff.........

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