Sensory overload – or hyperstimulation – is one of society’s major issues.
It would be too easy to get away with a boomeristic “Young people today are always attached to their smartphones“. Not because it is not true, yet because the issue is more complex.
Our nervous system is very well made. Certain stimuli correspond to precise mechanisms that are functional to our well-being. Quenching our thirst, eating, listening to music, all those behaviors produce a release of dopamine, for instance.
So the way it works is very simple: I give my body certain stimuli and my body gives me back pleasure.
So far there is nothing wrong. On the contrary.
But what happens if we live totally immersed in an ocean of stimuli?
What happens if we train our system to continuously ask for stimuli?
Poor focus, nervousness, restlessness, inability to complete an assigned task, are just some of the problems found in society.
Let’s try to be honest. How many times while we are intent on doing something important (studying, working or in any case doing something to realize our projects), do we find ourselves interrupting our activity? A message, scrolling on social media, looking at our media content, an interruption to go do something else?
Let’s say it in another way: how often do we do anything other than moving towards what we say are our goals?
Obviously such symptoms are also found on a tatami and do not only concern groups of children. Adults are children too. Just a little grown up. And if they grew up without tools to work on such aspects, problems also grew.
If for children we can invoke their objectively reduced attention span given by age and made even lower if overstimulated by images and sounds from a very young age, for adults this mitigating factor is not socially accepted.
Do we have a way out from all this?
Can we detoxify ourselves from lifestyles in which we get used to injecting ourselves -as well as others- ever-increasing doses of stimuli? Because the more we seek stimulation, the more insensitive we will become to the pleasure they give us. We will always search for more and more and more.
So here are five small hints to rediscover the pleasure that the practice of Aikido (or another discipline) can give you.
First: the Dojo is an off grid place
Taking time for yourself is something very positive. Taking time for yourself and sharing it with others in a place where your smartphone is turned off for the duration of your training, even more. It turns out that you can live disconnected for a while from the world and that this is pleasant in the long run.
Second: calm your thoughts
Whether children or adults, practitioners of a discipline initially experience something new: when the body is at rest and one’s mouth is closed, one is surprised by the enormous flow of thoughts that occupies the mind. Gradually, by moving the body and practicing with a good intensity, we discover that during the practice our mind was not “thinking about anything”. Or rather, it reflected the quiet of our system which was busy carrying out techniques and movements. It turns out that receiving less external stimulation and increasing the activity of our system is pleasant. That a quiet mind gives well-being.
Third: a clear perimeter
The rules of a martial discipline help to trace a clear perimeter, which in everyday life is not that defined. From greetings to thanks, etiquette is not a formal legacy but a support for dictating times and ways in relationships and shifting attention from the virtual to the real. Reality always requires clear perimeters in which we can find ourselves. We rediscover that every relationship needs rules and times and the bonds that are created in a group take to be set up time but are strong and therefore very pleasant.
Fourth: a precise goal
A beginner finds it difficult at first to orient himself/herself in a new context. An advanced practitioner at a certain point finds it difficult to find motivation within a context that he/she has known for a while. Same problem, different perspectives. In both cases the study of techniques and their improvement is a very clear target. Achieving a stable technical level is an objective criterion that gives an objective and a clear comparison criterion. Looking back and seeing how far we have come is a source of satisfaction and pleasure.
Fifth: try outside the Dojo
The Dojo is a place of training and evolution. Training for what? The purposes and perspectives that animate the training must then find their application in everyday life. Which is neither less nor more “real” than the one in the Dojo. It’s the same life, with different clothes, with different attack forms and rules. So why not try to experience the usual situations with the same attitude of practicing at the Dojo? It will be nice to see small and big changes.
Educating our system again to seek pleasant but also useful stimuli is the challenge we are called upon to concretely improve our world.
Disclaimer: picture by Harrison Haines from Pexels