Flexibility is a lot like strength in this regard. It’s a useful ability, but you also need to know how to use it. If you run up to catch a ball, your muscles are elastic. But if you try to stretch them around the ball, they get pulled apart, not closer together. Giving a massage with your muscles can get your relax as long as you have a great massage Northern Beaches.
The best thing about flexibility is that you can make your muscles more flexible without doing anything; just don’t get in their way. Muscles never get stiffer on their own; they get stiffer because something is pulling on them. If you keep them stretched out and relaxed all the time, they will be maximally supple and ready for whatever you want to do next.
Just as your muscles get better when you push them to their limits, your brain gets stronger when it is forced to adapt. You have to challenge yourself, stretch beyond what is comfortable. Forcing yourself into unfamiliar territory is uncomfortable in the short term, but it makes you stronger in the long term.
And maybe you don’t have to go far. Maybe the benefits of mental flexibility are not reserved for people who are constantly being forced to do things they have never done before. Maybe being pushed past your normal limits is not even necessary.
Flexibility is important. If you want to keep your muscles strong as you get older, you have to stretch. The same is true of your brain. You have to exercise it or it will become weak and flabby.
This is a much more difficult lesson for an intellectual than a physical exercise. An intellectual exercise is something you do for a grade, because the teacher said so, or because someone told you it would be good for you. When you are young, that’s how it always is: reading books because someone told you to, writing papers to please the teacher. As we get older, there are fewer people with the authority to tell us what to do. But this makes no difference unless we accept that authority ourselves. In order to challenge your brain – and make it stronger – it has to be something you choose to do yourself.
The most obvious way to do this is by reading widely across a range of subjects – what the critic Harold Bloom calls “the anxiety of influence.” Take a subject that matters a lot to you – say, physics – and then read widely on related topics until you’ve seen all sides of the story on that subject.
The most important feature of muscles is their flexibility. They can’t push or pull; they can only tug. And they can’t tug very hard; they are by nature weak. But if you attach a bunch of muscles to a skeleton made of levers, you end up with an arm that can do rather remarkable things.
It’s the same with brains. Brains are not powerful; they are weak. You can’t concentrate all your attention on more than one thing at once, and even if you could, you couldn’t do much about it. But if you link brains together into societies, something amazing happens: collective intelligence emerges.
Muscles are machines for converting food into motion. Your muscles are therefore a very long way from being perfect. They have been trimmed, shaped, and molded by natural selection to do a very specific job: to help you survive in the particular environment in which your ancestors evolved. The muscles of a fish aren’t much use to a human being.
By the same token, the brain you have is not perfectly designed for the world you live in now. It is a product of natural selection working at a time when you lived in small hunter-gatherer groups — a world very different from this one.
Your ancestors survived by cooperating with each other and punishing defectors. The world they lived in rewarded certain behaviors and punished others. Your moral intuitions reflect those conditions. But those conditions are gone now, or at least they are no longer as important as they used to be. We now live in a world where it pays to be good but also to be flexible: able to see what is fair and what isn’t, and able to change your behavior accordingly. Some information that you read about muscle relaxation you need to pay attention to it.