Monday, July 5, 2010

Daily Practice 186/365

Title: "She sat thinking beside the stream of fuschia blossoms"
(click image to view larger)
I've become more and more interested in learning about the functioning of the brain, because I think that the more I understand how things work, the more I can use that knowledge to my advantage in changing my way of living. I'm at the moment reading a book titled "The End of Overeating" by David Kessler. Kessler has put together a great deal of scientific insight into how the brain functions as it applies to our relationship with food. I'm not specifically going to write about that here, since while it is important it doesn't apply to the daily practice of photography. But there is a passage where Kessler mentions that at first we undertake some activity primarily because we expect to enjoy it and there is feedback in the brain that amounts to a reward system. The example he uses is coming home and having some ice cream. But he cautions that after a number of days of continuing that behaviour, there is a switch in the brain from a reward-induced activity to a habit. In this case the action becomes regular and automatic but not because one is necessarily looking forward to having ice cream - it is just done out of habit. For those concerned about their weight, this is an important insight because once the switch takes place, it becomes much more difficult to change the behaviour.

In terms of something like daily practice, there are two things about Kessler's example that come to mind. The first is good news - after a relatively short period of time, the habit of doing daily practice becomes established in a way that makes it difficult to abandon. The second thing I noticed is this switch from doing something out of pleasure to doing something as an ingrained habit. I suspect for creative activities like the daily practice, it is not necessary that there is a complete loss of pleasure when it becomes an activity of habit. But I do wonder if this switch explains why we sometimes go through a creative slump - we have perhaps at that point lost the pleasure aspect and have only the habit. At this point it becomes necessary to revitalize our interest and pleasure, but keep the habit.

No comments: