Garbage collection for the brain

Have you ever noticed how when you’re trying to get to sleep your brain just floods with all of the problems of the day, week, month, 8 years ago?

Much like in the programming sense I believe your brain needs to perform garbage collection now and then. Free up a bit of instant-access memory, dump the old stuff to long term storage. I’m starting to think the modern world simply doesn’t give it a chance to do that anymore. Just a constant barrage of TV, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Twitch, Netflix, Reddit, podcasts, magazines, adverts - oh god the adverts, random chuggers on the street, reading this article on some nerd’s website, work, random people yelling at 4am on their way home from a night out.. I’m thinking the reason you lie tossing and turning and thinking of things that happened an age ago is that the only downtime your brain gets in the modern tech-city world is right then and there. The moment you’re lying in the dark trying to fall asleep.

I don’t know if what I’m thinking is actually anything to do with meditation because honestly reading up on it it sounds like meditation is the opposite of what I’m trying to achieve - meditation from what I can tell is all about focus and an empty mind, where what I’m thinking is to just set aside a bit of time to let the mind wander. Think its random thoughts, remember that one time 15 years ago someone said “Say it, don’t spray it” after a particularly rambunctious outburst resulting in flailing spittle. Have a nice cringe. Cringe at a million other memories while you’re at it. Process things. Come up with ideas. Write them down. Cringe about other things. Thoroughly enjoy a happy moment that just jumped in front of your mind’s eye, shed an unexpected tear when you remember someone who’s no longer around.

I dunno, I’m no psychologist or whatever. Do what you want.

Honestly if nothing else I’m sort of worried my attention span is just being dissolved into nothingness. I tried to watch CGP Grey’s video on this subject (highly recommended) and found myself idly browsing away on the other screen not really paying attention. I actually had to turn the monitor off as an active “pay attention, dammit” to watch. That’s nuts! In the morning I’ll wake up and as the phone is the alarm I’ll probably have Reddit loaded up before my brain’s even kicked into gear. At night when I’m supposed to be going to bed I’ll be sitting here mindlessly bouncing between the same 4 websites in case there’s something new to gorge on. When I finally peel away from the computer screen I’ll migrate my refreshing sites over to my phone while I’m lying in bed pretending to myself that I’m winding down for the day. Just one more refresh.

I’ve started putting my watch on the bedside cabinet so that it’s that doing the morning alarm rather than the phone. I’ve extended my “Do not disturb” time in all of my devices to cover at least from the time I (should) finish for the day on the PC till the time I’m at work the next day so hopefully I’m not whisked away by some random notification in the morning. I’ll still have podcasts during the commute, that’s already a distraction zone as I take the bus - so many people waffling about the boring local information when I could listen to the more interesting remote information instead. Probably part of the problem really, but I gotta get my fix somewhere.

While I’m not going to get away from the internet in as much a drastic way as Mr Grey I am going to take moments of just.. silence. Instead of finishing off a podcast episode in the bath just sort of let the mind wander and do its thing. Instead of instantly jumping on my phone in the morning when I wake up, just let the mind wander and do its thing. Instead of.. well, you get the theme I’m going for here right? Garbage collection for the brain. Let it figure out and file those memories from 15 years ago, sort them into the cringe filing cabinet and finally let them go.

Maybe my mind might even stop waffling away as much as I’ve done here when I’m trying to fall asleep.



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