Even the hardened cynics amongst us seem to be momentarily captivated by the lock screen image that pops up on their PC’s at log in time. It’s like in the deluge of our busy minds, its has us taking pause and breathing into that beautiful image, almost like we went there and nourished our very souls, even if just for a moment.
So let’s unpack that for a moment shall we – scientifically. Aside from being a pleasant moment. What just actually happened and why does it matter?
#1 – You just activated your soothing system, in other words your parasympathetic nervous system. Our nervous system is always running in the parasympathetic (soothing) or the sympathetic (fight or flight) zones if you like, and each of them releases hormones based on soothing or adrenalin. With our constant “on” world that we live in these days, we are mostly running on at least low-grade adrenalin mode. This is not healthy for us in several ways and especially our long-term health. By giving ourselves this moment of presence and awe, it resets our nervous systems back from the sympathetic into the parasympathetic mode. If we use these little seemingly nondescript moments of bliss a number of times a day, we start to really start to counteract the stress in our bodies, rushing our system with the soothing hormones to wash away the surplus cortisol. Think of it like getting up from your chair and moving or stretching every hour – but for our internal systems health.
#2 – so what is the awe thing all about. Experiencing awe reconfigures our sense of time and immerses us in the present moment. The next time you logon and land (almost always unexpectedly because our minds are elsewhere) upon that likely awe-inspiring Windows lock screen picture, really notice what just happened in your body. You likely interrupted self-thoughts (or autopilot mode so your mind either somewhere in the past or the future), to being totally present with the beauty of that image, even if fleeting.
#3 – Neural pathways – So important!! Our brains are largely made of plasticine (not plastic that can only be moulded once – but plasticine that changes shape every time you touch it). We have billions of synapses talking to each other all the time, our brain changes and moulds in some tiny way with every experience we have, every thought we have etc. By moving into this felt sense for a moment and being with this beauty that the awe brings us – every time we do this we cultivate or shape our brain to move toward more positive perceptions of the world in our experience.
So in a world where so much technology does harm our brains, thank you Microsoft for bringing a moment of peace to our own systems before the likely next digital deluge we are about to encounter…