I’m continuing my reading of the Sapolsky book and just went through a section which makes clear how energy intensive thinking is for the brain. When you’re at your sharpest — mildly stressed but focused — blood is trucking oxygen into your noodle. It’s because you need this oxygen, you’re burning the stuff up. This explains why after a day of intensive learning or studying you feel physically tired. Your brain has been using all your energy.
Now, to jump topics: a few minutes ago, I was doing some stretching. Stretching is, of course, well prescribed for any physical activity, as well as also recommended in dealing with repetitive strain issues. Of course, I stretched heavily for maybe the first three or four years of my repetitive strain, and, frankly, best as I can tell, it did absolutely nothing. This isn’t quite a surprise. There are some who argue that at least warm up stretching (which is essentially what repetitive strain stretching is) really has little value. Evolution did not design creatures who needed to bend down and do a hamstring stretch before they ran away from an approaching tiger. Our muscles should be able to leap into action on command (within reason.) (Cool down stretching is, I believe, still recommended.)
Having said that, there’s no denying there’s a certain pleasure in stretching. You get to really feel your body. I’m considering this possibility: by stretching, you place your focus on your muscles and away from your “thoughts.” As a result, your brain is burning less fuel (because you’re not really thinking in that focused manner.) Additionally, thoughts are often really worries or anxieties but you can’t really worry when stretching (because you’re focused on the stretch.) Stretching is kind of a “break” for the mind. So my thinking here is that the benefits of stretching are not those that are conventionally understood — making the muscles more malleable or whatever — but are benefits appreciated by your brain. A chance to shut down and chill for a while.