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Listening to the Radio and Beneficial Randomness

Saturday March 31, 2018

I find myself listening to broadcast radio a lot more, recently. Among other benefits, the pseudo-random song selection seems to help me get off the same old emotional rail when I would otherwise just reinforce my feelings with my standard playlists or favorite music tracks. (More on the randomness at the end of this post.)

As an example of the radio effect: The other day I was feeling depressed and grumpy. I know I can usually tackle that and resolve the symptoms within a couple hours, max. And it was crucial that I do something soon, because we were supposed to be leaving to go on a trip. Driving and interacting with family members while depressed is like a recipe for poor decision-making. Hoo boy.

I tried everything that seems to work well for me. I tried to nap, but things felt too hurried. I engaged (or “attended to”) my sensations and recognized a dull headache, so I took some ibuprofen. After giving that a chance, I tried some caffeine. After that didn’t seem to work, I went on a short hike. Nothing! I still felt like life was a wasteland. Exhausted, ready to call it a day already.

Feeling about the same after a couple of hours, I found a package sitting on the kitchen counter—a new gadget had arrived! This really engaged my interests (it’s a radio, the little Tivdio V-115 a friend had recommended, and which I recommend at this point as well as a fun gadget with an impressive speaker). Some good brain chemicals started to pour in. But then I turned on the radio and things really changed.

One of the local radio stations was playing one of my favorite songs, but one I wouldn’t have turned on myself. I turned up the volume and jammed for a bit, singing along. It was like someone opened up my brain’s sunroof and I was absolutely cruising. Within 5-10 minutes, I was feeling way, way better, with no depression symptoms at all.

I’m sure the ibuprofen and caffeine helped some, but 2 hours is beyond normal efficacy for those things. In this case the right chemical environment may have been established by those things, but the trigger-puller was definitely the music.

Going back to randomness, I seem to really benefit from randomness as a consulting function in my life. It helps me brainstorm in an objective way, rather than just turning back on my own same-ideas again and again. As a non-radio example, when I visit the library I sometimes use the millisecond reading on my stopwatch to dictate which section of the library to browse. If it reads 18ms, I’m going to the 180s. If it reads 64, I’m going to the 640s. Last time I did this I went home with 3 books that were absolutely fascinating, yet which I never would have thought to look for.

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