The association always starts the same. Something in your brain starts nagging you; Maybe a video on Facebook where you saw three seconds of pre-roll, maybe a Top 40 song you heard redone by the Chinese National Orchestra on NPR. You get to a computer, search for “Top hits of the early ’00s,” determined to figure out what the original tune was. Once you realize it was, let’s say, Mandy Moore’s “Candy,” you’re forced to confront two things:
- Before she was making everyone cry all the damn time, Mandy Moore was a derivative of the Britney-Christina Pop Complex;
- Someone, somewhere watched this video and thought “I’m going to tying a single strap of color-coordinated fabric around one arm, too. Mandy Moore does it, so now shall I.”
Now, you need to know. Was this bicep fabric wrap thing an actual thing at some time? I mean, it didn’t make the list of 19 Iconic 90s Music Video Outfits, but everything else in that video was VERY of the moment. Was this song even good? I barely remember it, but I DO remember it so was it a hit? Why do I remember it?
This Is A Good Phenomenon, Just Ask Science.
An earlier version of me, one less familiar with the everyday stresses of modern life and our current political climate, might have thought I’d wasted my time. From a moment of casual NPR listening to an hours-long exploration of teen girl cultural milestones in the period 1998 – 2001, I could see how that deep dive could be viewed in the negative. After finishing the film, however, I found my brain pulling me towards a long stalled, totally unrelated project. I sat and wrote – that great productive, writing-without-judgement writing – for more than a two hours. This is because letting your mind wander actually stimulates creativity. While it’s true that mind-wandering and paying attention vie for supremacy at any given time, letting your mind wander (even if it involves YouTube and a rabbit hole of seemingly random associations) stimulates a surprisingly large network in the brain.
Oh, and there’s a big bonus if your end result is choreographing your own synchronized dance or starting ballet at your local community college: Vigorous aerobic exercise is the only known trigger for the generation of new neurons.