Humans are designed to be ‘doing’ being able to participate in meaningful and purposeful activities is healing. Taking part in our occupations can change our consciousness.
Thinking about ourselves is now thought of as the brains default mode network. When we are not doing something we think about ourselves and generate thoughts about our problems. If you are going through a difficult diagnosis or coping with a loss these thought processes will not be helpful, but it is the minds default. This self awareness and thought generation switches off when we move our attention to perform a task.
Thinking about ourselves can be stressful, we want to be liked and successful, but often we find ourselves socially embarrassed, socially excluded or isolated and question if we are good enough. All of these thoughts can be potent stressors. We can forget about our worries and stresses for a while when we are ‘doing’ therefore our occupations can reduce stress by diverting our thoughts from ourselves.
When we become absorbed in an activity we are doing we are in flow (Csikszentmihalyi 1993). Flow is a psychological state that happens when we are immersed in what we are doing and forget everything else around us and things that were previously on our minds.
Learning can induce plasticity (the ability of the brain to change) in the adult human brain. There is fMRI evidence that the brain changes in structure and function when we learn new activities (Skaggs 2014).
The brain rewards us when we achieve a task by releasing serotonin and dopamine the endorphins that make us feel good.