The Mind: Explained
This organ makes us who we are, but how does it actually work? (Image via Unsplash)

Get to Know Your Brain in 20 Minutes by Watching Netflix’s ‘The Mind: Explained’

Ever wonder what makes that grey matter in your head tick? This Netflix series delves deep into the inner workings to explain human behavior.

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The Mind: Explained

Ever wonder what makes that grey matter in your head tick? This Netflix series delves deep into the inner workings to explain human behavior.

How often do you wonder about what makes us different? Why don’t we all act the same and are there reasons we’re each unique? Usually, answering these questions takes a significant amount of reading that goes beyond scratching the surface. Even though it would take less effort than before thanks to the internet, it still involves putting in the time to read through different articles on how we become who we are. But maybe that can change with shows like “The Mind: Explained.”

Long story short, if you’re not as interested in psychology, the search for these answers might not seem like the most entertaining pastime. That lack of interest leads to the unfortunate truth that many won’t have their curiosity sparked enough to learn more about potentially game changing topics. On a personal level, or any other level, these topics influence a person’s view of themselves and cause them to do an entire 180 in life.

Now, imagine if you could get to know your brain by watching brief 20 minute episodes? As in, none of them are longer than the 30-minute TV shows we grew up watching once-upon-a-time on regular cable TV (minus the commercials and advertisements).

Netflix’s “The Mind: Explained” did exactly that. A continuation of Vox’s “Explained” series, this miniseries linked to the original concept is packaged and produced in a way that’s brief but still gives in-depth knowledge on the human mind. The network producers and writers managed to give a diverse set of answers to the many questions we have about the most essential organ of our body: the brain.

The brain forms and shapes everything we are. The large and wrinkled block of grey matter, that far too often seems more foreign than it should, is looked at closely in this Emma Stone-narrated series.

The questions this series answers bring viewers one step closer to understanding their relationship with their own minds. Ranging from simple inquiries like, Why can’t I remember what I did yesterday? to more complicated questions like, Why does my brain constantly rewrite past experiences and fill in the blanks in ways that aren’t always true? Why is anxiety disorder the most common mental disorder? Do our dreams actually serve a purpose, or are they just strange visions that come to us? How do our brains even formulate dreams in the first place?

For the sake of not sounding cliché, it’s not necessary to claim this series will change your entire life. But the series could be life changing and is quite impactful. The fear of facing ourselves can often stand as an obstacle to fostering more self-awareness. We’re most nervous about discovering facts that lead us to actually feeling like we have control over our lives.

These five episodes each go in-depth and explain topics that are either involved in today’s popular conversations or are more absent from mainstream discussion.

Memory

Did you know that about 50% of your memory is more than likely made up? That’s because around 50% of the details we believe are hard coded into our minds actually change each year. Memory competitions, and how your emotions affect your episodic memory, are only a couple of topics discussed in this episode. As the first episode aired in the series, it highlights the complexity behind our memories. Even if you think you’re completely right about something in the past, there’s a chance your mind is acting deceitfully.

They say that story, place and emotion are the concoction helping us remember things more accurately. But what if your emotions get in the way? The most interesting part of the program: an explanation behind how memories of the past and our futures are linked.

Dreams

While we’re resting, our brains are usually up to something. Interested in remembering what exactly was fluttering through your mind while remaining inactive for those suggested eight hours? Drinking large glasses of water before going to bed was one tip given by a featured neuroscientist.

If you’re trying to dream vividly, you might want to look into the art of lucid dreaming. According to one interviewee, it’s a skill anyone can develop. Like practicing on a basketball court until you’re good at dribbling, you’re capable of training your mind to see actual images from throughout the day in your brain’s nightly visions. If you’re able to vividly recall your dreams and sketch them out in a notebook, then you’re on your way. You might even be able to interpret them better.

Anxiety

Disclaimer: This episode might get a little extreme for some people. The episode shows this preemptive warning within the first minute. Keeping this as objective as possible, the episode highlights the commonality of different forms of anxiety. Whether it’s panic attacks, a general sense of fear or paranoia or defining general anxiety disorder (GAD), the different types are examined.

Most importantly, the sickness isn’t stigmatized. It’s normalized, but not in a way that can cause someone to feel insensitive toward another’s mental condition. The topic is framed to show we should come forward to speak about something that affects a significant amount of the human population.

Long story short, we all have anxiety to different extents. Some people can just develop more triggers than others at certain points in their lives. The “why’s” are explained through people who come forward to describe their stories, guest psychologists and neuroscientists.

Mindfulness

Afraid of aging? Learn more about the secrets of a young Buddhist monk turned mindfulness meditation prodigy, who at 41 years old had the brain resembling that of a 33-year-old. It starts by paying attention to your breath. The mind’s mindfulness becomes more proactive from that simple starting point.

Intentional control of your brain activity is often seen as impossible. But through the ancient practice of Satipatthana, many monks have achieved something that amazes scientists. Through cultivating their mindfulness, they activated parts of the brain that are often involuntarily lit up by our bodies.

One of their main pieces of advice? Introspection is key.

Psychedelics

Usually regarded as a taboo subject advocated by zany people, it was practically banned from people’s memory during the Nixon administration. However, recent sample studies emerged (generally small but still reporting key findings) about helping people process their anxiety or life-altering situations.

For example, this episode of “The Mind: Explained” opens with the story of a man diagnosed at 21 with a type of cancer targeting his lymphatic system. Although he survived, his anxiety about his body relapsing became overwhelming. While visiting a psychologist they told him about an experiential case meant for cancer patients. All the patients were prescribed psychedelic pills to calm their anxiety about death. The results? His brain found a new sense of peace along with all of the other patients in the trial run.

Similar cases also found remarkable results in treating and curing substance abuse addictions and depression. Maybe psychedelics can provide the results other plant or protein-based medicine can’t do as successfully.

One of the big messages that the series delivers is if we’re living without an actual sense of self-awareness, are we living in reality? How do we know if we’re really being attentive to the world around us? Or are things just floating right above the heads we’re meant to unlock?

Understanding your mind is the most vital element of knowing your humanity. Although we might convince ourselves that self-awareness isn’t important, it’s really just a mask that we’re putting on the truth. It definitely works to certain people’s advantages, but there’s still that void between themselves and actually having some type of self-certainty. People who are usually twisting things around to fit into their own gravity pool can lack a genuine “I’m-in-control” attitude. If we really want to get all psychology on it, the term for feeling like you’re in control is “locus of control,” and the higher the better.

Our minds can be our best friends. Once we get to know them, it won’t seem as scary or even surprising to make certain realizations about who we are. Our brains are meant to be discovered and if we make observations that we’d like to alter about ourselves they’re equally as flexible to change.

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