I was thinking there may be only 2 realms of solace for the human mind: Enchantment or Entertainment. But I think there’s a third: Work at which you are expert, or in which you can feel yourself actively improving toward expertise.
Basically, there are states of mind that provide relief from the stress induced by mean and mundane activities. Mean being low, wicked, or brutish. Mundane being tedious, repetitive, and often mandatory.
Entertainment is basically just stimulation of the release of “happy” chemicals in the brain: dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins — achieved primarily through sequences of anticipation and fulfillment, e.g. Joke lead-up and punchline. Entertainment borders on, or even achieves, Enchantment when the anticipation or its fulfillment is emotionally arresting.
There feasibly may be more categories of manifestation of Enchantment, but this set of 3 seemed to be pretty inclusive:
Awe – overwhelmed by beauty/greatness (e.g. Mountaintop)
Gratitude – overwhelmed by goodness (e.g. Act of kindness)
Camaraderie – overwhelmed by oneness (e.g. Team victory)
The effect, of course, is that you become transfixed in the present moment with a personal attachment to the source of the emotional arrest.
The kind of enchantment that seems to make a person particularly industrious is that of an envisioned future. And while it may seem that an enchanting future must invariably be observed through rose-tinted glasses, I actually think the engineer has a different opportunity. The engineer can not only imagine the future, but can conceive and design the transitional states.
There are other kinds of enchantment that do other kinds of work. Enchantment with natural ecosystems of plants, animals, and terrain often generate higher-order affections toward the earth and its inhabitants.
Enchantment with individual people often generates an enthusiasm for that person’s well-being and happiness.
And both of these can lead to selfless, generous behavior.
Really, the healthiest mind is probably one which cultivates many sources of enchantment, such that when one falls away, another can readily take its place.
Because when enchantment falls away, all that can replace it are basically mood-altering drugs — like sugar, television, or alcohol, etc.
All that said, doing work for which you are well-suited (capabilities match skills) enables the state of smooth, masterful operation called Flow. In some ways, Flow is the highest solace for the mind, because you actually produce your own enchantment. The thing you are connecting with is you.
And by sorting this out (for myself, anyway), I think I just did what I was talking about. Yeah, and I liked it — it’s exhilarating. Like an adventure sport.