The One Word That Recharges Brain Drain and Restores Focus
Staying home may be draining your brain power, but recharging is easy.
Posted April 10, 2020 | Reviewed by Gary Drevitch
In this age of social distancing, more of us are at home than ever before. Many are working via computer and spending more time than ever in front of screens. The good news is that you're engaged and busy. But the downside is that your brain is always plugged in and always working. In addition, you are likely multitasking at the same time. Hey, no one on that video conference call can see you anyway, right?
Before you say, "It's all good," let's look at some research about high media multitasking and the brain. Then I'll share with you the one word that can recharge your brain quickly.
If you think you are a great multitasker, you may be surprised to learn about what it does to the brain. Three Stanford University researchers tested the proposition that students can effectively perform a high-tech juggling act of multitasking, such as sending emails or text messages while trying to study or watch a television program. A group of 100 students was put through a series of three tests. Researchers developed a media multi-tasking index questionnaire to distinguish heavy media multitaskers (HMM) from light media multitaskers (LMM). According to the study, the baseline for media use was based on “the mean number of media a person simultaneously consumes.”
Did HMMs pay a cognitive price for their attempts to split attention and concentration? It turned out that they did, and the price was steep. In fact, the chronic HMMs couldn’t keep information separate in their minds. They couldn’t filter out irrelevant information or organize their memories effectively. On all three tests, the HMMs underperformed compared to the LMMs.
The One Word to Restore Core Attention and Refresh the Brain
It is my belief that critical wiring in the brain for interpersonal relationships is also being short-circuited by multitasking and a barrage of sensory and media assaults on core awareness. Our attention is being splintered and fragmented, and the prefrontal cortex—that “reflect” part of the brain responsible for enhancing face-to-face personal contact and genuine interpersonal dialogue—is being sacrificed on the altar of time and speed consolidation. COVID-19 may become known as the turning point that keeps us in a brain-drained, multi-tasking and face-buried-in-the-screen mode.
The good news? It doesn't have to be that way thanks to the "one word" I referred to in the title. That word is Nature.
Work in the field of Attention Restoration Theory was developed in the 1980s by two psychologists, Rachel and Stephen Kaplan. Their research and the work of others now shows that nature quickly restores depleted mental energy and the ability to feel refreshed and concentrate again. In other words, it helps you to think more clearly, as well as makes space for greater creativity.
No wonder we intuitively know that going in nature helps to "clear our heads." This lets the brain pause and deeply immerse itself in nature's many colors and shapes. For example, there are thousands of natural shades of green that soothe the brain. Keep in mind, too, that going into nature, even for a short walk, changes your environment. Even a change of context is valuable for recharging.
Here's an easy practice for recharging and reversing brain drain:
- Take at least a 5-minute walk in nature, or sit and look at nature for 5 minutes.
- Look out as far as you can, at the horizon or the sky. What is the furthest natural sight you can see? Allow yourself to settle in to the spaciousness before you.
- Look at something natural in detail. Take off the old filters and look at some small thing—a leaf, a blade of grass, a pebble, a flower, a butterfly—in as much detail as you can. Steep yourself in the experience as you re-discover the childlike awe and wonder you once had when seeing nature for the first time.
I hope you enjoy unplugging with the wonder and healing power of Nature. How marvelous.