Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Beating Brain Fatigue

Does your brain ever just desert you? You're at your desk, working like mad, and then suddenly you can't think of the right word, you can't remember who you were supposed to call, and you can't seem to get anything done. Don't worry, you probably don't have a brain tumor and it isn't old age. It's called brain fatigue, and you can cure it with a walk in the park. NO KIDDING.

When we work at a focused task, like entering data or writing an essay, we use something called directed attention. But we only have a limited amount of this kind of attention. When we use it up, it's like our brain has run out of gas. Most of us try to fill the tank with a little artificial energy—caffeine or sugar. We'd do much better by taking a walk in the park or even looking out the window at a park.

Why? Using our brain's other type of attention—involuntary attention—restores our ability to do focused work. Involuntary attention is what happens when we automatically respond to things like a dog barking or the sound of rain on the window. Psychologists have discovered that natural green environments have the best chance to capture our involuntary attention and restore our ability use our directed attention.

So next time your brain gets fatigued, take a walk in or around or near someplace green. That's where I'm going RIGHT NOW.

Interested in learning more about brain fatigue and how green space can help children learn? Tune into Tara Parker-Pope's podcast on health in The New York Times


No comments:

Post a Comment