Annie Murphy Paul

‘The thing about the outdoors and the way that the human species evolved in the outdoors, all the information that we encounter, the sensory information that we encounter in nature, is processed really easily and effortlessly and efficiently by the brain. Our sensory faculties are kind of tuned to the kind of information and stimuli that we encounter in nature. And so this is, again, this is the scientific reason behind what everybody knows, which is that you feel more relaxed and more at ease when you take a walk outside and when you spend time in nature.

But what that has to do with attention is that that kind of diffuse attention that we’re able to spend in nature, where we’re not focusing very intently on anything but we’re just kind of allowing the gentle movements and the sort of soft contours of the things that we see outside just entertain our attention but in this very diffuse way, and the phrase psychologists use that I like is called soft fascination. It’s not a hard edged concentration. It’s a kind of soft fascination that you might experience when you’re looking at leaves rustling in the wind or watching waves on the ocean.

That state restores our attention. It kind of refills the tank in a sense. And so then we can return to our desk and we can return to that hard edged kind of concentration that we have to do to complete our studies or do our work. So I would say in your example that if you need to concentrate but you’re feeling frazzled, even a brief look out the window can have this kind of restorative effect. But ideally, a longer walk in nature would be good.’ (from the New York Times)

To which I can only add, the next roam is on Saturday!

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