What is the soft fascination? The remedies to combat mental fatigue

The metaphor that some experts use for attention fatigue is that of a flashlight pointed at a wall in a dark room. The closer you are to the wall, the more concentrated and smaller the light that comes out of the flashlight will be, until it becomes a small circle surrounded by darkness.

Attention is a lot like that beam of light: you can focus a lot on something or you can relax it or, as with light, blur it.

There is a growing interest in the care, its variants, and how they relate to mental health and our cognitive functioning. And this research shows that some types of attention fatigue the brain and create overload and ultimately stress, while other activities that "blur" attention can reinvigorate it.

Directed attention as cognitive scientists call it, requires effort. It is finite and fatigued just like a muscle does. Studying for an exam or writing a text are activities that require directed attention, tiring, and, therefore, are difficult to maintain over time. And let's not say if the attention is also dispersed with stimuli that distract it and the writing of the text the same, without going any further competes with notifications from Facebook or cell phone messages.

After a while, it's not just hard to stay focused. In addition, willpower suffers and stress and burnout increase, and the chances of suffering from attention deficit disorder may even increase, according to some studies that link this disorder with attention fatigue.

Why do we get so tired when we are immersed in these types of tasks? It appears that regions of the brain that also participate in other "cognitive control" processes are involved in this type of directed attention. Multitasking, lack of sleep, distractions, or a busy environment are often among the factors that promote attention fatigue.

The antidote: nature

On the other hand, certain activities seem to reinvigorate the brain in ways that promote directed attention and self-regulation processes. One of the most studied and effective is spending time in nature. In nature, we can enjoy what some call soft fascination. Natural environments are stimulating enough to attract the brain's attention without unnecessarily concentrating it.

What makes an environment restorative is that it combines the ability to gently attract involuntary attention while limiting the need to direct attention, this study notes.

In other words: what grabs our attention too strongly (bad news: screens are found in almost all their variants in this category), even if they are entertaining, they do not recharge our brain's batteries. Unlike the soft fascination, this hard fascination prevents you from thinking about anything else, making it less restorative.

Many works on soft fascination are integrated into a psychological concept known as Attention Restoration Theory (ART). Although ART research highlights that time in nature is the optimal pathway for cognitive replenishment, it is not the only one.

The mindfulness or mindfulness also favors the restoration of care.

Mindfulness attempts to relax the mind's preoccupation with self-centered thoughts and judgments while expanding awareness of the environment. And this is closely related to what you get from spending time in nature. In fact, there is evidence that moving mindfulness training to natural outdoor settings can increase the benefits of the practice.

Decide Tired

Within the spectrum of activities that require intensive use of directed attention, one of the most exhausting is making decisions. Deciding is so tiring that the time of day you make the decision is crucial. At the end of the day, you will be in a worse position to choose the most appropriate than in the morning, when you are rested. A very significant example of this is that after investigating the behavior of judges professionals who make their living deciding the researchers came to the conclusion that you have a better chance of staying behind bars if your trial is held in the afternoon.

And is that when it can no longer, the brain chooses one of these two shortcuts:

  • Becomes irresponsible and acts impulsively or

  • He does nothing and avoids making decisions.

We are facing the so-called decision fatigue, a theory that indicates that we have a finite store of mental energy available to decide and for self-control. If you spend the day avoiding chocolate or French fries, or take half an hour to choose your wardrobe in the morning, you will be less able to choose effectively on more serious issues and say no to other temptations, no matter what their draft. So you know: before deciding, rest. And if it is in nature, as we have seen, much better.

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