This has been concerning me for a while now. As a avid book reader throughout all my youth I seem to have lost the ability to sit down with a book of fiction and read slowly and thoroughly for longer periods of time.
Because I am not a neurologist I am not sure if this is actually a ‘re-wiring’ of the brain as commonly suggested. Probably more a ‘habit’ that has been developed by years of needing to cut corners to get quick results. Nevertheless it’s not a positive thing as far as I am concerned and something to be aware of.
I personally would also not blame this (solely) on digital tools like Twitter either. The general fast pace of life and the constant pressures to speed up are probably contributing much more overall than a single tool. Although these tools do have a potential to become time and attention ‘sinks’ if you are not careful and get drawn into too much. Due to the fact that these tools can be extremely useful (if you know how to use them), there is always a potential. Depending on your personality type this constant source of interesting information can become quite ‘addictive’.
This series of videos recently came up in my social media streams and they have really impressed me and helped calm down things at a stressful moment. Nothing better than looking at nature to calm things down. And (sometimes) if you can’t get out there yourselves, watching a video is the next best thing.
These videos deal with the microscopic biosphere normally hidden to the naked eye.
The most important living organisms that play the key functions in the biosphere might not seem exciting when it comes to motion. Plants, fungi, sponges, corals, plankton, and microorganisms make life on Earth possible and do all the hard biochemical job. Our brains are wired to comprehend and follow fast and dynamic events better, especially those very few that happen at speeds comparable to ours. In a world of blazingly fast predators and escaping prey events where it takes minutes, hours, or days to notice any changes are harder to grasp.
Came across this article in SlowJapan which is definitely worth the read:
… It was a true savior for Mr. HWANG Daekwon when he figured out how to spend his slowly running time in jail for 13 years, which is to observe plants, herbs and weeds around. It also helped him to restore and maintain his mental and physical health respectively from the deep-rooted anger and injury incurred by severe torture. …
This is an older piece of a great economist thinker (Umair Haque) I came around recently. It’s a year old, but as relevant as ever. If you haven’t read it – do yourself a favor and head to the link below and read the article.
And if you’re a user of Twitter – follow @umairh. Often good for a provocative statement or two. But always good to make you stop and think.
So much human potential squandered for such a significant chunk of time in a life; so much time spent grinding one’s wheels can, it’s true, exhaust one’s fuel for living; can come to leave one feeling stuck in the existential desert. So what happens now? More of the same — a perma-crisis whose human toll on you and I seems to be a kind of crisis-malaise, a habituation to human heartache, the dulling of the once-razor-sharp edge of what could have been? Is that it — all there is, for us, this “lost” generation?
Adventure is all around us, at all times. Even during hard financial times such as these. Times when getting out into the wild is more enjoyable, invigorating and important than ever.
This could have been a very clever marketing campaign by manufacturers of camping gear, but I really like it. And even if it would be – let’s face it – there is much more direct health benefits than for example the Valentines Day scam perpetuated by flower shops & chocolate manufacturers (not to be confused with the giving of genuine gifts at random times).
Instead it is an idea by Alastair Humphreys – http://www.microadventures.org who is trying to challenge the assumption that adventures are expensive, require long-term planning and need extreme levels of fitness. He has coined the term ‘micro-adventures‘ for short, local discovery tours.
“You do not need to fly to the other side of the planet to find wilderness and beauty.”
“Adventure is stretching yourself; mentally, physically or culturally. It is about doing something you do not normally do, pushing yourself hard and doing it to the best of your ability.”
You do not need to be an trained elite athlete or lots of spare cash to have an adventure. A microadventure is an adventure that is cheap, simple, short (CSS). It has the spirit of a big adventure condensed into a midweek escape from the office, or even a weekend away. Most people even those living in big cities are not far away from (at least) smaller of wilderness areas.
Stress Response – what was a life-saver initially, making us run from predators and enabling us to take down prey. Today we can’t seem to turn off the same life-saving physical reaction to cope with intense, ongoing stress.
Robert Sapolsky, Professor of Neurology and Neurological Sciences at Stanford University, reveals just how dangerous prolonged exposure to stress can be.
The theory that nature can recharge minds depleted by harsh urban environments is not new, but only recently has the theory been scientifically tested. Thanks to portable EEG’ measuring brain activity unobtrusively, researchers at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh and the University of Edinburgh were able to measure the brain patterns of 12 volunteers as they walked through three different sections of Edinburgh over the course of an hour and a half.
The findings confirmed previous ideas on how the surrounding physical environment affects the brain’s attentiveness.
“When the volunteers made their way through the urbanized, busy areas…their brain wave patterns consistently showed that they were more aroused, attentive and frustrated than when they walked through the parkland, where brain-wave readings became more meditative. While traveling through the park, the walkers were mentally quieter.”
Natural environments still engage the brain, say researchers, holding our attention while simultaneously allowing for reflection.