I had a really productive day yesterday. Well, at least up until about 3:00. That's when I crashed. Completely lost my concentration. It probably had a lot to do with my carb-heavy lunch, which I happened to eat at my desk, working.
Afternoons always go better for me if I take a break at lunch – get away from the office and go for a walk, or spend time perusing the nearby Chapters library. I'm looking forward to warmer weather when I can go sit in the park.
The benefits of taking a break is not new knowledge, but it's easily forgotten or ignored (we're all so busy making our deadlines). To renew your energy and improve your concentration and productivity, step away from the grind, even just for 20 minutes. A walk through the mall will get the blood flowing, but a hit of nature will do you one better.
The reason may be that the brain uses two forms of attention. “Directed” attention allows us to concentrate on work, reading and tests, while “involuntary” attention takes over when we’re distracted by things like running water, crying babies, a beautiful view or a pet that crawls onto our lap.This comes from an article citing research that shows children who are exposed to nature during the school day are better behaved in the classroom and can concentrate more. Stands to reason the same would hold true for us adults. The article continues:
Directed attention is a limited resource. Long hours in front of a computer or studying for a test can leave us feeling fatigued. But spending time in natural settings appears to activate involuntary attention, giving the brain’s directed attention time to rest.
“It’s pretty clear that all human beings experience attentional fatigue,” Dr. Faber Taylor said. “Our attention has to be restored from that fatigue, and there is a growing body of research evidence that nature is one way that seems particularly effective at doing it.”
Corinna vanGerwen is a freelance editor and writer. She has worked as senior editor at Style at Home, senior design editor at Cottage Life and is the former Canadian Director of Ed2010. She has also held the position of operations manager at a boutique PR agency, where she handled strategic planning and daily operations.