Slow down, it’s what your brain has been begging for

Slow down, it’s what your brain has been begging for

via Psyche by Teodora Stoica

It wasn’t until I moved to the desert that I noticed the rain. Pregnant dark clouds smudge the sharp contrasts drawn by the punishing summer sun. The palette changes from verdant amber to moody violet. A sweet earthy smell wafts through the air. Bird songs and cricket chirps are hushed, replaced by booming clouds and howling winds. A pause. And then, in a grandiose and fearsome display, mile-wide opaque curtains of rain drench the scorched earth.

In the desert, the monsoon season slows down the pace of life and refreshes the arid landscape. In this time-pressed, deadline-obsessed, attention-less society, a monsoon season is what our brains are thirsting for.

Attention shapes our entire experience of the world. As defined by the Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset in 1940, attention is ‘the function charged with giving the mind its structure and cohesion’. Yet, our attention is not our own. A third of all Americans clock 45 hours or more of work per week, with 8 million reporting 60-plus hours. Our down time isn’t ours either. Compared with 1940, individuals now consume almost 90 times more screen-fed information. That’s 82 hours per week – or 69 per cent of our waking hours. That’s a lot.

Even though the brain is a marvel of neurobiological engineering, it cannot sustain this type of data onslaught. Our focus drops off after somewhere between 90-120 minutes, with multitasking creating a ‘bottleneck’ effect, clogging information from one part of the brain to another. No wonder we engage in daydreaming 47 per cent of the time: we simply can’t keep up with today’s attentional demands…

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