Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth yoga, fitness, & nutrition courses, when you sign up for Outside+.
I love the energy and buzz of urban life. But I’ve notice that sometimes after a day out in my beloved city, I feel more drained than when I take a vigorous two hour hike in the mountains.
So I wasn’t surprised to read about recent research from Harvard Medical School that shows spending a few minutes on a busy city street can affect the brain’s ability to focus and to manage self-control. That makes sense, because all of the stimulus takes up a lot of the brain’s processing power.
According to an article by Scott Edwards that appeared in On The Brain:
Directed attention fatigue is a neurological symptom that occurs when our voluntary attention system, the part of the brain that allows us to concentrate in spite of distractions, becomes worn down. People suffering from directed attention fatigue can experience short-term feelings of heightened distraction, impatience, or forgetfulness. When the condition is severe enough, people can exhibit poor judgment and feel increased levels of stress.
What to do about it?
Next time I’m going to head for the streets, I think I’ll head for the hills instead. Research shows that only 20 minutes in nature is a remedy for getting the brain to recover from directed attention fatigue.
When you are overtaxed, overstimulated, overwhelmed, what will you do?