Yesterday Adam passed along this article about hitting the reset button while on vacation and it could not have been more timely. While many summer vacations may already be over, we are about to embark on two big holidays and preparing ourselves to tune in to our loved ones and tune out the noise is imperative to enjoying our trips.
In the article, Daniel J Letvitin explains how our attention spans work:
“The processing capacity of the conscious mind is limited. This is a result of how the brain’s attentional system evolved. Our brains have two dominant modes of attention: the task-positive network and the task-negative network (they’re called networks because they comprise distributed networks of neurons, like electrical circuits within the brain). The task-positive network is active when you’re actively engaged in a task, focused on it, and undistracted; neuroscientists have taken to calling it the central executive. The task-negative network is active when your mind is wandering; this is the daydreaming mode. These two attentional networks operate like a seesaw in the brain: when one is active the other is not.”
While the science behind the concept may be new to you, the consequences are not: if we constantly give weight to the task-positive part of our brain (the network that wants to check emails and respond to crises happening perhaps miles and miles away), then we never have a chance to actively daydream and let our mind wander. As Letvitin says later in the article, this is a curse of the overpowering Information Age. We’re subject to news feeds and jibber-jabber that is constantly vying for our attention.
And why is it so important to daydream?
“Daydreaming leads to creativity, and creative activities teach us agency, the ability to change the world, to mold it to our liking, to have a positive effect on our environment. Music, for example, turns out to be an effective method for improving attention, building up self-confidence, social skills and a sense of engagement.
This radical idea — that problem solving might take some time and doesn’t always have to be accomplished immediately — could have profound effects on decision making and even on our economy.”
Tomorrow we leave for Charleston to visit our friends and relax for the weekend. It’s been over a year since we’ve seen our beloved city and our even more beloved friends and we are committed to giving both our full attention. There will be plenty of emails from Adam’s work and questions from wedding vendors that need an opinion or answer to this and that, but I know that resisting the urge to answer those inquiries will help me feel more present and relaxed and able to daydream and wander.
On Monday we head back to Kansas for wedding week! What a busy week that will be! But, same story here. There will be dozens of people to see and tons of activities to do and hitting that reset button will make for a far more enjoyable week at home. I can’t believe it’s already time for us to get married again : )
What about you? Do you have trouble taking a mental vacation when you’re supposed to be on vacation? Does anyone else struggle with this? I like to document our travels on Facebook and Instagram, but even that competes with my attention to loved ones and isn’t a way to truly disconnect. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.