How Nature Reboots Our Brains
David Strayer, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Utah, reminds us that our brains are not three pound machines that can just keep plugging away, consuming the digital world. Our brains, in fact, need time to recalibrate. “If you can have the experience of being in the moment for two or three days,” says Strayer, “it seems to produce a difference in qualitative thinking.”
For Strayer, who is an avid backpacker, brain-breaks are best given in nature. After a few days on the trail or camping, our brains and senses reboot; we smell and see things we’d otherwise miss or pass over.
Our culture will continue to progress in the realm of digital technology. But real life is crucial as well. It is served up away from the noise and distractions and involves things we can touch, see, and smell. Even in the late nineteenth century the mountaineer-philosopher John Muir knew the benefits of real life over the machine world. He wrote:
“I am losing precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men. I must break away and get out into the mountains to learn the news.”