We can simplify our understanding of mental attention by thinking of the distinction between ‘directed’ and ‘involuntary’ attention.
Directed attention is about our alertness when we applied to a specific task (such as driving a car, sending a text, deciding when to check our email or keep writing that chapter). Involuntary attention is engaged when we are in ‘a restorative environment’ outside our ordinary experience but which is familiar enough that it poses no threat. Restorative environments offer enough interest to keep mind engaged without effort, they engage the attention involuntarily. Involuntary attention is also known as ‘soft fascination’ and is the kind of attention that is best for recuperation as it provides opportunities for reflection and is non-taxing. Find something that gives you this sense of soft effortless fascination (play with a pet, take a photo, a walk in nature, being in or near water and remember technobiophilia digital versions of natural environments also have an effect) and take time today for some digital recuperation through soft fascination.
If you want to read about this Richard Coyne writes an nice summary of the idea or you can read Stephen Kaplan’s work on the restorative effects of nature.
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