Soft Fascination and Leomonade

The following blog post was written by author, researcher, teacher and Positive Psychologist, Dr. Robert Biswar-Diener.  Robert has a new book out this week: The Courage Quotient and Robert is one of two resources I recommend for his Positive Psychology Coaching Course.  His April class is full, but he has another scheduled for June 4. I have italicized the section I found most interesting.

Soft Fascination and Lemonade

Anyone who has ever had to proofread, write a bibliography or refrain from snacking in the afternoon knows that these activities can be mentally exhausting. In fact, psychologist Roy Baumeister and his colleagues found that these types of tasks– those that involve effortful attention– deplete glucose in the brain. When the researchers gave fatigued study participants a glass of sugary lemonade they suddenly became better at these activities, as opposed to those who were given a glass of lemonade made with an artificial sweetener, who received no benefit.

A new article published earlier this year makes a strong case that attention is a psychological resource that can help us be at our best, but which we can “use up” like logs in a fire. Apart from having some lemonade the authors suggest several ways that we can restore our attentional powers. One is to sleep. Another is to meditate. The third possibility is even more intriguing: The authors divide our attention into two parts, involuntary attention (the natural tracking we engage in that doesn’t require any conscious effort) and voluntary attention (the effortful looking at and figuring out of the world around us). An urban environment, the authors say, tends to deplete us because it draws on both our involuntary attention (noticing background information such as buildings) and our voluntary attention (keeping an eye out for traffic). They call this “hard fascination” and it tends to be exhausting. The alternative is “soft fascination” and this is exactly what happens when people experience natural vistas. If you spend time at the beach or walking through the forest your involuntary, but not voluntary attention is engaged, giving the latter time to rest and restore. So getting out into nature can provide a resource boost.

Next time you have a big day with lots of demanding work consider taking a break to go to the city park or similar pleasant greenspace and see how it affects your mental resources. If you just don’t have time to get outside I suppose you can always turn to that glass of lemonade!  

Thank you, Robert, for a great post.  Andrea T. Goeglein
Here are the links again to order Robert’s new book and to his site for outstanding learning opportunities:

Feel the spirit of the season
About the author

Andrea Goeglein is part organizational psychologist, part entrepreneur, and all about success—your success. She understands both the pressures you face and the dreams that inspire you. Andrea merges her experience as a business owner with her training in Positive Psychology to provide effective, efficient and challenging personal development products and services. She combines an emphasis on objective assessment with an approach that is always powered by your spirit and guided by your goals. Her professional development offerings are based in theory and backed by direct business knowledge.

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