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Soft Fascination

Colin Wright
Colin Wright
Soft Fascination
There’s research suggesting that although we’re great at focusing—it’s one of our powers, as human beings—maintaining such focus can be draining.
This would seem to be true cognitively, but also physically as persistent directed attention can wear us out, requiring a lot more energy than other types of thinking. And this can eventually cause all sorts of stress and anxiety and (in some cases) difficulty “turning off” one’s focus and attention in the future, leading to persistent exhaustion and psychological disarray.
Such “attention fatigue” can be stoked by multitasking, loud environmental noises, poor sleep, and both regular and irregular sorts of distractions (consistent beeping from a device, or inconsistent wails from a baby a few seats behind you on the train).
One of the purported (and research-backed) benefits of being in nature is that it seems to relax us in hard-to-measure ways.
One of the potential mechanisms of nature-triggered relaxation is what’s sometimes called “soft fascination,” which essentially means there’s enough going on in the natural world to occupy important portions of our brain (our attention) but not so much—and not in a way that’s alarming—that we’re overwhelmed and forced to focus in a strenuous manner.
This can seemingly recharge our focus-related neural-batteries, and though other activities that tap into our same “just focused enough” brain mechanisms may bear similar fruit, a lot of perceptually relaxing activities (like reading a book or engaging in casual discussion) often require more focus than we might suspect: so they’re still valuable for other reasons, but they may also be sources of psychological battery-drain.
These are important concepts to know about and keep in mind, especially if you’re prone to enthusiastically pursuing interests and may, as a consequence, cognitively wear yourself out.
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Colin Wright
Colin Wright @colinismyname

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