Wednesday, 4 January 2012

In 2012, be kind to your brain

In 2012, be kind to your brain  (Article originally from the New York Times)

"Here's my New Year's resolution: in 2012, I plan to spend at least 30 minutes a day without my iPhone. Without internet, Twitter, Facebook and my iPad. Spending a half-hour a day without electronics might sound easy for most, but for me, 30 unconnected minutes produces the same anxious feelings of a child left accidentally at the shopping mall. 

For example, I was worried that if I did not capture that beautiful sunset and stuff it into my phone, I'd forget it.

"Even with something as beautiful as a sunset, forgetting is really important as a mental hygiene," said Viktor Mayer-Schonberger, a professor of Internet governance at Oxford University and the author of the book Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age.

"That things in our past become rosier over time is incredibly important," he added. "As we forget, our memories abstract and our brain goes through a cleansing process." Professor Mayer-Schonberger said that keeping a perpetual visual diary of everything could slow down our brains' purging process.

Constantly interacting with our mobile devices has other drawbacks too. I have no time to daydream. And daydreams, scientists say, are imperative in solving problems.

Jonah Lehrer, a neuroscientist said that our brains often needed to become inattentive to figure out complex issues. He (discussed) an area of the brain scientists call "the default network" that was active only when the rest of the brain was inactive — in other words, when we were daydreaming. Letting the mind wander activates the default network, he said, and allows our brains to solve problems that most likely can't be solved during a game of Angry Birds.

Jonathan Schooler, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara who has focused his research on daydreaming, put it this way: "Daydreaming and boredom seem to be a source for incubation and creative discovery in the brain and is part of the creative incubation process."  (Article originally from the New York Times)

In the past I have discussed my misgivings about introducing babies and children to computers and electronic media devices in their formative years without information (research) about the effects. Now comes an article which  seems to validate that this constant distraction and cognitive stimulation (usually with crap) can have a negative affect on adult recall, imagination and creativity. If this is the toll for adults imagine what effect it would be having on yet unformed or forming minds. Articles on brain plasticity can be found here and here.

For those of you who ask what does this have to do with natural play and playspaces the short answer is, everything.

"Benefits of undirected play, especially play in a natural environment have been constantly documented over the last decade to stimulate young minds in a variety of ways.

Children with symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are better able to concentrate after contact with nature (Taylor et al. 2001).

Children with views of and contact with nature score higher on tests of concentration and self-discipline. The greener, the better the scores (Wells 2000, Taylor et al. 2002).

Children who play regularly in natural environments show more advanced motor fitness, including coordination, balance and agility, and they are sick less often (Grahn, et al. 1997, Fjortoft & Sageie 2001).

When children play in natural environments, their play is more diverse with imaginative and creative play that fosters language and collaborative skills (Moore & Wong 1997, Taylor, et al. 1998, Fjortoft 2000).

Exposure to natural environments improves children's cognitive development by improving their awareness, reasoning and observational skills (Pyle 2002).

Nature buffers the impact of life's stresses on children and helps them deal with adversity. The greater the amount of nature exposure, the greater the benefits (Wells & Evans 2003).

Play in a diverse natural environment reduces or eliminates bullying (Malone & Tranter 2003).

Nature helps children develop powers of observation and creativity and instills a sense of peace and being at one with the world (Crain 2001).

Early experiences with the natural world have been positively linked with the development of imagination and the sense of wonder (Cobb 1977, Louv 1991). Wonder is an important motivator for life long learning (Wilson 1997).

Children who play in nature have more positive feelings about each other (Moore 1996).

Natural environments stimulate social interaction between children (Moore 1986, Bixler et al. 2002).

Outdoor environments are important to children's development of independence and autonomy (Bartlett 1996).

Play in outdoor environments stimulates all aspects of children development more readily than indoor environments (Moore & Wong 1997).

An affinity to and love of nature, along with a positive environmental ethic, grow out of regular contact with and play in the natural world during early childhood. Children's loss of regular contact with the natural world can result in a biophobic future generation not interested in preserving nature and its diversity (Bunting & Cousins 1985; Chawla 1988; Wilson 1993; Pyle 1993; Chipeniuk 1994; Sobel 1996, 2002 & 2004; Hart 1997; Wilson 1997, Kals et al. 1999; Moore & Cosco 2000; Fisman 2001; Kellert 2002; Bixler et al. 2002; Kals & Ittner 2003; Schultz et al. 2004).


(Derived from an article by Randy White, White Hutchinson, article link is here.)
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