Getting in the Good Habit of Single Tasking

Multi-tasking has been promoted for years in self-help books but its time in vogue has passed. Now, single-tasking is all the rage. We’re all asked to multi-task in our busy lives no matter what self-help books are trending, but multi-tasking is not only detrimental to your brain, but it can add to your levels of stress, create decision fatigue, and eventually cause depression and apathy.

Using your cell phone while driving, for example, impedes your decision-making skills as much as drinking alcohol.

It’s a good thing then that a little dose of Mother Nature can help remedy all the damage caused by multi-tasking. Whether you sit under a huge Banyan tree in a park or explore an unbeaten path in the wild, time in nature restores your brain, and helps to reset functionality that you currently don’t even know your missing.

As detailed in a National Geographic article, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Utah, David Strayer, took an EEG machine on a hiking trip to measure the effects of three days in nature on the brain.

The results were profound:

  • People who spent three-days disconnected from technology and multi-tasking in nature performed 50% better on cognitive tests when they returned back home.
  • Senses recalibrate. You can smell, hear, and taste things that normally you would not.
  • The brain’s prefrontal cortex is recalibrated (less energy is exerted in the midline-prefrontal cortex.)

Strayer likens spending time in nature to “cleaning the windshield of the mind.” [1]

His findings are corroborated by researchers who suggest that time in nature also helps us to create more alpha waves. Our “normal” brainwave state is actually alpha, but we spend more and more time in beta – a busy state of thinking that can cause anxiety and depression when we stay in it too often. The irony is that the less time we spend in an alpha state, the less often we can naturally hang out there because the brain forgets how to create these waves. It is too “triggered” by the Monkey Mind, and anxiety. Spending time in nature puts us back in touch with our “natural” state.

(Caffeine can suppress alpha waves, so be sure to limit your coffee intake on nature days).

Brainwaves, in fact, pattern themselves after Nature herself. University of Chicago mathematician, Jack Cowan explains that the same mathematical tools that physicists use to explain the movement and organization of subatomic particles act as a metaphor for how the brain generates various rhythms. [2]

When the brain is not directed, it creates what scientists call “Brownian motion.” When we influence the brain with time in nature (as well as meditation, yoga, mild exercise, breathing, other stress-reducing mechanisms) “the resting state of brain activity seems to have a statistical structure that’s characteristic of phase transition.” [3]

The easy remedy to multi-tasking, anxiety and too much “beta brain” is some time in nature. You can also read more about brainwaves and how to alter your state, here.

[1] This Is Your Brain on Nature. (2017, July 25). Retrieved from

[2] Brain Waves Pattern Themselves After Rhythms Of Nature. (2019, August 6). Retrieved from

[3] How to Boost Your Alpha Brain Waves (and Why You Should Care). (2011, May 11). Retrieved from

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