I’m not saying I actually want to be an impoverished artist in fin-de-siecle Paris, living off cigarettes and the goodwill of others, pale and interesting and destined for tubercular demise. But I think you can’t beat a little bit of fantasy to enable a small escape, and I love nothing better than packing my notebook and pretending I’m heading off to Les Deux Magots for an absinthe or two.
1. Choose your café. It must be on, or not far from, your usual route home.
2. Ensure it’s OK if you’re home half an hour later than normal.
3. Take with you a notebook / sketchbook / a few pieces of paper and a pen.
4. En route, TURN YOUR PHONE OFF.
4. Once inside, order your favourite beverage (black Americano for me, thanks) and if possible choose a table by the window.
5. Sit for twenty minutes. You mustn’t read. You mustn’t check your phone. Observe the people passing by beyond the window. Watch the other people in the café. Who are they? Where are they going, and what are they doing?
6. [Optional] If you feel like it, scribble, write, draw, or doodle in your notebook. You don’t have to do anything but sit quietly, though.
7. When your time’s up, leave and continue on your way.
There are so many neurological benefits to this exercise. This is a perfect way to increase positive plasticity in our brains by making new neural connections. Just by using our imaginations in a creative way we’ll be sparking those synapses and warding off the neural fatigue that’s debilitating to our health.
Our addiction to screens is not good for our long-term brain health either. The dopamine hits we get from constantly engaging with that shiny machine in front of us, all that scrolling and clicking we can’t get enough of, will lead to yet more fatigue.
I’ve mentioned the consequences of neural fatigue before – decision overload, higher stress and anxiety levels, poorer sleep – and ultimately one step closer to a debilitating health crash.
Basically, even if we think we haven’t the time to take time out, even if we feel the urge to take out our phones and ‘just check’ something while we’re sitting there, it’s so important to try to RESIST.
Go on, twenty minutes – let’s see if we can …