Midday Matinee is our people watching, people doing and people being feature. Join the Woodland Creatures for an afternoon break.

I’m playing, and I’m playing for a reason. I don’t mean the kind of play that involves intense concentration and a lot of thought. Right now I’m purely winging it with little purpose, following a random train of thought that somehow led right back to the book we’re discussing these two weeks in Morning Feature: Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow.

I’m reading the book as I have a little time here and there and came across something fascinating: the brain actually becomes fatigued from long periods of concentration. Thinking costs energy, quite literally. Brain blood glucose can be measured after someone thinks hard about a problem, and cognitive abilities decline as the glucose declines. A quick pick-me-up (in the case of the study, a glass of lemonade) can be shown to increase brain glucose levels and restore cognitive function to full speed.

I’ve been living too hard. Amazing realization. Going directly from one mentally draining task to another. Then wondering why I’m so fatigued and writing has become a chore that is about as much fun and about easy as pulling teeth.

The other day I was about to start writing when I got the urge to do a little Christmas shopping. I asked my daughter if she wanted to go with me. We chatted for a good half-hour about her life, nothing intense, just general conversation.

The kind of thing the mind does naturally and without effort.

The next thing I knew, I was writing like mad. Fingers were flying over the keys as the ideas kept flowing. I finished my day’s work in record time and went off to the store.

It was the next day I read that bit in Kahneman’s book and made the connection: I had taken a play break in the middle of my day and it had refreshed me. I decided to implement a plan to take frequent breaks that would relax me and require no concentration.

So this is what you get: the break in my day. Writing this was no more difficult than having a conversation with a friend. Maybe you can tell that from reading it.

Now I’ll go find something else “fun” and non-taxing to do, until I feel mentally refreshed. It’s not just a saying, it’s a reality.

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