If you haven’t heard of Henry David Thoreau, you might be forgiven for thinking he has nothing to teach us from his time on this planet 150 years ago. I think that perhaps the 5 scientists who thought they might learn something about the brain and attention by taking a little camping trip could have figured this out by revisiting Thoreau’s writings:
I come home to my solitary woodland walk as the homesick go home. I thus dispose of the superfluous and see things as they are, grand and beautiful. I have told many that I walk every day about half the daylight, but I think they do not believe it. I wish to get the Concord, the Massachusetts, the America, out of my head and be sane a part of every day.
– Henry David Thoreau, Journal
Even 150 years ago, Thoreau was writing about the benefits of communing with nature, along with all of the transcendentalists of the mid-19th century. It’s neither a particularly new nor interesting idea, yet this connection isn’t even mentioned within the article. Applying the sheen of “brain science” to the benefits of taking a break from life (and life’s technologies) seems to be just the latest way of spinning some very old, well-worn ideas.