The Huffington Post:
In her new book Thrive, Arianna Huffington writes of the importance of “making room” for wonder — a change in how we measure success that would have an especially great impact on the lives of our children.
Right now, parents and teachers expend a lot of energy getting kids to pay attention, concentrate, and focus on the task in front of them. What we adults don’t do, according to University of Southern California education professor Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, is teach children the value of the more diffuse mental activity that characterizes our inner lives: wondering, remembering, reflecting.
Yet this kind of introspection is crucial to our mental health, to our relationships, and to our emotional and moral development. And it promotes the skill parents and teachers care so much about: the capacity to focus on the world outside our heads.
Our brains have two operating systems, Immordino-Yang and her coauthors explain in an article published in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science. The first, which they call the “looking out system,” orients our attention to the external environment, allowing us to get stuff done. The other, which they term the “looking in system,” directs us inward, setting our thoughts free to wander. By scanning the brains of study subjects asked simply to rest and relax, scientists have discovered that our minds are anything but inactive in these moments. Relieved of the obligation to pay attention to what’s going on around us, we engage instead with a rich internal environment: recalling the past, imagining the future, replaying recent interactions and sorting out our feelings. It’s when we engage our brains’ “looking in” mode, notes Immordino-Yang, that we make meaning out of the mass of experiences and information we encounter when we’re “looking out.”
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