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Why we should all take cigarette breaks (but never smoke)

Updated: Jun 14, 2023

This article was inspired by a conversation I had today with my friend Habib.

Smoking cigarettes & possibly vaping, will, in the next decade or two be considered by Gen. Alpha akin to putting your mouth around an exhaust pipe of a car as something so clearly self-harming as to support Darwin’s theory of evolution & natural selection. Now, however much as I agree with our youth of today and tomorrow, cigarette breaks, or similar mind-wandering breaks have been the source of many of the greatest ideas in human evolution. Stay with me on this one.

Mark Kaplan writes in Nature magazine (1) about Benjamin Baird & Jonathan Schooler, psychologists at the University of California and their discovery on mind-wandering or zoning out (2) where they presented 145 undergraduate students with 2 'unusual uses' tasks that gave them 2 minutes to list as many uses as possible for everyday objects such as toothpicks, clothes hangers & bricks. After the 2 minutes were over, they were given a 12-minute break, during which they rested, undertook a demanding memory activity that required their full attention or engaged in an undemanding reaction-time activity known to elicit mind-wandering. A 4th group of students had no break. All participants were then given four unusual-uses tasks, including the two that they had completed earlier.

Those students who had done the undemanding activity performed on average 41% better at the repeated tasks the 2nd time they tried them. By contrast, students in the other 3 groups showed no improvement.

This, my patient readers, is the RELEASE phase of the flow cycle, it follows STRUGGLE and is the conduit into achieving a FLOW state. To learn more about flow, and the superpowers it can give you, check out Steven Kotler’s book The Rise of Superman and drop me an email.

My advice - let’s embrace zoning out (but not smoking), leave our phones in airplane mode to minimize distractions, take more breaks, stare at blank walls, meditate, have lots of showers, gently stretch or find other mundane, unstimulating tasks to do and just watch how inspiration presents itself and your world changes in an instant!

Keep flowing!


(2) Baird, B., Smallwood, J., Mrazek, M. D., Kam, J. W. Y., Franklin, M. S., & Schooler, J. W. (2012). Inspired by Distraction: Mind Wandering Facilitates Creative Incubation. Psychological Science, 23(10), 1117–1122.

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1 commento

Gaz McKay
Gaz McKay
17 mag 2023

Great post, love it.

Mi piace
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