Need to Restore Your Attention? All It Takes is a 5-Minute Break

They say that even though a nice walk along the river or watching a long video of forests or the sea might be nice, there is no need for that. A total 5-minute break should do the trick.

According to a new study, a simple, unstructured five-minute break from an intense task is all you need to regain concentration or restore


Rest is imperative for performance, well-being, and learning. Rest comes in different shapes and sizes whether it’s taking a holiday, a night of good sleep, a walk in the park, or a coffee break (1 Trusted Source
Rest breaks aid directed attention and learning

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Methods such as the Pomodoro Technique—setting a timer to take a short five-minute break after 25 minutes of diligent work—are gaining popularity in workplaces and study environments as reminders to recharge.

Spending time in nature has been shown in numerous studies since the 1980s to improve attention (2 Trusted Source
The benefits of mystery in nature on attention: assessing the impacts of presentation duration

Go to source). However, few of us can go “forest bathing” to take a vacation from essay writing or acquiring a new skill at work. According to other research, even watching a video of a natural landscape had the same restorative effect.

To be More Productive, Spend 5 Minutes Doing Nothing

“If you want your work or study to be more productive, you need to build in simple five-minute breaks of doing nothing,” said Associate Professor Paul Ginns, an expert in educational psychology at the University of Sydney.

“You need to be doing something different for five minutes. Move away from your computer or device, do some breathing, or just sit quietly to rest your brain from the task. Scrolling through social media does not count as rest—you need to take a break from devices.”

Associate Professor Ginns said we need to use our brains to create attention so we can learn or solve problems, but attention is finite and can be quickly depleted.

“Our attention spans differ individually, and we can be influenced by the time of day or by blood sugar levels or caffeine intake, so it is complicated,” he said.

“But we wanted to test how we can restore attention and it’s delightful that it can be as simple as a five-minute rest break. It’s an easy productivity hack that is accessible to everyone.”

Unstructured 5-Minute Rest vs. Nature-Based Rest vs. No Rest

In order to exhaust the students’ attentional resources, 72 Australian university students first took a challenging pre-test in mental math under timed testing circumstances. The results of the study were reported in the Educational and Developmental Psychologist. It was intended for this portion of the experiment to last about 20 minutes.

The control group (those who did not take a break) then immediately moved on to studying a brief lesson on how to mentally multiply two two-digit figures (for example, 34 x 67). A simple countdown on a computer screen indicated how much of the five minutes of unstructured relaxation time was remaining for the second group of kids.

The third group spent five minutes seeing a first-person video of a tour through an Australian rainforest. Even if all that was involved was watching a film, the study referred to it as “nature-based rest”.

Following that, each student responded to a brief survey on “directed attention” to assess how much they had been distracted during the mental math lesson. Questions included, “My attention was directed towards things other than the lesson” and “I found it hard to maintain my concentration for more than a short time.” Finally, students took a 20-question test on problem-solving to gauge how well they could use the mental math technique.

Students in the unstructured rest group reported higher average levels of directed attention than those in the no rest control group, according to data comparing the three groups. Both the nature-based rest group and the unstructured rest group outperformed the control group on the problem-solving test.

The difference between the two rest groups was not statistically significant, despite the fact that the nature-based rest group generally solved more questions than the unstructured rest group (60% vs. 53% right).

The Reason Why Rest Helps With Learning

“Many skills—including cognitive skills like mathematics—take a lot of concentration to master, but our cognitive resources become depleted when we use our minds to solve problems or study,” said Associate Professor Paul Ginns, the academic supervisor and co-author of the paper.

“It may seem counterintuitive to interrupt a study break to help learning, but short rest breaks—whether they’re unstructured or watching ‘virtual’ nature videos—seem to be well worth the time, helping students to concentrate better and learn more effectively. This could also be applied to workers learning a new skill or concentrating on a complex task.”

How Can I Restore My Attention?

After 20 minutes of challenging cognitive work, schedule five minutes of rest. It could happen in a classroom or an academic context. Additionally, it might be used at home while performing demanding cognitive tasks like filing taxes.

“The Pomodoro Technique method—where people work for 25 minutes and then break for five minutes—is a popular life hack and we may have just found the first evidence for it working,” said Associate Professor Ginns. “Other hacks, such as deep breathing or finding a sense of stillness are centuries old. Whatever you choose to do, offer your brain a total break for just five minutes and see how your attention improves.”

References :

  1. Rest breaks aid directed attention and learning – (
  2. The benefits of mystery in nature on attention: assessing the impacts of presentation duration – (

Source: Medindia

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