Does your brain ever need a break from the screen?

As a generation, most of our time is spent looking at some type of screen. Whether it be our phones or computers for entertainment, education, or business we are constantly surrounded by technology and screens. Recently during the COVID-19 pandemic, students have been spending even more time in front of their computers for online classes. Because SJU decided to have a majority of classes take place online, the majority of our days are spent with our eyes glued to a screen. 

Extended time on these devices furthers what N. Katherine Hayles, describes as “hyper attention“. In other words, hyper attention is “characterized by switching focus rapidly among different tasks, preferring multiple information streams, seeking a high level of stimulation, and having a low tolerance for boredom.” In Hayles argument, she argues that hyper attention has many benefits and should be recognized in a positive light. While this argument is valid, what Hayles describes as “deep attention” is also important. Deep attention is “characterized by concentrating on a single object for long periods (say, a novel by Dickens), ignoring outside stimuli while so engaged, preferring a single information stream, and having a high tolerance for long focus times.” 

With this in mind, how can students in 2020 stay connected to their studies and media while still maintaining deep attention?

One way for students to do this is to exercise their brain through tactile art. Tactile art is a creative medium of communication and expression. While there are many ways to exercise your brain through online media, physical activities pose different benefits. Currently, many forms of tactile stimulation are trending and have become extremely popular among students and adults. There are many variations of these exercises that not only increase deep attention, but also provide a much needed break for many stressed individuals. Working with your hands allows for your deep and hyper attention to be satisfied. Next time you feel like you need to step away from the screen and work, try out some of these affordable options:

1. Paint by Numbers

Paint by numbers canvas made by Gabriella Guzzardo
Photo courtesy of Gabriella Guzzardo

Paint by numbers has become widely popular on social media platforms, especially Tik Tok. This activity lets your mind rest while simultaneously exercising it as you carefully paint each block. When finished, you will have a beautiful piece of art ready to be hung up and admired!

2. Adult Coloring Book

Molly Hoban, sister of Kevin Hoban coloring in her adult coloring book
Photo courtesy of Kevin Hoban

Adult coloring books are another trendy way to destress and exercise your brain. There are tons of different themes to choose from such as flowers, animals, mandalas, word art, and intricate designs. You have free and creative reign over your art while you touch back to your childhood memories of coloring in coloring books.

3. Gem Paint by Numbers

Gabriella Guzzardo completing a gem paint by numbers canvas
Video courtesy of Gabriella Guzzardo

Want to try something different that does not require any artistic skill? Gem paint by numbers is a unique way to destress and exercise your brain. This activity is very similar to painting by numbers, except this activity uses individual gems that stick onto the canvas instead of painting directly on the canvas. In the end you have 3D art that can be displayed in your home or gifted to someone you love!

Like Marshall McLuhan, says “the medium is the massage.” Therefore, stepping away from online technologies and moving toward more tactile media can offer a new way of relaxation and exercise parts of your brain in need of stimulation. After conducting a survey on Instagram, we learned that many students are unaware of the benefits of brain exercises. Brain exercises help sharpen the brain and improve cognitive abilities that are useful for comprehension, concentration, memory, and many more abilities. These physical activities not only give your eyes and brain a break from constant screen time, but they strengthen your brain and allow you to re-engage in work more efficiently and refreshed. 

Check out our Amazon cart stocked with all of the best ways to exercise your brain through tactile art!