How good are you at relaxing?

This column originally appeared in The Observer Magazine/Guardian Online

How good are you at relaxing? Below are a number of shapes. You can choose to ignore the shapes, as you will not be tested on them. All you have to do is look at the shapes for around 30 seconds and try to relax.




What were you thinking about just now?

Sorry for the deception, but this test isn’t actually about relaxation, but mind-wandering. Match up your thoughts to those on the scale below to find your mind-wandering score:

1/4: Nothing / “That’s a yellow circle, blue square etc.”

2/4: Thoughts related to the shapes/task/environment (e.g., “That’s a nice round shape”, “What’s the point of this test?”, “Do the shapes have any significance?”, “It’s cold in here”)

3/4: Extrapolation from the shapes (e.g., “That’s like the sun, which reminds me of my holiday”)

4/4: Proper wandering (e.g., “I thought about the people I was talking to this morning”; “What am I going to have for lunch?”) 

Although this test is extremely simple, it’s actually a great measure of people’s individual tendency towards mind-wandering versus focusing on the task in hand. Indeed, the neuroscientists who invented the test found that wanderers and focusers showed different patterns of brain connectivity, even when they were not currently engaged in the test.

O’Callaghan, C., Shine, J. M., Lewis, S. J., Andrews-Hanna, J. R., & Irish, M. (2015). Shaped by our thoughts–A new task to assess spontaneous cognition and its associated neural correlates in the default network. Brain and Cognition93, 1-10.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s