Brain vacations: stress, boredom and travel.
This common experience shows that our brains can run on ‘automatic pilot’, taking us through life’s familiar routines without bothering to link up with our conscious attention.
The two most common reasons for this are stress on the one hand, and boredom on the other. Stress over-stimulates us and can disrupt our ability to attend to the world. Given that attention is the gateway to memory, this is why some of these memory blanks often happen during periods of stress or worry.
But we can also travel on automatic pilot not because we are stressed, but because our minds have wandered due to lack of stimulation and challenge.
This is an example of a common feature of how our brains work – the so-called ‘inverted U’ shaped curve where we function at our best – remembering our journey to work for instance – when there is an optimal, medium amount of mental stimulation.