You just spent eight hours sitting, with no other place to be, moving only your hands.
That could describe a day at the beach or a day at the office. If it was the former, you would probably feel relaxed at the end of those hours.
But it could be like a day's work, and in the end you would feel exhausted.
Work fatigue, as the research has shown, is not really about physical activity at all, but scientists still do not know exactly why our minds can tire us so much.
The psychologist at George Washington University and author of The Molecule of More, Dr. Daniel Lieberman, shared the theories of work behind mental fatigue, and what to do when it begins to wear down.
Desktop jobs can be even more strenuous than physical work because our brains did not evolve to focus only on abstract tasks, so taking time to pay attention to specific things can help
WE ARE NOT WANTING TO WORK WITH ONLY THE BODY OR THE BRAIN
The brain is a complex organ with many regions designed to collaborate with each other.
Depending on the type of function required, different circuits communicate with each other. These different functions may include swinging an ax or completing paperwork.
When we do the latter, we are not moving much and that engenders a very different type of fatigue from working in the garden, "says Dr. Lieberman.
While physical fatigue can help us fall asleep at night, mental fatigue can do the opposite, which makes it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.
This is because "you are not using your mind and body the way they evolved to be used," says Dr. Lieberman.
"We have evolved to achieve a balance and for our brains and bodies to work together … In a desk job, we are completely sedentary and we only use our brain, which creates a chemical imbalance that makes us less efficient in energy processing, tiring us and draining us. "
According to Dr. Lieberman, evolution informs a lot about what makes us feel tired at work.
Our wild brain thinks in terms of two categories: the resources we have and those that do not.
The resources we have are tangible through our senses. In the same way, physical work or work that combines physical and mental effort usually has a more tangible benefit, something that you can see that you have done or altered.
"For resources that we do not have, but we need, we have to focus on the possible and the future, and that includes abstract thinking," explains Dr. Lieberman.
"If you fancy a peach, you have that idea in your imagination, to make it real you need to be motivated, and plan how to get it, and all this is using the brain circuits to get what you do not have." Do not have
"In modern life, those circuits" -the very ones in which we would operate if we were starving- "are the ones we trust all the time."
WE ONLY HAVE A LOT OF WILL POWER
"Willpower is not an inexhaustible resource," says Dr. Lieberman.
A classic psychological experiment clearly illustrates his point.
The researchers placed a plate of freshly baked cookies in a room with the participants in their study and told them they could not eat them.
Then they were assigned tasks to do, but "people ran out of strength very quickly because they had already used all their willpower resisting cookies," says Dr. Lieberman.
"When you're sitting at your desk, constantly making yourself do a task you're not willing to do, it's going to be very tiring."
IT'S IN THE AIR: THE OFFICE ENVIRONMENTS ARE DESIGNED TO ESCAPE US
A growing body of research shows that sitting in an office all day is bad for us in all kinds of ways. Recently, several studies have also shown that the higher concentrations of CO2 in office environments make concentration difficult.
Dr. Lieberman says that's one of the many bad things about the office environment: indoor pollution, carpets and upholstery that give off formaldehyde and other unpleasant things, and the lights are not so good.
He says that fluorescent lights confuse the body and our sense of night, day and time.
"Artificial light confuses the body, and we are more energized when our bodies are synchronized with our daily rhythms," explains Dr. Lieberman.
It suggests compensating the bad environment with a desk plant to purify the air and take a periodic walk through the window to see something of nature, a tangible sensory vision that makes us turn off our abstract brains for a moment.
In addition, those walks give you the opportunity to socialize, while most of the workday is 'socially isolating', says Dr. Liebrman.
"When we socialize, our brains release oxytocin, and it's an unanswered question about whether socializing online has the same effects, but Facebook and Instagram tend to have the opposite effect."
KEEP IT TOGETHER: TASK SWITCHING IS LOADING
Saying the alphabet as fast as you can is easy. Counting up to 10 as fast as you can is easy. Now try to toggle the two (& # 39; A, 1, B, 2, C, 3 … & # 39; and so on).
"You'll get tired quickly," says Dr. Lieberman.
& # 39; Shaved studies show that the human brain can not really multi-task; you end up changing your brain from one side to the other, and that's going to be more exhausting than it would be if you did one thing and then did the other. "
But that's not how most desktop jobs work.
"Maybe you spend 10 to 15 minutes checking your emails, then you work on a report for 20 minutes, then you run to a meeting and you come back and write notes … you're constantly changing tasks."
But do not forget to make the healthy task change from time to time.
"When you take a break from all the abstract work you're doing on the computer and you only live in the present moment, you're creating a balance in the mind that will be a great relief to your brain," says Dr. Lieberman.
& # 39; People who have a desk job work in the unreal world of the abstract, and at the end of the day, you do not have much to show for that, so at the beginning of the day, list the tasks you must accomplish, least you can draw a line through that task and feel a little satisfaction.
"He wants to balance that with the concrete, to find ways to give himself a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day."