Stare all the time? Here’s what it means


Do you ever have those moments when you randomly zone out for no reason? We’ve all done it at least once in our lives, but we aren’t quite sure why. Usually, we feel a little embarrassed after it happens, especially if we’re around other people, but it’s a perfectly normal thing to do. What’s the explanation behind it though?

It’s hard to focus

No matter how hard you try, it’s impossible to stay focused every waking hour of the day. At some point, your mind is going to wander, especially if you’re bored. Think of what you might have been told when studying for exams in school. Your brain can only pay attention for so long before it stops taking in new information. That’s why teachers advise you to take breaks from studying every 45 minutes or so. It keeps you from losing interest and wasting your time learning things that will never stay in your head.

The same can be said for any other long task, including your day job. If you work from 9-5, you can’t expect your lunch hour to be the only time you take a break from the task at hand. People who don’t regularly stretch their legs or spend a few minutes away from their desk will end up staring into space when they’re meant to be working. That benefits no-one and can hinder your productivity massively.

How does it happen?

It’s a little confusing to get your head around why we zone out, but scientists hypothesize that our brains essentially cut the connection between them and the outside world. While the world isn’t visually blocked off, we don’t pay any attention to what’s happening. When this occurs, our minds have already decided that there’s nothing important or dangerous happening around us. Therefore, it’s safe to disconnect for a brief moment.

While you’re in this zoned out state, you’re lost in your own thoughts, yet essentially not thinking about anything. It’s as if your brain’s gone for a walk and left a sign saying “Back in five minutes.” Neuroscientists believe this is all down to the locus coeruleus-norepinephrine system in your brain, although nothing has been confirmed yet.

The benefits of zoning out

While it staring into space might not help you all the time, there are benefits to zoning out. It’s suggested that these moments of rest can help us to be more creative because the outside world is not influencing us. Rather than actively thinking about things, we’re allowing our stream of consciousness to flow uninterrupted. When this happens, we have the potential to stumble across an idea that we may not have initially thought of, because we were too pressurized by external circumstances.

What’s more, many people report feeling good after zoning out. Due to the relaxing nature of it, we feel refreshed for taking ourselves away from stress for a few minutes.

So zoning out is important?

Spending your day at work daydreaming isn’t going to help you out, but allowing time to zone out will. It’s essential to manage the time when you space out, rather than driving yourself to exhaustion. If after an hour you’re struggling to think, sit back and let your mind wander, rather than try to power through and get nowhere. Just make sure that when you do this, you’re not looking directly at someone. Even if people know you’re zoning out, it’s still incredibly uncomfortable to have another person’s eyes boring straight into you.

It looks like we’ve found you your next excuse whenever someone accuses you of not paying attention. Just don’t exploit it. There’s zoning out, and then there’s slacking off. Remember the difference.