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"I have opportunities to restore myself."



We need both short and extended restorative experiences. 

Attention restoration explains that:


  • Increasing pressures lead to problems of mental fatigue.

  • Restorative experiences are an important means of reducing mental fatigue, and have a special connection to natural environments.

  • Natural environments, in providing these deeply needed restorative experiences, play an essential role in human functioning (2).


Restorative experiences can be brief (20 seconds) or extended (30 minutes or more) (1, 2, 3).  Biophilic design can offer opportunities for shorter extended breaks (such as a lunch), as well as microbreaks that allow for restorative experiences.  

Although restoration could be a dedicated space, such as a religious site, there is potential to build restorative moments into most types of environments.

Microbreaks:  Short restorative experiences
(as brief as 20 seconds)


Moments of effortless attention that do not take concentration and cannot be predicted. Microbreaks should be available consistently throughout the day. Positive microbreaks include learning something new, creating meaning, and building positive relationships. Negative microbreaks include smoke and coffee breaks – due to negative health associations.


In terms of biophilic design, unexpected sensory stimuli (see Pattern 3) are momentary exposures to something environmental, such as a cloud going by or a natural sound (4, 5, 6). This can also be an ability to see the activity of others in the space.  These brief opportunities allow for momentary respite.  

Research Fun Fact #20

150 students were assigned a task and were given a 40 second view of either a flowering meadow green roof or a concrete roof. Participants who briefly viewed the green roof made significantly lower omission errors, and showed more consistent responding to the task compared to participants who viewed the concrete roof. (3)

20 minutes

The amount of time it takes eyes to become fatigued during visual focus, resulting in eye strain, headaches or physical discomfort.

20 seconds:

The time it takes eye muscles to relax from a brief distraction that pulls ones attention away from the area of focus.  

20 feet:

The minimum distance needed to allow the eye muscles to relax


   20-20-20 (4)

Photo Credit: Nicole Craanen

Extended restorative experiences
(30 miutes or longer)


Extended restorative experiences are those that are longer, such as a lunch break, evenings, weekends and vacations (5).  

Being away: Being in some place other than the source of the mental fatigue
Extent: Often described as “being in a whole different world”
Fascination: Can be interesting things and places, or mental processes that cause one to figure things out, predict or recognize
Compatibility: finds a positive connection between environmental patterns, an individual’s inclinations, and the actions required by the environment 
   4 Components of Restorative Experiences (6, 7)

All Photo Credits: Nicole Craanen

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