Most of us have experienced the boost of energy and feelings of wellbeing that spending time in nature gives us, and researchers are now investigating just why that is.
In a recent article in The Washington Post, two psychologists, Paul Atchley and David Strayer, explain that the area of the brain that manages “executive attention function” (high level abilities that manage our attention, focus, and ability to resist distraction) is stored in the same area of the brain that is responsible for our ability to think and that defines our personality.
When we are actively “switching gears” between tasks, conversations, answering emails, phone calls, text messages, and other distractions that pop up during the day, this area quickly becomes depleted and fatigued. When this happens, our ability to concentrate and stay focused and on task is impaired, and we become irritable. The “cure” for this? Regular breaks out in nature or a quiet space that is free of technology that can simulate a natural, soothing environment.
The brain circuits that are restored with nature are the same ones that are restored with meditation, leading some researchers to speculate that gazing at nature allows us to ‘meditate naturally’”
– Paul Atchley, Cognitive Psychologist, University of Kansas
Ways to get your daily dose of nature
- Spend a few minutes each morning before you go to work in your yard and walk, sit, or lie on the grass, near a tree, or near any other plants you have.
- If you don’t have a yard, create a space in your home that is gadget-free and has natural plants, a water fountain, fish tank, or a beautiful picture of nature.
- Take regular breaks during the day and step outside and find the nearest patch of green or quiet space that makes you feel peaceful and relaxed.
- Place a birdfeeder outside your window to attract birds and bring nature to you.
- If spending time in nature is just not possible during your day, take a break and find a quiet place to rest. Close your eyes, and imagine yourself in your favorite place in nature – walking along a beautiful beach, running through a field, strolling through a peaceful forest, or swimming in the vast ocean.
If you live in Ontario and would like to find a green space near you, visit http://recandparksmonth.ca/ to search for parks and walking trails in your area.