Going for a walk or being inspired by a nature wallpaper is a great escape from the stresses of daily life. Recent studies now show that spending time in nature, or even looking at photos of natural scenes, can actually improve cognitive function, making spending a little time in the great outdoors even more important than you may think.
Photo by Fred Hsu.
A 2008 study published in the journal Psychological Science (PDF) asserted that there may be serious cognitive benefits to spending some time interacting with nature. University of Michigan psychologist Mac Berman took a sample group of 36 people, broke them into two groups, and put them both through a series of rigorous cognitive tests. He then let each group take breaks, one group walking around a city street, and the other through a secluded wooded park. No surprise, the group that took their break in the woods did much better on the second round of tests.
It's not the first study to uncover this, and for many people it's no surprise that we recharge better when we relax in natural settings than busy city streets or crowded breakrooms. Many psychologists believe that it's not just important for us to recharge in natural settings, but it's essential for us to operate at the best of our mental ability. A subsequent study from the same researchers traded the natural setting for just pictures and photos of nature, and found similar results.
Ultimately, if you have the option to take your lunch to the park, stroll through a garden or get out for a walk when you need to recharge, it's an option that can not only help you relax and de-stress, but also does wonders for your mind. Nicholas Carr (of The Internet is Making You Stupid infamy), writing for AdBusters, goes on from there to paint some broad strokes about the nature of the way we interact with natural and human-created environments, but the takeaway we thought was most interesting is the importance of nature to our mental abilities.
Do you prefer to take your breaks in natural environments, or do you prefer to relax around other people? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Rural > City > Cyberspace [AdBusters]