When someone tells you to "take a hike" it is truly in your best interest to do so.
Even if the temperature has dropped below freezing in winter you will still benefit more from getting outdoors and being with nature for a while than staying warm inside, working in your cubicle.
Spending time in nature is more beneficial for mental processes in many ways than being in urban environments, according to a new study reported in Psychological Science.
"Interacting with nature can have similar effects as meditating," said Marc Berman chief researcher of the University of Michigan psychology research team. As quoted in NewsMax: "People don't have to enjoy the walk to get the benefits. We found the same benefits when it was 80 degrees and sunny over the summer as when the temperatures dropped to 25 degrees in January."
NATURE IMPROVES MEMORY & ATTENTION
What benefits? Well, memory performance and attention spans improved by 20 percent after people spent an hour interacting with nature. There are even cognitive benefits just viewing pictures of nature!
But natural environments offer more coherent and aesthetic patterns of stimulation which are experienced as restful. Being in nature is effortless in comparison and permits us to replenish our ability to pay attention and has a restorative effect on our mental abilities, reports Psychological Science.
The Boston Globe's Jonah Lehrer recently wrote "How the city hurts your brain," reviewing recent research on the subject, emphasizing how the city is "a deeply unnatural and overwhelming place."
THE CITY HURTS YOUR BRAIN
Now psychologists are examining just how the urban environment affects the brain. And it's dramatic. Researchers have found that just being in a city impairs the basic way our mind works. Only a few minutes on a crowded city street makes the brain less able to hold things in memory and self-control is significantly lowered. City life isn't only exhausting, it actually affects our ability to think.
In an urban environment there is a stark lack of nature, and nature it turns out is amazingly beneficial for the brain. Even hospital patients recover more rapidly when they can see trees from their windows. Mere fleeting glimpses of nature improve brain performance-- it provides a break from the city's cacophony.
"For the first time in history, the majority of people reside in cities," writes Lehrer. "...instead of inhabiting wide-open spaces, we're crowded into concrete jungles, surrounded by taxis, traffic, and millions of strangers...unnatural surroundings have important implications for our mental and physical health and can powerfully alter how we think."
Following their walks subjects took a battery of psychological tests. Results found that the people who walked through the city were in a worse mood and scored significantly lower when tested on attention and working memory. Even just glancing at a photo of urban scenes led to measurable impairments, when compared with pictures of nature.
"We see the picture of the busy street, and we automatically imagine what it's like to be there," says Researcher Marc Berman. And that's when your ability to pay attention starts to suffer."
Interestingly, several studies have found that children with attention-deficit disorder have fewer symptoms in natural settings. They are less likely to have behavioral problems and better able to focus when surrounded by trees and animals.
Since we know the effects of urbanization on our minds and we now know what can help counteract those negative reactions, we need to invest in the natural spaces that provide some relief, some restoration.
NATURE IS MEDICINE
"While people have searched high and low for ways to improve cognitive performance, from doping themselves with Red Bull to redesigning the layout of offices, it appears that few of these treatments are as effective as simply taking a walk in a natural place," wrote Jonah Lehrer.
Nature is a kind of medicine. Hopefully more and more designers and landscape architects will continue to look for ways to integrate nature into our lives.
TO READ "DOODLING HELPS MEMORAY AND ATTENTION" CLICK HERE.