Nature boosts your creativity and your well-being
Many of us work from home — which means that when then weather turns nice, we are not tied to office hours and we can move away from the keyboard and get into nature.
And there’s something magical about those first days of spring — wherever you are in the world, there’s a reawakening; the promise of something new unfurling.
We know at an intuitive level that nature re-energises and refreshes us — but what about the science?
In 2012, a ground-breaking study found that after only four days of immersion in nature, a group of hikers tested a 50% improvement in their cognitive functions related to creativity and problem solving.
50% is a pretty significant improvement!
The theory goes that the more we bury ourselves in technology, ignoring the natural wold around us, the more damage we are doing to our brains. There is a two-fold effect of getting out into nature (whether it’s a walk or just being outdoors):
- Exposure to natural stimuli creates a so-called ‘soft-fascination’ effect, where the mind may be more easily able to access an introspective, thoughtful state, and allow the imagination to do its magic. The parts of our brain that are active during this ‘restful introspection’ are those that are needed for efficient performance on tasks requiring insight, problem solving, and creative reasoning.
- And, secondly, removing access to multi-media devices removes the constant interruptions which pull our attention away and halt our executive, or higher thinking. Technology, particularly smart phones, are constantly demanding our attention. They demand that we multi-task, switch tasks often and think about several things at once. In short, they really inhibit our ability to focus.
Basically, if you want to use your brain effectively, you need some reflective introspection and the best way to do this is to turn off your phone and get into nature.
Although the researchers weren’t able to determine how much of the effect was caused by disconnecting from technology and how much of it was caused by nature alone, other studies support the ‘natures boosts your creativity’ theory.
Nature is good for your physical and mental health
We associate the great outdoors with physical health and well-being but it’s also good for your mental health. Even if you consider yours to be pretty good, there’s evidence that getting into nature will improve it.
The mental health organisation, MIND, published a study that found depression was reduced in 71% of participants after taking a walk in nature. When compared to walking round a shopping centre, 22% of participants were more depressed than before the walk. Ditch the mall and go for the park if you want to feel good.
Twenty minutes could be all we need to reduce fatigue and increase energy levels, according to the Journal of Environmental Psychology. Exposure to nature allows our brain to restore itself from stress and to replenish new ideas and analytical ability. It turns out the further away we live from nature the worse our health and economic outcomes. No wonder our concept of “getting away from it all” usually includes a relaxing country setting.
Best of all…
We should all be spending some of our day outside, concluded a University of Essex study.
And best of all is a ‘blue-green’ environment — meaning that we get maximum effect if we can spend this time close to water.
Nature restores mental functioning in the same way that food and water restore our bodies,
said Adam Alter, New York University. It’s true.
Putting it into action
There’s pretty convincing evidence that getting into nature is good for your mental health and that natures boosts your creativity. Let’s look at six ways that you can disconnect and build the restorative power of nature into your daily routine:
- Get outside as part of your morning ritual. Whether that’s a walk with the dog, or just taking your tea in the garden, starting your day with nature will give your brain a boost for the rest of the day.
- Walk the children to school, or take a mid-morning walk to buy a pint of milk, or go to the Post Office. If you don’t have children (or if they take the bus), then find an excuse to walk out for an errand. And take the route through the park if you can.
- Join an outdoor game at lunch-time instead of sitting in the cafe. Many of our parks have activities we can join in, whether that’s table-tennis (my favourite addition to London parks!), a football club, or just getting out with a friend and a frisbee, take the time outdoors rather than indoors — and you’ll find your afternoon much more productive.
- Join a local green group or a charity. Wherever we live we all have access to local groups or charities who help with nature, local animal rescue, historic monument restoration… whatever takes your fancy.
- Go green at home. Even if you don’t have a garden, keep some house-plants or some pots of herbs on your balcony. Tending to them will give you an oxygen boost and that much needed green-exposure.
- Take some regular, extended time outside. And make time for extended breaks outdoors. Whether it’s a weekend walking trip, or a week relaxing by the lake (remember that blue-green effect!), mix up your city breaks with nature breaks to get the best combination of stimulation for your brain and body.
Do you like to connect with nature? Come over and let us know how it works for you on your favourite social media channel…