Plants give peace. Most people feel calmer after a walk in the woods. But, there is more to it. Hiking in greenspace, away from urban noise and with your phones off (or put away) is good for your brain.
Although walking for an hour or two feels good, this study tested adults who backpacked in rural areas for 4-6 days, without technology. They were pre- and post-tested using the Remote Associates Test (RAT). This is a test used to measure creative thinking and insight problem-solving. After controlling for variances in age, the results were a 50 percent increase in creative thinking and insight problem-solving.
Our modern society is filled with sudden events (sirens, horns, ringing phones, alarms, television, etc.) that hijack attention. By contrast, natural environments are associated with a gentle, soft fascination, allowing the executive attentional system to replenish. In fact, early studies have found that interacting with nature (e.g., a wilderness hike) led to improvements in proof reading [and other cognitive tasks.]… One suggestion is that natural environments, like the environment that we evolved in, are associated with exposure to stimuli that elicit a kind of gentle, soft fascination, and are both emotionally positive and low-arousing.
In short, it seems our brains are not designed to take in the high level of stimulation we experience in our current society. Not only the electronic stimulus of computers, phones, lights, and video, but also car horns, sirens, and other sudden auditory alarms common in towns and cities. More study is underway.
Exposure to nature may also engage what has been termed the “default mode” networks of the brain…(important for peak psychosocial health.) The default mode network is a set of brain areas that are active during restful introspection and that have been implicated in efficient performance on tasks requiring frontal lobe function such as the divergent thinking task… On a hike or during exposure to natural stimuli which produce soft-fascination, the mind may be more able to enter a state of introspection and mind wandering which can engage the default mode.
So, we are designed to be in this default mode. When we use multimedia, we are externally focused. There is concern that both adults and children spend too much time with electronics which tax our brain’s executive function. Children spend far less time outdoors than they did a generation ago. Many use computers and tablets before school age.
Consider a long trip through natural environments for your summer vacation. It will help you think more creatively and problem-solve more easily.
I live in a city. What can I do?
For a short period of time in 2020, people were staying away from one another. Many found that walking outside was about the only safe recreation. Urban folk discovered, or rediscovered, those community trails that put them in the way of trees and greenspaces. Others walked along sidewalks and got some fresh air and sun. Taking a half hour in those places on a regular basis can do the trick.
If you are entirely concrete-bound in your current living environment, you still have sky out your window. You have fresh(er) air through an open window or outside. You can buy a houseplant and really take care of it. a single house plant lead to improvement in her life. Simply having a plant in the house increases fresh oxygen. Here is an blog entry from someone who found
You can do these without leaving your house or apartment’s grounds. They will help your brain return to a restful state, if only for a few minutes.
- Soften your eyes and gaze at the sky
- Step outside and inhale
- Notice the tug of gravity on your body
- Touch the leaves of a house plant
- Draw your favorite critter
- Have a session with an energy worker