You’ve probably been told by more than one wellness guru that getting out in nature is good for the body and soul (and they’re right), but as it turns out, a little quality time with mother earth is also beneficial for your brain.
We live in a world of constant distraction; from overactive news notifications, to constantly pinging email inboxes, to the onslaught of other social interactions we are subjected to on a daily basis. Psychologists have posited that existing in a consistent state of diversion puts a massive burden on the prefrontal cortex of the brain, the area responsible for managing multi-tasking and higher-order thinking (i.e. critical thinking and problem-solving). That deluge of different little demands drains our powers of attention, leaving our brains stretched thin and exhausted. Working with a tired brain makes it more challenging to focus, work through deeper thoughts, and act creatively.
A recent study showed that backpackers were able to problem-solve more creatively after spending several days out on the trail. The research shows that spending time in a natural environment gives the prefontal cortex time to take a break and reload, as it’s not nearly as active when the person is spending time away from all their distracting devices. According to another study, spending as little as 25 minutes a day in a green space (even a city park) is enough time to stimulate a second cerebral wind.
And it’s not just your attention span that will benefit from some bonding with mother earth; creative faculties improve quickly upon exposure to the outside, and powerful emotions like awe and fascination are awakened by spending time in the natural world, improving mood and enhancing a person’s perception of their quality of life.
So to help you think better and feel better, make an effort to spend more time in green spaces. Nature really is the new (well, old, really) medicine; doctors in Scotland are actually prescribing time spent talking to adorable ponies in their pamphlet filled with a year’s worth of outdoorsy activities.