Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Effects of Nature on Your Brain

I thought this would be a fitting post after coming back from a vacation out in nature.  A few months back I was at my dentist's office for a cleaning when I saw a copy of the December, 2011, issue of Outdoors magazine.  I'm not particularly drawn to male publications.  I'm really not interested in seeing Grizzly Adams like men trekking the Arctic Tundra.  But there was a title that grabbed my interest, "This Is Your Brain On Nature."   I loved what I read and thought I would share it with you.

This information was compiled by Madison Kahn:

1. Increased attention span.  A 2008 study by University of Michigan psychologists found that walking outside or even just looking at pictures of natural settings improves directed attention, the ability to concentrate on a task.  Put another way: nature restores our ability to focus.

2. Better Memory.  The same study supported previous experiments showing that being in nature improves memory - by 20 percent when it came to recalling a series of numbers.

3. Reduced Stress.  Office workers with views of trees and flowers reported lower stress levels, higher job satisfaction, and fewer ailments than colleagues with views of buildings, according to a 1989 study by the University of Michigan.

4. Improved Mood. In a 1991 study by Texas A&M psychologists, subjects who viewed scenes of water or trees reported a much quicker return to a positive mood after a stressful event than those who viewed urban scenes.

5. Greater Creativity.  In a pilot study this March, psychologists found that students in an Outward Bound course showed a 40 percent boost in frontal lobe activity - after four days in the back country.


I can't help but think about the book, The Secret Garden by Burnett, a story I have read to my children.  Colin Craven was a wealthy, sickly, paralytic boy raised by nannies and was locked up in his palatial bedroom with the curtains drawn closed.  He forgot that he was even sick or couldn't walk when he ventured to the great outdoors and spent time in a garden with his friends.  This fictional story illustrates that mood is intrinsically linked to the health of our bodies.  If we neglect the care of our emotional state of being our health will suffer.

Nothing improves my mood like running in the trails that are close to my home.  I hate running!  But just being out in the woods (I never run alone, by the way!)  turns what would be a drudgery into a pleasurable experience.  If you are fighting sickness, improve your diet and lifestyle - and spend time in natural settings! 

On another note:  The new cookbook by Forks Over Knives is out!  Check it out here.

Enjoy the Journey!