Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Nature and Mental Health

I try to get out on the trails as often as I can. We take the kids to forest preserves and our community has quite a few parks. But I work in the city, so much of my time is spent looking out of a train window while commuting, and, if I get the opportunity, walking around downtown Chicago. My views are mostly urban. I think that's why I enjoy getting into more wild territory when I have the opportunity and, it turns out, it's what my mind craves:
  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 physical 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—which is linked to creativity—after four days in the backcountry.
So what are you waiting for? Get outside!



  1. Great post. For me getting outside gives me perspective and makes me realize that the world/life/nature is tremendously large and my little life and concerns are rather minimal. Works everytime!

  2. I 100% agree. How could I not when I have a degree in psychology from Texas A&M! Great post:)

  3. This is exactly why I rarely use a treadmill and have never used a trainer. Being outside is more than half the point.

  4. Totally agree - love getting out into the great outdoors!

  5. Totally why I work as a forester - it is my JOB to be outside everyday. Makes me swear a little when it is -20 or whatever...and I just need to be out in the woods to be happy...

    Great post!!

  6. Could not agree more. I think one of the things that drew me to running in the fist place was just getting outside. I also think my outdoor running helps me manage winter (my least favorite season) better.

  7. 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.Impotence Pills


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