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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!