Life can be stressful with its hectic work schedules, constant multitasking, challenging interactions with someone around us or due to the uncertainty of the outcomes of all of our efforts. Being in less than positive environments affects not only our mood and well-being but also our ability to stay productive in our activities. What do you do to recharge your batteries or to reconnect with your inner self? With the warm season back in town I find myself spending more and time out in nature. Being closer to nature has well-known tremendous benefits for our immune system and sleep cycle associated with the getting the fresher, outdoors air, the physical exercise and much needed Vitamin D.
Turns out, there are additional bonuses we get from being one on one with nature. A relatively new American study showed connection between immersion in nature and higher level cognitive tasks such as creative problem solving. A study of 2012 called Creativity in the Wild: Improving Creative Reasoning through Immersion in Natural settings involved 56 hikers who spent 4-6 days backpacking in the nature in three states, in a few separate groups with no connection with each other. All hikers were disconnected from their technology and had no multimedia to get distracted by. The study involved some pre-hike and some in-hike testing of the participants’ cognitive skills. The in-hike test was given on the 4th day spent in the wilderness. The results showed that the hikers improved their performance on creativity and problem solving by 50%!
The theory behind this study suggests that nature has specific recuperative powers when it comes to the parts of our brain that are in charge of our executive attentional system. The overuse of this system can lead to its depletion which happens to us in our daily lives. We are highly engaged with technology, our phones are constantly beeping, alarms are going off, reminders pop up on our screens and notifications alert us to take never ending constant action, often forcing to switch between tasks back and forth. What nature does is the opposite: with its soothing, gentle environment it calms down our highly distracted minds and allows for self-reflection and introspection. That’s how we are able to bring down the stress of the hamster-wheel life and tap into our internal resources for fresh perspective and creative ideas. When disruptive outside noises are cut out we simply have a better chance of hearing our own inner voice, our intuition.
Living in our modern urban or equally technology-intense suburban settings, exposure to nature is not necessarily an integral part of our living. So we have to give nature the significance in deserves on so many levels and start getting out there more often, to get ourselves away from the daily hustle and bustle of stressful environments. “Serenity Now” was what Frank Costanza from my all- time favorite TV show “Seinfeld” was told to use as the mantra whenever his blood pressure was about to go up. Let’s remember this phrase and bring serenity into our lives every now and then without, of course, all the insanity that came afterwards in the same named episode of the show.