Time in Nature

In urban settings, walking groups are popping up in every city. And many studies have shown that spending active time in the great outdoors is good for the mind. Just 20 minutes of outdoor activity, like walking in a park, in the woods or even in your backyard can boost your memory. These groups are on to something!

Walking in nature 20 minutes gives adults a 20% memory boost.

Dr. Kang, a published psychiatrist who teaches about health and motivation in Vancouver (Canada), states that our internal biology rewards us when we do something important for our survival, like being outdoors. The reward is a feeling of well-being, rejuvenation or pleasure, and it is mediated by our brain’s neurochemicals. And so it goes, feelings of well-being are good for the mind, and that would explain the memory boost. Anyone who has ever felt better by going for a brisk walk outside can attest to the euphoric feeling afterwards. It is biology’s way of telling us to do it again, a signal from our bodies that being in nature is important for our survival.

It is no secret humans have a deep-seated need for contact with nature. The “biophilia” theory says humans are hard-wired genetically for an affiliation with the natural world and suffer when they’re deprived of it. A second school of thought is called Attention Restoration Theory (ART), which has been the basis of recent studies by Canadian researcher Marc Berman. It suggests the brain relaxes in nature, entering a state of contemplative attention that is restorative or refreshing. And as our exposure to technology increases and while some experts worry about the ills of the internet age and the health problems linked to adults and kids’ hours of screen time, some researchers are looking for ways to cope in an ever increasingly “plugged-in” society.

Among those looking for a solution is Richard Louv. The American author of The Nature Principle, posits there is an antidote – and it’s free! His theory states that ‘relaxing’ down time for a brain, that is otherwise overtaxed by modern pressures, can be highly beneficial, and an effective way to ‘relax’ the brain is through exposure to the Natural world. He concluded that the parts of the brain that get burned out when we sit in front of computers all day, doing very structured, focused work, are centres that can be rejuvenated by activating other parts of the brain that were previously under utilized. This means, to rejuvenate the parts of the brain you utilize most through the use of technology, you need to completely shift focus and get the brain stimulated in other areas. Those areas of the brain that are under-utilized, in man’s modern day, are those parts of the brain that are stimulated by the senses. In literal terms, the conclusions of the research clearly conclude that an effective way to perk the brain centres that become dormant through the use of technology are to get outdoors and get active! The solution is simple, the more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.

  • Research shows a connection to the Natural world: boosts mental acuity and creativity; improves health and wellness; and ultimately strengthens human bonds.
  • That spending time in nature also restores certain brain functions that are taxed by technology, such as attention span, problem-solving, and the ability to multi-task.
  • Time in nature makes us healthier and happier while also lowering occurrence of
    physical illnesses.

If the realty is the more high-tech our lives become, the more nature we need in our lives, then spending time in nature becomes a priority. And many living south of the border have taken this to the ultimate level with outdoor living. Truly, with a myriad of activities in the area and the weather being sunny year round, it makes getting (and living) outdoors so much easier. In our modern times, if one of our key concerns of how we can reconnect with nature in a virtual age is resolved, we can then turn our attention to an even more pressing question, and ponder this age old question our long walks in the woods: what makes us feel more alive? Therein lies the true pursuit of life!

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