With spring not far away, here’s another reason to savor the balmy weather. A study from the University of Michigan claims that spending time outdoors improves and restores focus.
The researchers, led by Marc Berman, asked 38 undergraduate students to perform several memory-intensive tasks intended to exhaust their attention resources. After the test, all the students were sent on an hour long walk– half through downtown Ann Arbor, Michigan, and half through an arboretum. When the students were tested again after their walk, those who had spent their break surrounded by greenery performed better than the others.
Interestingly enough, the restorative effects of the nature walk were independent of the participants’ enjoyment of the walk. The poor students were sent out for a walk at four different times of year, including January. While the students understandably enjoyed the walk less at certain times of year, the students who walked through the arboretum still got the same mental benefits.
If you live in an urban environment, take comfort– even looking at pictures of the great outdoors can provide mental benefits. After demonstrating the restorative effects of spending time in nature, the researchers enlisted more undergraduate students and replicated the experiment. This time, however, the students were assigned to look at pictures of urban environments or more natural landscape. While the students did not benefit from the pictures as much as actually going outdoors, the scores of the students who looked at the nature pictures were significantly higher than the scores of the students who were assigned to look at the urban pictures. So, go outside if you can, but if you can’t, at least hang a nice waterfall picture where you’ll see it often. However, don’t go digital– another study found looking at a plasma screen displaying a nature scene provided no more mental benefits than looking at a blank wall.
This study is not the first to demonstrate efficacy of nature in calming the mind. In the late 1990s, researchers at a public housing development noticed that the women who lived in apartments with plants and trees immediately outside seemed to fare better than those who lived in apartment buildings without such landscaping. When the researchers measured these women’s concentration and attention through various tests, they found that the women who lived among the trees scored higher than the other women in the housing development.
You can read the University of Michigan study by clicking here.
The temptation for kids to come home and slump in front of the iPad or computer is real , especially at the beginning of the school year. New teachers, new classes, new schedules– to say nothing of re-learning how to intellectually engage for hours at a time. Homework and extracurricular activities require kids to recharge in a short period of time, though, so mindless activities are a luxury few kids these days can afford. The best way to beat the after-school slump may be some time outside. Whether your family walks home from school or the bus, relaxes for a few minutes in the yard, or simply does homework on the porch, try to incorporate some time with nature into your afternoon routine!
Clean Router can help your family unplug and enjoy time off-line together!