Some folks from the University of Michigan carried out interesting research into the cognitive benefits of interacting with nature last year.
In it, the authors state that “Nature, which is filled with intriguing stimuli, modestly grabs attention in a bottom-up fashion”. I couldn’t agree more.
The authors carried out two experiments with students (who, interestingly, were recompensed), which “show that walking in nature or viewing pictures of nature can improve [certain] attention abilities.”
Interacting with environments rich with inherently fascinating stimuli (they give the example of sunsets), allows some attention mechanisms to replenish. After such an interaction with nature, one is able to perform better on tasks that depend on so-called directed-attention abilities.
Directed attention can (unscientifically) be explained as the ability to concentrate in the face of distractions.
In the first experiment, participants had their mood assessed. They were then randomly assigned to take a walk, either in a nearby arboretum or downtown area. The former was tree lined and secluded from traffic and people. The latter was on a traffic heavy street, lined with buildings.
Performance in the test was much improved among those who walked in nature, but not with those who walked in the urban area.The season in which students were tested had no impact. Researchers found that mood improved after walking in nature, compared to urban.
The second experiment showed pictures to students of nature and of urbania. Participants rated viewing those of nature as significantly more refreshing.
The researchers, in concluding, state that “these experiments demonstrate the restorative value of nature as a vehicle to improve cognitive functioning.” Indeed, they add that “To consider the availability of nature as merely an amenity fails to recognise the vital importance of nature in effective cognitive functioning.”
Can’t argue with that.
Maybe you should come for a walk with Tourism Pure, or just get out by yourself in some nice, quiet spot.