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Man In Nature: How Going to the Woods Strengthens Your Brain Power

Man In Nature: How Going to the Woods Strengthens Your Brain Power

Going on a forest walk or simply strolling through a park will do you a power of good. Not only physically by improving cardiac health and blood pressure, but it also will supercharge your brain power. There are mental and psychological benefits from being in contact with nature that you probably never even realized. Here are 6 benefits that your brain will get from a walk in the woods.

“There is pleasure in the pathless woods….I love not Man the less, but Nature more.” – Lord Byron.

1. It improves your mood

When you are feeling anxious or depressed, a walk in a green environment can do wonders for your mental state. It improves your mood and makes you feel happier. This was the conclusion of researchers at the University of Verona in Italy in 2014 who reported that contact with nature was an important element in restoring mental health.

2. It helps you to reduce stress levels

Walking in forests is a popular pastime in Japan. It is called shinrin-yoku which translates roughly as “forest-air bathing”. There is no equivalent word in English. Researchers at Kyoto University ( 2007) found that the subjects who were suffering from chronic stress had gotten the greatest benefits from walking in the forest.

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3. It helps your memory and learning power

Have you heard about forest kindergartens? They are very popular in Germany and you may wonder why. The original kindergartens (“children’s garden”) started by Friedrich Froebel were designed to stimulate children to learn in a garden setting. The children who are learning in this natural setting were found to be better at risk taking and also improved their attention and memory. What a pity that most kindergartens to-day are indoors!

Similar results were found for adults by the University of Michigan researchers (2008). They found those who had walked around a forest were performing 20% better on memory tests than their counterparts who had been walking in an urban setting.

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4. Green will help you be to be more creative

It is fascinating to learn that the color green seems to get the creative and imaginative ideas flowing. If you are ever stuck for some ideas, take a walk on the green side. One study, published by the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (2012), wanted their subjects to come up with some original ideas for using a simple tin can. The experiment showed some subjects a white rectangle and another group a green rectangle before starting. The people who had been shown the green rectangle produced the most imaginative and creative solutions. One explanation may be that the color green is associated with growth.

5. Walking in nature can reduce brooding

Do you ever brood? Researchers wanted to find out whether staying in natural surroundings would actually help to lessen brooding. Was there any evidence to show that city dwellers were more prone to brooding than those who had more exposure to natural surroundings? This is an urgent question as 70% of the world’s population will be living in urban areas by 2050. Prof. Bratman of Stanford University (2015) set out to discover if there was a link. Although the study was a small one and more research needs to be done, the subjects who had been on a 90 minute walk in natural surroundings were much less prone to ruminating on negative thoughts than those who had strolled through an urban area.

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6. Walking can help you let your mind wander

In our rushed lives, we are forced to pay attention as we cross the street, attend to the hundreds of demands on us and this can be very tiring. We rarely get the luxury of letting the mind wander and the ideal scenario is a walk in the woods. This is how our mind is involuntarily engaged in a very pleasant way. The brain can relax and it can help us to contemplate. This is often referred to as the Attention Restoration Theory and it functions best in a natural environment. This study was carried out by Prof. Cimprich at the University of Ann Arbor, Michigan, 2007.

So, the next time you decide to go for a walk in the woods or nearby park, remember that you are going to give your mental health a great boost and you will feel so much better for it. I mean, you don’t want to lose your mind, do you?

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“That’s the trouble with losing your mind; by the time it’s gone, it’s too late to get it back.” – Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering American on the Appalachian Trail.

Featured photo credit: Autumn Glory/Bert Kaufmann via flickr.com

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on November 20, 2018

10 Reasons Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

10 Reasons Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

A new year beautifully symbolizes a new chapter opening in the book that is your life. But while so many people like you aspire to achieve ambitious goals, only 12% of you will ever experience the taste of victory. Sound bad? It is. 156 million people (that’s 156,000,000) will probably give up on their resolution before you can say “confetti.” Keep on reading to learn why New Year’s resolutions fail (and how to succeed).

Note: Since losing weight is the most common New Year’s resolution, I chose to focus on weight loss (but these principles can be applied to just about any goal you think of — make it work for you!).

1. You’re treating a marathon like a sprint.

Slow and steady habit change might not be sexy, but it’s a lot more effective than the “I want it ALL and I want it NOW!” mentality. Small changes stick better because they aren’t intimidating (if you do it right, you’ll barely even notice them!).

If you have a lot of bad habits today, the last thing you need to do is remodel your entire life overnight. Want to lose weight? Stop it with the crash diets and excessive exercise plans. Instead of following a super restrictive plan that bans anything fun, add one positive habit per week. For example, you could start with something easy like drinking more water during your first week. The following week, you could move on to eating 3 fruits and veggies every day. And the next week, you could aim to eat a fistful of protein at every meal.

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2. You put the cart before the horse.

“Supplementing” a crappy diet is stupid, so don’t even think about it. Focus on the actions that produce the overwhelming amount of results. If it’s not important, don’t worry about it.

3. You don’t believe in yourself.

A failure to act can cripple you before you leave the starting line. If you’ve tried (and failed) to set a New Year’s resolution (or several) in the past, I know it might be hard to believe in yourself. Doubt is a nagging voice in your head that will resist personal growth with every ounce of its being. The only way to defeat doubt is to believe in yourself. Who cares if you’ve failed a time or two? This year, you can try again (but better this time).

4. Too much thinking, not enough doing.

The best self-help book in the world can’t save you if you fail to take action. Yes, seek inspiration and knowledge, but only as much as you can realistically apply to your life. If you can put just one thing you learn from every book or article you read into practice, you’ll be on the fast track to success.

5. You’re in too much of a hurry.

If it was quick-and-easy, everybody would do it, so it’s in your best interest to exercise your patience muscles.

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6. You don’t enjoy the process.

Is it any wonder people struggle with their weight when they see eating as a chore and exercise as a dreadful bore? The best fitness plan is one that causes the least interruption to your daily life. The goal isn’t to add stress to your life, but rather to remove it.

The best of us couldn’t bring ourselves to do something we hate consistently, so make getting in shape fun, however you’ve gotta do it. That could be participating in a sport you love, exercising with a good friend or two, joining a group exercise class so you can meet new people, or giving yourself one “free day” per week where you forget about your training plan and exercise in any way you please.

7. You’re trying too hard.

Unless you want to experience some nasty cravings, don’t deprive your body of pleasure. The more you tell yourself you can’t have a food, the more you’re going to want it. As long as you’re making positive choices 80-90% of the time, don’t sweat the occasional indulgence.

8. You don’t track your progress.

Keeping a written record of your training progress will help you sustain an “I CAN do this” attitude. All you need is a notebook and a pen. For every workout, record what exercises you do, the number of repetitions performed, and how much weight you used if applicable. Your goal? Do better next time. Improving your best performance on a regular basis offers positive feedback that will encourage you to keep going.

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9. You have no social support.

It can be hard to stay motivated when you feel alone. The good news? You’re not alone: far from it. Post a status on Facebook asking your friends if anybody would like to be your gym or accountability buddy. If you know a co-worker who shares your goal, try to coordinate your lunch time and go out together so you’ll be more likely to make positive decisions. Join a support group of like-minded folks on Facebook, LinkedIn, or elsewhere on the internet. Strength in numbers is powerful, so use it to your advantage.

10. You know your what but not your why.

The biggest reason why most New Year’s resolutions fail: you know what you want but you not why you want it.

Yes: you want to get fit, lose weight, or be healthy… but why is your goal important to you? For example:

Do you want to be fit so you can be a positive example that your children can admire and look up to?

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Do you want to lose fat so you’ll feel more confident and sexy in your body than ever before?

Do you want to be healthy so you’ll have increased clarity, energy, and focus that would carry over into every single aspect of your life?

Whether you’re getting in shape because you want to live longer, be a good example, boost your energy, feel confident, have an excuse to buy hot new clothes, or increase your likelihood of getting laid (hey, I’m not here to judge) is up to you. Forget about any preconceived notions and be true to yourself.

  • The more specific you can make your goal,
  • The more vivid it will be in your imagination,
  • The more encouraged you’ll be,
  • The more likely it is you will succeed (because yes, you CAN do this!).

I hope this guide to why New Year’s resolutions fail helps you achieve your goals this year. If you found this helpful, please pass it along to some friends so they can be successful just like you. What do you hope to accomplish next year?

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