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Science Says Walking In Nature Changes The Brain

Science Says Walking In Nature Changes The Brain

Want to live a happier life and have a more productive work day? Take the scenic route to work. The concrete commute that most city dwellers experience on the daily may be having a larger impact on the psyche than you think. Beyond the concrete jungle that we more and more fail to escape on a regular basis exists an environment that may help you combat stress, depression, and anxiety.

Walking In Nature Helps Depression And Anxiety

The isolation of being locked up in offices and high rise condominiums is being linked to psychological disorders including depression, anxiety and a short attention span at work. New York Times article, How Nature Changes the Brain by Gretchen Reynolds, found that people who live in cities spend more time ‘brooding’, a term meaning a renumeration of thoughts in your mind as to what is wrong with yourself and your life. The study compared those who lived in high density urban settings to those who had more exposure to greenery and trees.

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Walking In Nature Improves Your Attention and Focus

So what if you don’t have a park on the route to work or cannot give up the highway commute? There is still hope. The Journal of Environmental Psychology suggests that even small mental breaks viewing nature can help aid off psychological issues such as reduced attention span. The study looked at subjects that viewed either concrete or green spaces and found that the ones who viewed the natural environment made less errors and were more consistent responding to given tasks. Living and working surrounded by thousands of people and concrete drains your mental resources that are critical for attention. While in opposition, viewing trees, parks, and green spaces on a regular basis, helps create a more calm and active mind.

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Viewing Nature Helps Your Mind Escape Everyday Concerns

So how does nature help with depression and anxious feelings and give us a greater sense of focus? From a logical perspective it makes sense that being surrounded by thousands of people, heavy traffic, and concrete would make us feel more anxious, and unhappy. But why would nature have such a large effect on our brains? Nature gives the brain a sense of calmness and peace. The presence of trees, water, and open spaces of greenery transitions the mind into feeling an escapement from everyday concerns. It brings the simplicity back into life. Nature literally changes the brain.

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And not only are the people who have more exposure to natural settings mentally healthier, but they also enjoy a higher quality of physical health as well. A convincing example in the New Yorker, What a Tree is Worth, by Alex Hutchinson,  showed that patients given hospital rooms that looked over spaces with trees as opposed to a brick wall, recovered faster. In fact , researchers are discovering that surrounding yourself with nature can be one of the most powerful stress-relievers out there.

As unlikely as it is to take a twenty minute detour for a scenic route or to move to a park surrounded area, there are small changes that you can implement into your life today. Change your desktop background to outdoor scenery or hang visual art of the sky and ocean on your wall. Spend more of your breaks outside, plan more trips to the park or runs along the water. Vote in favour of green roofs, and of course make an effort to get into nature and enjoy it. We tend to complicate the cures for anxiety and depression when in fact being in a calm and natural environment may just be what you need.

Featured photo credit: A Couple Walking in a Park via flickr.com

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Last Updated on December 2, 2018

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

How to Flow Your Way to a More Productive Life

Ebb and flow. Contraction and expansion. Highs and lows. It’s all about the cycles of life.

The entire course of our life follows this up and down pattern of more and then less. Our days flow this way, each following a pattern of more energy, then less energy, more creativity and periods of greater focus bookended by moments of low energy when we cringe at the thought of one more meeting, one more call, one more sentence.

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The key is in understanding how to use the cycles of ebb and flow to our advantage. The ability to harness these fluctuations, understand how they affect our productivity and mood and then apply that knowledge as a tool to improve our lives is a valuable strategy that few individuals or corporations have mastered.

Here are a few simple steps to start using this strategy today:

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Review Your Past Flow

Take just a few minutes to look back at how your days and weeks have been unfolding. What time of the day are you the most focused? Do you prefer to be more social at certain times of the day? Do you have difficulty concentrating after lunch or are you energized? Are there days when you can’t seem to sit still at your desk and others when you could work on the same project for hours?

Do you see a pattern starting to emerge? Eventually you will discover a sort of map or schedule that charts your individual productivity levels during a given day or week.  That’s the first step. You’ll use this information to plan your days going forward.

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Schedule According to Your Flow Pattern

Look at the types of things you do each day…each week. What can you move around so that it’s a better fit for you? Can you suggest to your team that you schedule meetings for late morning if you can’t stand to be social first thing? Can you schedule detailed project work or highly creative tasks, like writing or designing when you are best able to focus? How about making sales calls or client meetings on days when you are the most social and leaving billing or reports until another time when you are able to close your door and do repetitive tasks.

Keep in mind that everyone is different and some things are out of our control. Do what you can. You might be surprised at just how flexible clients and managers can be when they understand that improving your productivity will result in better outcomes for them.

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Account for Big Picture Fluctuations

Look at the bigger picture. Consider what happens during different months or times during the year. Think about what is going on in the other parts of your life. When is the best time for you to take on a new project, role or responsibility? Take into account other commitments that zap your energy. Do you have a sick parent, a spouse who travels all the time or young children who demand all of your available time and energy?

We all know people who ignore all of this advice and yet seem to prosper and achieve wonderful success anyway, but they are usually the exception, not the rule. For most of us, this habitual tendency to force our bodies and our brains into patterns of working that undermine our productivity result in achieving less than desired results and adding more stress to our already overburdened lives.

Why not follow the ebb and flow of your life instead of fighting against it?

    Featured photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via unsplash.com

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