It's true: Getting out in nature will help clear your mind

Brain function improves by 50 percent

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 12 2012 4:52 p.m. MST

Researchers in the Utah-Kansas study cited earlier studies that indicate today's children spend an average of 15 to 25 minutes a day outdoors, which is a far cry from the hours and days their ancestors spent interacting with nature.

The average 8- to 18-year-old spends more than 7.5 hours a day using media such as TV, cellphones and computers, according to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Effects from such a lifestyle are still being studied, but early research holds that modern technology and multitasking place undue demands on the brain, distorting the ability to stay on task or maintain focus.

Nature is effective in restoring such abilities, Strayer and his colleagues found.

"Our modern society is filled with sudden events (sirens, horns, ringing phones, alarms, television, etc.) that hijack attention," the PLOS ONE article states. "By contrast, natural environments are associated with gentle, soft fascination, allowing the executive attentional system to replenish."

So, Strayer said, anecdotal reports from artists and writers claiming that nature inspires are true.

In addition, constantly being connected, he said, is increasingly more concerning to social psychologists and social scientists, because it "leads to fewer social interactions. And digital interactions just don't have the same quality as social interactions."

He said it is necessary to "give the human system a break from your everyday high-tech swirl.

"If you can set that aside and go out into nature … it tends to produce benefits that are very clear, measurable and promote good health."

E-mail: wleonard@desnews.com

Twitter: wendyleonards

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