Tuesday, March 26, 2013
"Nature attracts our attention softly"
I was recently at a library conference and attended a session called "Boosting Your Brain: The Restorative Benefits of Interacting with Nature". Sure, I always knew that I felt better after walking or running outside, gardening etc. but I didn't realize that studies were actually confirming the positive effects. The speaker was Marc Berman who is currently a post-doctoral fellow at Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute in Toronto. Marc examines the brain mechanisms involved in controlling thoughts, feelings and behaviours, and how to improve those abilities.
Did you ever wonder why after a day of staring at a computer or paying attention in meetings, you just feel exhausted? According to Marc, that's because we are using directed attention for these activities which causes fatigue. Nature, in contrast, is rich in interesting stimuli which activates involuntary attention while at the same time not taxing directed attention. "Nature attracts our attention softly." In studies he's conducted, Marc found that a 50 minute walk increased short-term memory by 20%. Even just looking at photographs of natural locations can have a similar effect.
Let's hear it for time spent in the great outdoors.