This Is Your Brain On Nature | Seventh Generation
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This Is Your Brain On Nature

Author: the Inkslinger

You're stuck in traffic on an ugly Monday and the phone won't quit and the texts won't stop and dinner's pizza has gone cold and the radio is squawk, squawk, squawk, 'til you lose your patience. Where the heck is a tree when you need it? Wait… What? A tree? You bet. That's all science says we really need.

It's called brain fatigue, the mental Rubicon we cross when life's barrage of noise, haste, and demands overloads our cranial circuits and reduces us to overly forgetful short-attention-span shadows of our former selves.

For the cure, we turn to Scotland's intrepid scientists, who used new portable electroencephalograms to study the brain waves of people on the go. Overstimulated test subjects jacked up their readings walking all over urban Edinburgh. Until they got to a park. Then their readouts became meditative and they entered a state known as "involuntary attention," where the mind is engaged but so effortlessly that there's still mental space for peaceful contemplation.

Simply put, their brains got a tree break that boosted relaxation and eased stress. The rest of us could use one, too. In today's maxed-out world, making time for nature is vital. But the forces that leave us stressed usually leave little time for  gambols through the greenery. Here's how to change that:

  • First, commit! Just as we should pay into our retirement accounts before we pay our bills, we should carve out some time for nature before spending it elsewhere. Look at this way: It's cheaper than therapy. Put it on the calendar if necessary!
  • Know where your local nature lies. It's a lot easier to go when you can go without thinking. So keep a mental list of nearby destinations. Use NatureFind to hunt them down if you need help.
  • Take your to-do list. Work on your laptop under the trees. Take your breaks, make your calls, and eat your meals there. Do small tasks on a park bench via phone or tablet. At Seventh Generation, we literally used to conduct entire meetings on nearby trails. It works!
  • Create structure. Nature is easier to enter as part of a daily routine. Make it your lunch spot. Take a nightly post-dinner walk. Put a park between you and regular errands.
  • Keep a bag with your nature necessities by the door so you can grab the sunscreen, bug juice, water bottles and more without stopping.
  • Time it right. Misery is antimotivational, so if it's cold, stick to the heart of the day when the sun is strongest. In the heat, go mornings or evenings.
  • Think small. You don't need a day in a national park. Ten minutes in a micropark will do. And you don't even need that. There are whole worlds waiting in a vacant lot or even a single flower if that’s all you can find.
  • Do it with others. Start an informal nature club that will regularly get you into the Great Outdoors. The Children & Nature Network has everything you need.

Still not convinced you should go? Read The Nature Principle, by Richard Louv. You won't look back. And once you're under the trees, you won't want to.

Photo: Garry Knight


Sumitra picture
I agree with henry's mom-- I don't think taking all our wireless emf emitter gizmos to the park with us is going to help. Nature has enough of our toxins to deal with on a daily basis. Maybe we would be feeling better if we developed a lot more respect for our natural brethren? Just some thoughts....
dirinc picture
An article worth clipping. Especially resonated to the "becoming overly-forgetful and short attention span" due to STRESS. Often wondered how my husband could decide to do not-very-urgent lawn or gardening chores when there was so much else more pressing to do. Gave me a lot to think about in MANY areas. No time to "park" it, but can certainly sit in the yard and meditate a few or even take s short walk around the block and look at the foliage. THANKS.
henrys mom picture
henrys mom
why show a guy with his head in a laptop? Geez thats exactly what we do no need more of!