I recently read an article on the Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life website that has peaked my interest. It is titled “How nature boosts kindness, happiness and Creativity”. While this statement is not necessarily surprising, what left me more inquisitive is how the article goes on to write about the new science behind the effects of spending time in nature.
The Greater Good article is brief and highlights the science that is beginning to explore and identify how the brain changes when we are engaged in nature and ultimately the behavioral and mood changes that follow. To me, this is fascinating. This bridge between anecdotal and factual evidence that we can pin point is influential in my therapeutic work with clients. I believe that when I stay inspired by new findings in the field, my clients also sense this openness to learning and staying curious which hopefully inspires them.
Oftentimes the reverse is true and it is my clients who inadvertently and unknowingly inspire me. Such as a client who uncovered her interest to search for and restore old, non-working musical instruments to spruce up and pass on (I love the ‘paying it forward’ kindness). In turn, this not only gave the instruments new life, it gave others an affordable (often times free) opportunity to own a ‘new’ instrument they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford. So THE CUSTOMERS also experienced a new life of sorts. I love my work and hearing these beautiful gift of life stories.
Okay.…back to the article. There goes my scattered brain again! The Greater Good piece resonated with me on many levels, but one being how the author opens by sharing about her life as an avid hiker. I remember my first hike and how it opened my eyes and heart to a whole new way of being of experiencing life. The memory still brings a visceral response in my body as I write this now (one reason I love somatic therapy– the body remembers and the imagination is powerful). Up until that point in my life I had not spent much intentional time in nature except growing up with sporadic family camping trips at one of the Minnesota lakes (key word being intentional).
There are five points that the article highlights and links with research about the effects of spending time in nature. They are:
Being in nature decreases stress
Nature makes you happier and less brooding
Nature relieves attention fatigue and increases creativity
Nature makes you feel more alive
Nature may help you be more kind and generous.
I hope you take a few minutes to read the article in its entirety and also feel more hope than you might have in this moment. You can find the article HERE.
The article also discusses the work of David Strayer, a researcher at the University of Utah who has been studying the impact of nature on our attention restoration. Strayer remarks the importance of allowing the prefrontal cortex to recover simply by going for a walk “without all of the gadgets” and that “when you use your cell phone to talk, text, shoot photos, or whatever else you can do with your cell phone, you’re tapping the prefrontal cortex and causing reductions in cognitive resources”. When we step away from the electronic devices, we have more freedom to connect with our innate creativity and wellspring of healing properties (just my thoughts here) that are within each and every one of us. This is turn supports a feeling of aliveness (one of my favorite words) that is missed or diminished when we are steadily connected to our phone and not in the “real world”.
I remember when touting ‘multi-tasking’ as a skill was something to be proud of, something to ensure that potential employers knew was a strength of yours. In fact, it is something I still hear from time to time as a positive trait. NOOOOO! Multi-tasking should NOT be a skill we hone or be proud about. What gets lost when we are swept up in multi-tasking is a full mind/body/soul experience, loss of detail, loss of memory of the experience/task and much more, I am sure. I recognize we may not be able to fully escape the juggling of multiple tasks. I think about clients who are single parenting, living in poverty, and/or working more than one job, or all of us who are challenged with managing the demands of our professional and personal life in an era where we can connect to anyone at anytime.
My hope for every client, is that they find nuggets of inspiration in their daily lives. That they too feel more and more hope that their past does not dictate their future and that real brain changes CAN happen. May you be well along your journey.
Again, here is the link to the article.