Let’s face it: urban life can be draining. The overstimulating of our brain courtesy of loud noises, constant happenings, and avoiding fellow pedestrians and cars has been scientifically shown to negatively impact our brains. They can only handle so much, and the absence of nature’s soothing touch has become so commonplace for so many that it’s starting to have a palpable effect on our brains. Especially now that the majority of the population, for the first time in history, live in urban areas.
An array of intensive studies, made popular in an article by Jonah Lehrer in the Boston Globe from 2009, have found that simply living in urban environments impairs our basic mental processes: our problem-solving capabilities are hampered, our emotions are unbalanced, and we are generally unhappier.
“But my job’s there!” some say. Or, “I love living in the big city!” Which is understandable. Not all of us can live in a cabin in the woods or in a cottage on the lake. Which begs the question: What can we do about it?
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The simple answer is this: incorporate more nature into our daily lives. Surround ourselves as much as possible with greenery, with natural beauty.
Studies have shown that even a minimal amount of exposure to natural landscapes has positive effects on the functionality of the brain. So if you’re in the big city and don’t have time to spend hours in lush countryside filled with birds, plants and a loping gazelle, a few things you can do include:
- Position yourself with an overlook of a grassy courtyard
- Hang pictures or paintings of beautiful landscapes
- Get a plant for your office or home
- Take a jaunt through the nearest small park
- Set your screensaver or your desktop background to nature scenes
These sound trivial, but in this situation the saying holds true that “a little bit can go a long way.” When exposed to natural landscapes, even for brief moments, our brains automatically – literally, we’re talking mere minutes – gain a higher degree of clarity. Studies have even shown that hospital patients whose rooms are exposed to trees or grass recover faster than those with views of walls, granite, or cityscapes.
Natural landscapes have a restorative affect on the brain, allowing it to relax and assume its ideal level of information-processing, which means we think better and we’re happier.
You don’t have to live at Walden Pond to achieve the benefits that landscapes have on the brain.
But, then again, it couldn’t hurt.
photo courtesy of AlanEnglish