Studies have shown that breathing in fresh air and soaking up vitamin D improve many aspects of physical health — but spending time outdoors also benefits the brain.
Next time you’re lacking in motivation, struggling to focus or feeling a little blue, head outside for a walk.
Cindy McPherson Frantz, professor of psychology and environmental studies at Oberlin College in Ohio, said that being in nature has multiple benefits, one of which is restoring the ability to concentrate.
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“Essentially, it rests our brain,” she told Fox News Digital in an email.
Additionally, being outdoors lowers stress hormones, she said.
“It is a judgment-free space, so if we spend a lot of our day thinking about how others view us, nature provides an escape from that,” Dr. Frantz said.
“It increases positive mood, and can also lead us to experience transcendent emotions such as awe, wonder and being connected something larger than ourselves.”
“Spending time outdoors essentially rests the brain.”
Spending time in nature also helps people become more helpful and pro-social, the doctor said, citing recent research about behavior benefiting the community.
“All of this is separate from the exercise benefits, which are just the icing on top,” she said.
Even a short walk can boost mood
Squeezing in just a few minutes of time outdoors during a busy day can do the trick — and the location doesn’t matter.
“Benefits of exposure to nature have been shown after 15 minutes,” said Dr. Frantz.
“They do not need to occur in vast, pristine wilderness areas either. Pockets of nature in city parks also have a positive effect.”
Adding movement boosts the benefits
Just 11 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each day is sufficient to lower the risk of diseases such as heart disease, stroke and a number of cancers, recent research has found.
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The mental health benefits are enhanced when people focus on being present in their surroundings, said Dr. Frantz.
And that means truly experiencing those physical surroundings.
“My strong hypothesis is that if you are staring at your phone the whole time, the benefits will be reduced,” she said.
“For the cognitive benefits, natural environments are more likely to elicit a ‘soft’ focus, as opposed to the ‘hard’ focus we use when looking at screens and reading.”
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