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Step Outside to Recharge Your Brain

I’m summarizing (and adding my own thoughts) to a recent article on MSNBC’s website entitled, “Need to Recharge Your Brain? Step Outside” by Andrea Thompson.

In 2007, for the first time in human history, more people in the world lived in urban rather than rural areas. These urban areas tend to be fast paced with lots of external stimuli…music, traffic, flashing lights, bustling people, and so on. Also, people in urban areas don’t have access to much green…I’m talking trees and plant life and not money here.

Scientists are finding that exposure to the frequent stimuli found in urban environments, coupled with the limited access to nature, takes a hefty toll on the cognitive and emotional functioning of both people and animals.

This finding is not surprising. We evolved to live in nature. Humans and our ancestors have primarily lived in natural settings for tens of thousands of years. It is only in the past several hundred years that humans have started to live in large towns and cities.

Our attention systems get taxed by the exposure to the constant stream of stimuli in urban environments. In effect, we are not living in harmony with nature. That might sound a little new agey, but scientists have found this to be an accurate description of what is happening. Scientists have found that access to nature has a calming…even a recharging effect on the brain.

You don’t have to move to the middle of Montana or a Costa Rican rain forest to get these benefits. You can get many of them from gardening, hiking, camping, walking along a beach, or strolling through a tree-filled neighborhood. Unplug your iPod, turn off your cell phone, and soak up nature on a daily basis. Your brain will thank you for it.

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