As the days lengthen and flowers bloom, the impressive majesty of nature takes center stage at last — summer is just around the corner.
The phenomena of the collective physical world have inspired classic works of literature, iconic paintings, and famous symphonies. And it’s all less coincidental than you might initially think. Over the last few years, a number of studies has shown that interaction with the outdoors can be beneficial for your creative well-being. So get on out there!
1. Take A Hike
A study conducted by Dr. Ruth Ann Atchley and colleagues suggests that the benefits of hiking go beyond using your muscles and building endurance. Walking through the forest in a tranquil setting can be a refreshing experience for all your senses. It sets the brain into what is called the default mode, a place where the mind can wander, introspecting on the songs of birds, the sounds of running creeks, and the smells of newly bloomed honeysuckle. When you go outside, leave your iPad and other electronic devices at home or at least try not to tweet about it until after you get home.
2. Relocate Your Workspace
On a beautiful day, why stay indoors when you can catch up on your week’s work outside? Changing up your workspace may make you notice something you hadn’t paid attention to before, whether it’s an especially stunning sunrise or sunset, the fragrance of a new flower, or the ever-changing shapes of trees and clouds. Switching up your surroundings can alter the way you think by opening your mind up to new perspectives.
3. Ride A Bike
A study by Dr. Maren Schmidt-Kassow and colleagues involved women who partook in recreational cycling for 30-minute periods, followed by equal periods of learning verbs in another language. The ones who memorized the verbs and rode a bike performed much better on an assessment of what they’d learned than the control group, which was not subjected to intensive exercise before the test. The lesson? Physical exercise has an effect on the brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which is involved in learning performance.
4. Engage The Body, Engage The Mind
Don’t just hike. Spend a few hours outside rowing a canoe, building a fence, or planting a garden. As hard at work as you might be, you’ll feel calmer and breathe easier. Why? As you work, the brainwaves in the frontal cortex — needed for concentration — slow down. Any creative problems begin to become clarified.
5. Claim Your Spot
Pick any spot along your favorite trail or in your best-loved park and try to take in as much detail as possible while you sit and enjoy the surroundings. Take a notebook with you and record everything you see. This simple exercise will help you focus back home and in the office, where technology and its distractions require you to constantly shift your attention.
6. Stop And Gaze
Don’t just blaze trails on your hike. Every so often, admire the path ahead or the immense trees around you and look for patterns. Even the nuisances of hiking can be helpful with problem solving. Don’t think they’re effective? George de Mestral was inspired to invent Velcro after he spotted some burdock burrs stuck to his clothing while taking a walk in the Swiss Alps.
This article is updated from its initial publication in Brain World Magazine’s print edition.
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