Interacting with Nature Increases Attention and Wellbeing

Spending time in nature been shown to increase happiness and attention. Additionally, looking at nature scenes also provided boosts to short term memory.

38 people took park in an experiment to test the cognitive benefits of interacting with nature1. They were all given an initial mood questionnaire. Then they were asked to repeat a series of numbers in reverse order to assess attention and stress participants’ short term memory.

Next, each participant was randomly assigned to either walk for 50 minutes in a park or a downtown urban environment. After the walk, they all performed the same tests, and answered questions about their experiences.

The results of the study showed significant improvement in the accuracy of the digit reversal testing in the nature walking group, which was deemed to be an indicator of increased attention. The same group also reported increased mood, and scored higher on happiness questionnaires compared to the urban environment walking group.

A similar experiment was done using a pool of 12 undergraduate students. These students were given the same mood questionnaire, and number-reversing test from the previous experiment. Instead of walking in nature, however, the participants were randomly assigned to either look at pictures of nature scenes, or look at pictures of urban scenes.

The second experiment suggested that, while looking at pictures of nature also increased attention, the activity did not reliably cause any changes in mood.

This post is part of our series on “happiness interventions,” or activities you can do that have been scientifically shown to increase happiness. Sign up for our mailing list to receive an email every week with a happiness activity.

Sources:

1. Berman, M. G., Jonides, J., & Kaplan, S. (2008). The cognitive benefits of interacting with nature. Psychological Science, 19(12), 1207-1212.
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