TIME IN NATURE BENEFITS CREATIVITY AND MEMORY
March 01, 2020 by Extinction Rebellion
Taking time out to connect with nature can help to get your creative juices flowing. Research from the U.S. found that a four-day nature hike improved creative problem- solving by as much as fifty percent. Sadly most of us don’t have the option of taking a long hike in the wilderness, but a twenty-five minute walk in a local park can also boost your creativity. Some studies suggest that even just having a house plant in the room can help you to be more creative!
A Danish study found that nature helped creative professionals in their work, making them ‘more open towards new, different and wild ideas’. Watching the trees gently swaying in the wind, sitting by a stream bubbling over rocks, or listening to birdsong offers what researchers call ‘soft fascination’. Because nature engages our senses in this gentle way, it calms and restores the mind. This creates the ideal environment for our imaginations to let loose.
Researchers have found that feelings of awe slow down our perception of time, bringing about a greater sense of presence. Professor Melanie Rudd sums up an experience you’ve probably had yourself in awestruck moments: ‘Time feels more expansive, more full and rich.’ Nature often inspires feelings of awe: have you ever taken time to look closely at the intricacy of a leaf, or watch a spider weave a web? Awe not only opens up our imaginations, but also gives us a sense of ‘time abundance’ that allows us to be more creative.
Nature offers a huge range of sensory input. Natural variety stimulates our curiosity, provokes new ideas and encourages flexible thinking. Walking in nature is especially helpful as it helps us to gain new perspectives and imagine different possibilities. In fact, spending time in nature can improve your memory.
Research found that a walk in an arboretum, compared to one in a city, improved memory by 20%. A good memory gives you access to the myriad of ideas you’ve picked up over time, so it’s vital for reaching your full creative potential.
Sometimes it can be hard to connect with the natural world even when you’re surrounded by it. We’re bombarded with artificial noise and visual pollution every day, which can dull our senses. The American naturalist Henry Thoreau spent months living alone in a small hut in the woods. Living in nature sharpened his senses so much that he was able to smell the first appearance of muskrats in the spring. You don’t have to become a woodland hermit, but try not to take your busy life into nature. Put your mobile phone on silent and leave it at home. Then deliberately slow down your pace and allow your senses to explore the world around you.
If you need some help to slow down, try the ‘4, 3, 2, 1’ exercise. As you’re walking, name 4 things that catch your eye and then 3 natural sounds you can hear. Slow down more and find two textures that you can feel. Finally, sniff out one smell. With your mind slowed down and your senses more awake, you’ll find it’s easy to find creative inspiration in nature.
by DR ADRIAN HARRIS