Getting some fresh air has always been good for the soul. It gives us a chance to recharge and step away from whatever stressful situation we may have been in the middle of. A study conducted by the University of Kansas has found that getting some fresh air in the form of spending a few days out in nature showed a 50% increase in creativity.
Ruth Ann Atchley, associate professor and chair of psychology at KU, believes that nature can stimulate the human mind when it’s away from the distractions of every day modern life.
“We’ve got information coming at us from social media, electronics and cell phones,” said Atchley. “We constantly shift attention from one source to another, getting all of this information that simulates alarms, warnings and emergencies. Those threats are bad for us. They sap our resources to do the fun thinking and cognition humans are capable of — things like creativity, or being kind and generous, along with our ability to feel good and be in a positive mood.”
In contrast, “nature is a place where our mind can rest, relax and let down those threat responses,” said Atchley. “Therefore, we have resources left over — to be creative, to be imaginative, to problem solve — that allow us to be better, happier people who engage in a more productive way with others.” Atchley and her team studied a group of 120 backpackers ranging in age from 18 into their 60s. The group, part of Outward Bound, took the Remote Associates Test, a word-association exercise used for decades by psychologists to gauge creative intelligence. Half the group took the test before going out into the wilderness while the other half took the test on their fourth day out. The results showed an almost 50% increase in creativity from the half of the group that took the test while being surrounded by nature.
“There’s growing advantage over time to being in nature,” said Ruth Ann Atchley. “We think that it peaks after about three days of really getting away, turning off the cell phone, not hauling the iPad and not looking for internet coverage. It’s when you have an extended period of time surrounded by that softly fascinating environment that you start seeing all kinds of positive effects in how your mind works.”