Why Don’t You Go Outside and Play?

Like many of us, your mother probably told you when you were young that you should go outside and get some fresh air. This wisdom was proven true recently with a study by psychologist Ruth Ann Atchley at the University of Kansas, as reported in Saturday’s WSJ. They studied the mental benefits of spending time in nature and found conclusive proof that being in the woods is good for your creativity.

She gave 60 backpackers a standard test of creativity before they set off on a hike. Then four days later she tested another group who had been out in the woods the whole time, and saw a nearly 50% increase in their performance.

Another test had participants outfitted with receivers, one group strolling the streets of Ann Arbor Michigan and another walking through an arboretum. The second group were in a better mood, and did much better on attention and short term memory tests. Even when they just glanced at a photo of a scene from nature they did better than ones without the exposure.

Finally the story cited a study in Chicago’s Robert Taylor Homes, grim high rise projects which were once famous for gangs, drugs and crime. The residents whose windows faced asphalt and parking lots did much worse on tasks like tests of attention and surveys that revealed how they were generally handling life’s challenges. Yep, just like you’d expect: the ones with the green view did much better.