How Nature Impacts Cognitive Performance
Do you like spending time outside? Do you have access to an outdoor space? These may be important questions to consider for your cognitive health! Research has shown that exposure to nature may positively impact cognition for people of all ages.
Nature and cognitive development for kids
A study in Spain found that spending time in green spaces may lead kids to develop cognitive skills more quickly. The researchers also noted that children who have access to green spaces are generally less exposed to pollution, which could have a big effect on these results.
One of the researchers said, “Natural environments including green spaces provide children with unique opportunities such as inciting engagement, risk-taking, discovery, creativity, mastery and control, strengthening sense of self, inspiring basic emotional states including sense of wonder, and enhancing psychological restoration.”
They noted that contact with nature provides kids with opportunities for discovery, taking risks, and creative play. The researchers found that children who spent more time playing in natural environments performed better on tests involving working memory, attention, and fluid intelligence (the ability to think abstractly, notice patterns, and problem solve creatively).
These results suggest that schools could benefit their students’ cognition by incorporating more green spaces around the school and/or providing regular trips to natural environments. Kids in urban areas are generally exposed to more pollution and less nature, both of which may negatively impact cognition. So when possible, this is a helpful practice for schools in cities.
Nature and cognition for adults
A separate study found that nature has a positive effect on adult cognition as well. The study found that interacting with nature resulted in higher scores on tasks involving attention skills.
Researchers have suggested that nature decreases stress levels, which has a strong correlation with our attention skills. As we feel less stress, we will generally have a greater ability to concentrate. Spending time in nature may help us recuperate, collect our thoughts, and cognitively perform better after a stressful week.
Spending many hours in an office or on screens every day can make it easy for us to forget about spending time outdoors. So, finding ways to build time in nature into your routine can make this easier. Here are a couple ways to do this:
- Stop in a park on your way home from work
- Go for a short hike each weekend
- If you have a yard, drink your morning coffee or tea outside
- Take phone calls outside. Why not walk around the block while you catch up with friends and family?
These small changes to our habits to ensure we spend some time outdoors may help our cognition and mental health!
Spending time in nature can be helpful for cognition, no matter your age. If you and your loved ones don’t spend much time outside, it’s a good idea to try incorporating more nature time into your lifestyle. Take this into consideration when moving to a new home or starting a family; exposure to green areas is shown to be cognitively healthy for the whole family!