You’re stressed…it’s hard to concentrate…and you need a little nature to restore your spirits and refresh your mind. You know a nice long walk in the woods would do the trick.
That’s not going to happen.
Here’s what might help—three shortcuts that let you quickly experience the attention-restoring benefits of nature at work and at home…
• Take a green micro-break. In an Australian study, office workers were given a challenging task, accomplished it and then were asked to take a 40-second “micro-break” either looking at a bare concrete roof…or at a “green roof” that was covered with a flowering meadow. Then both groups repeated the task. Compared with the concrete watchers, the green-roof gazers were much more able to focus on the task the second time around—and made fewer errors. So if there’s a window nearby that looks out on nature—even just a bit of nature transplanted by humans—take a look.
• Put a plant on your desk—or four. A Norwegian study tested volunteers given a demanding task. Some sat in an office setting that was bare, while others in one with four indoor plants, both “flowering” and “foliage.” Those surrounded by plants performed better on tests that measure the ability to focus attention on a tough task.
• Look at a nature video. In a classic American study of volunteers who watched a high-stress video, those who then watched a nature-scene video had lower physiological stress levels than those who watched an urban-scene video. Here’s a nature scene video that we’re fond of—”America’s Beautiful West.”