An increasing number of scientific studies are finding that walking in nature contributes to our well-being in many valuable ways – ways that go far beyond the obvious benefits of physical exercise and fresh air. A Yes magazine article entitled “Why 30 Minutes of Nature a Day Is So Good for Your Health,” cites some of these studies. The article specifically mentions that being in nature reduces ADHD symptoms. The following is one paragraph from that article:
Experiencing nature not only reduces stress but also improves our cognitive ability. Gregory Bratman from Stanford University and his colleagues enlisted 60 participants who were randomly divided into two groups: The first group took a 50-minute “nature” walk surrounded by trees and vegetation, and the second group took an “urban” walk along a high-traffic roadway. The nature walkers showed cognitive benefits including an increase in working memory performance, “decreased anxiety, rumination, and negative affect, and preservation of positive affect.”
We can maximize the benefits we gain from walking in nature by allowing the beauty and wonder around us to absorb all of our attention – inspiring a sense of awe and appreciation. Too much analytical thinking about the natural environment we are taking in will generally diminish rather than enhance the benefits of our experience.
It’s very easy to make the mistake, made by so many, of thinking that a walk in nature is a wonderful opportunity to multitask. We might think, what a great time to get in a phone call, listen to a podcast, listen to music, ponder past or future events, or chat with a walking companion. We think we are accomplishing these tasks while still receiving all the benefits of a nature walk. The fact is, we will be fooling ourselves, because we will definitely not be getting some of the most valuable benefits of our nature time.
Shifting our focus from doing to being is not easy in the culture of doing that pervades our society and our individual thinking. We tend to remain convinced, on a subconscious level, that our worth is ultimately only measured by what we are doing – accomplishing something measurable, and not appearing to be idle.
The most effective and durable stress reduction and inner peace come from moments in which we are able to be fully present to our immediate experience. Shifting our focus for even a few seconds to an awareness of our being and away from our usual focus on doing can have a powerful healing effect on our lives. Walking in nature can be one of the ways to do this.