Put down your phone if you want your brain to reap the ben­e­fits of na­ture, says study

The Borneo Post - Nature and health - - Wellness -

BE­ING in na­ture can give a boost to your brain power, but only if you put away your phone and lap­top, sug­gests a new US study. Pre­vi­ous re­search has shown that be­ing in nat­u­ral sur­round­ings can help the brain re­cover from men­tal fa­tigue and re­store its abil­ity to fo­cus at­ten­tion on a task.

How­ever, re­searchers from the Univer­sity of Illi­nois and the Univer­sity of Hong Kong, China, wanted to in­ves­ti­gate whether us­ing elec­tronic de­vices such as smart­phones and lap­tops would coun­ter­act the restora­tive ef­fect of na­ture on the brain’s at­ten­tion ca­pac­ity if they were used while rest­ing in green spa­ces.

“Pay­ing at­ten­tion is nec­es­sary for ev­ery sin­gle thing we care about ac­com­plish­ing: plan­ning, car­ry­ing out plans, eval­u­at­ing, learn­ing, prob­lem-solv­ing and so­cial re­la­tion­ships,” ex­plained study co-au­thor William Sul­li­van. How­ever, the abil­ity to pay at­ten­tion is fa­tigu­ing, par­tic­u­larly in a world where we are sur­rounded by dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy, as overuse of por­ta­ble elec­tronic de­vices can de­plete at­ten­tion ca­pac­ity.

“Af­ter a while, it’s re­ally hard to fo­cus and pay at­ten­tion,” added Sul­li­van. For the study the team re­cruited 81 par­tic­i­pants and ran­domly as­signed them to four groups -- those rest­ing in a green set­ting with or with­out a lap­top and those rest­ing in a bar­ren set­ting with views of park­ing lots, walls or build­ings with or with­out a lap­top.

All of the par­tic­i­pants were asked to com­plete at­ten­tion tests be­fore per­form­ing 10 min­utes of cog­ni­tive ac­tiv­i­ties in­volv­ing proof­read­ing and sub­trac­tion. They then com­pleted a sec­ond at­ten­tion test be­fore be­ing al­lowed a 15-minute break.

Dur­ing this break the par­tic­i­pants who had been given lap­tops were told they could use them for leisure ac­tiv­i­ties such as look­ing at so­cial me­dia, news sites, YouTube, on­line games, on­line shop­ping or email un­re­lated to work, though not for any­thing re­lated to work.

Af­ter the break, the par­tic­i­pants took an­other at­ten­tion test. The re­sults showed that only the par­tic­i­pants who had rested in a green space with­out a lap­top showed a sig­nif­i­cant im­prove­ment in their scores on the fi­nal at­ten­tion test. For those in the other groups, us­ing an elec­tronic de­vice in green set­tings sub­stan­tially coun­ter­acted the at­ten­tion ben­e­fits of green spa­ces, with the team com­ment­ing that for these par­tic­i­pants, “a 15minute break was the equiv­a­lent of no break at all.”

“The space con­veys no ben­e­fits if your head is in your de­vice,” com­mented Sul­li­van. The team con­cluded that “It is not enough to go to a green space. You have to put aside your elec­tronic de­vices in that space.” The find­ings were pub­lished in the jour­nal En­vi­ron­ment and Be­hav­iour. – Re­laxnews

It is not enough to go to a green space. You have to put aside your elec­tronic de­vices in that space.

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