We’ve got information coming at us from social media, electronics and cell phones. We constantly shift attention from one source to another, getting all of this information that simulates alarms, warnings and emergencies. These notifications are not good for our brains. They sap our resources, leaving no space for the fun thinking and cognition humans are capable of — things like creativity, or being kind and generous, along with our ability to feel good and be in a positive mood. Learn in this article how nature connection - in general and specifically through nature imagery- helps boost our creativity and problem solving skills.
Have you ever been stumped, hit a wall, or were unable to arrive at a well-reasoned decision? Most people have, at one time or another. It isn’t coincidence that talking time out to be in nature can result in a subsequent creativity surge and/or the sudden realisation of a workable solution. According to research, there is a mental or cognitive advantage that accrues from spending time in a natural environment or even looking at nature imagery. Additionally, research also finds that complex working memory span improves, and a decrease in anxiety and rumination results from exposure to natural green space. It's an incredible interesting way to approach our mental health, and at Forest Homes, we bring you more details about nature's contribution to an optimal brain health.
In this article you will find:
- Does nature really improve mental health?
- Why are mental skills important today?
- How does nature help our creativity and problem solving skills?
- How does nature help categorisation skills?
- Why using nature imagery to improve our brain function?
- Pain Relief
- Higher Productivity
- Mood Enhancing
- Find nature decor ideas with nature imagery
1. Does nature really improve your mental health?
We instinctively feel going to nature is comforting and allow us to relax. In scientific research, nature has been shown to be both restorative, for those recovering or suffering from mental illness (Alvarrson et al. 2010), and protective for general mental health. Some examples of these insights about nature effects in our wellbeing and mental health are the following:
- Exposure to nature has been shown to evoke positive emotions, as well as strengthen individual resilience (Marselle et al. 2013) and coping skills (van den Berg 2010).
- Getting into nature has been shown to have positive impacts on concentration, learning, problem solving, critical thinking capacity, and creativity as well as enhance mental health and wellbeing through encouraging physical fitness and social engagement.
In regards of the quality of this nature exposure and its effects, an interesting study, investigated the impact of nature experience on affect and cognition. It randomly assigned sixty participants to a 50-min walk in either a natural or an urban environment. Before and after their walk, participants completed a series of psychological assessments of affective and cognitive functioning. Compared to the urban walk, the nature walk resulted in affective benefits (decreased anxiety, rumination, and negative affect, and preservation of positive affect) as well as cognitive benefits (increased working memory performance). This study extends previous research by demonstrating additional benefits of nature experience on affect and cognition through assessments of anxiety, rumination, and a complex measure of working memory (operation span task). These findings further our understanding of the influence of relatively brief nature experiences on affect and cognition, and help to lay the foundation for future research on the mechanisms underlying these effects.
2. Why are mental skills important today?
Today, adults and children are spending more time interacting with media and technology and less time participating in activities in nature. This life-style change clearly has ramifications for our physical well-being, but what impact does this change have on cognition? Higher order cognitive functions including selective attention, problem solving, inhibition, and multi-tasking are all heavily utilised in our modern technology-rich society. If our resources to perform this high order mental functions become depleted by our daily distractions, we're not able to function at our best.
The fact that staying close to nature improves focus and attention span (first suggested in the Attention Restoration Theory by Rachel and Stephen Kaplan in 1980) could help us better cope with our modern lives high order mental functions. The Attention Restoration Theory explains why staying close to nature re-energizes us and reduces fatigue.
In general, encounters with any aspect of the natural environment – sunset, beach, clouds, or forests grab our positive attention without us paying much effort to it, and the whole process restores the life energy that negative emotions had taken away from us.
3. How does nature help our creativity and problem solving skills?
A research conducted at the University of Kansas in the United States has found that people from all walks of life show startling cognitive improvement — for instance, a 50 percent boost in creativity — after living for a few days steeped in nature. The researcher, Ruth Ann Atchley, says the “soft fascination” of the natural world appears to refresh the human mind, offering refuge from the cacophony of modern life.
"Nature could stimulate the human mind without the often-menacing distractions of workaday life in the 21st-century"
Nature is a place where our mind can rest, relax and let down those threat responses. Therefore, we have resources left over — to be creative, to be imaginative, to problem solve — that allow us to be better, happier people who engage in a more productive way with others.
4. How does nature help our categorisation skills?
Categorisation is one of the basic processes our brain does that helps us associate things into categories. Our capacity to categorize sensory information allows us to quickly process and recognise complex elements in our environment.
As much as our brains need stimulation, they really like simple ideas. Visuals are a great way of reducing information to simple ideas. Consider a visual representations of a plant. Its leaves show both variation and similarity in form and appearance in their growth patterns. This helps boosting our mind's task of classification by presenting evidence of the taxonomic relationships between things in a way that is informative and easy to grasp. Developing differentiation, classification and categorisation for the mind is important as:
- It helps develop our problem solving skills;
- it contributes to improve our overview of complex topics;
- it improves our prioritising skills;
- it eases us the task of differentiation among groups of similar topics; and
- it is a particularly essential skill to develop in children at an early stage.
Let us imagine that our brains memory functions are like file drawers. Whenever we encounter something new, we must store it somewhere. Just like the files in work, it's important that we file them in categories so retrieval of information is easier. Without categorisation, our minds will take a longer time for response.
5. Why using nature imagery to improve our brain function?
Our brain is like a processor and sometimes it may be like a machine. Just like machines, our brain can also experience glitches or bugs. Machines do overheat, while our brains may experience fatigue. Our brains are not invincible and can malfunction after a great load of mental work. There're many different ways to help us relax and one of them is by looking at nature imagery.
We are wired to respond to visuals. Research in the field of neurobiophilia studies our responses to visual and auditive cues of natural elements- whether immersed in real nature or just presented to nature's visuals and sounds. This science has examined both the cognitive benefits of being in contact with nature and the neurological impacts of being deprived of nature.
Depending on their form and style, nature displays can help us restore; provide feelings of vitality, relaxation, and affection; helps us be more productive and even boost our cognitive skills. Nature visuals can be vivid, blurry or with lots of negative space, or just simple illustrations. Their restorative effects have been categorised into the three broad categories:
- improved cognitive function,
- improved affect, and
- reduction of physiological and cognitive stress.
Discoveries about the impact of nature views on our brains are very insightful, however there is still wide room for research in the area. For a more specific look into the specific effects of different nature visuals please check this article on Types of nature displays and what they can do for us.
In picture: Clear Peaks Mural
Below are reasons why we should be using nature imagery more often to improve our mental health:
Being surrounded by nature and viewing the beautiful scenes nature offers us let us ponder about life itself. We can pause and have time to think about our thoughts and see within ourselves – things we cannot normally do in a daily basis since we are all so busy with school and work.
Viewing nature also helps with lowering blood pressure and heart rates. A new study has discovered that looking at images of nature is a sufficient trigger to lower stress levels.
Vrije University Medical Centre researchers in the Netherlands pioneered a study that found willing 46 people to participate in an experiment made to figure out if looking at images affect us physically and could help us calm down. This study showed that indeed being able to too see natural scenes can help decrease the levels of stress.
In picture: Garden of Monstera Mural
Studies show that psychologists would recommend their patients to go on walks to help them cope with recurring trauma to temporarily get away from the bustling streets of the cities. Being able to see nature helps distracts us from the pain we are experiencing. A new study shows that truly nature helps us handle pain. This study tested two groups of patients getting surgery: the group with the view of trees and the group with the view of wall. The group with the view of the trees was able to tolerate the pain of surgery more compared to the group with the wall.
In picture: Aina Forest Mural
There are already several studies that relate nature design to productivity. The existence of the first boosts the levels of the second. Just by having a green space in the workplace, the perception of workers' wellbeing increases by up to 15%, which is a quite significant figure. Once inserted in a greener space, employees' happiness levels tend to increase, and stress, in turn, to decrease. Also, perceptions of anxiety, stress levels, and mood swings can be reduced by almost half. Learn more on how to transform your office into a more productive and happier space.
Being able to get a view of natural scenery decreases our negative feelings like anger, sadness, fear, and stress and increases positive ones. There is something about nature that relaxes us being one with where we came from and makes us feel grounded from our busy lives.
In picture: Jungle Plants Frames
6. Find nature decor ideas with nature imagery
Circle Wall Art
These self-adhesive wall arts are prefect for making an accent wall without committing to the entire wall. If you want just a portion of your wall to be covered, this will suit your taste. There are different designs to choose from ranging from colourful and bright ones to neutral and minimalist ones.
In photo: Jungle Inverted Self-Adhesive Wall Art
Mural and Wallpapers
The adhesive wall arts with carefully chosen designs can be used as a full accent wall and can give off a different vibe to painted walls.
The canvas prints are designed for minimalist aesthetic with its white backgrounds and matching green tones, it is perfect for every wall.
Moss Wall Art
Our beautiful, decorative moss frames come in different sizes you can choose from. It is made from 100% real and preserved moss that does not need too much maintenance.
Plant Wall Art
Our plant wall art gives the feeling of jungle vibes. This wall art will add a great accent to your walls by combining our beautiful moss wall gardens together.