More often than not, your average day is likely saturated by staring at a computer, a mobile device, or a television screen. The information age and the advent of new media have made it near impossible to take a pause. We are flooded with an endless stream of information and our brains have a hard time navigating through the muddy water. On a number of occasions, I have struggled to simply sit down and shut down my brain to focus on a project without the temptation to let the rest of the world race in my head. Keeping our brains and mental fortitude intact is imperative to our success. So, what is the secret?
Science habitually studies the brain and tries to extrapolate what gives our own personal supercomputers the power to perform computational feats of greatness and remain operational when we need them. Study after study reveal a couple of important brain hacks that can keep us thriving for years to come. Surprising to some, the proposed hack is not consumed in the form of a pill, nor is it fulfilled by a prescription.
Nature makes us happy
In fact, the best thing we can do for our brains is to get outside. An analysis of various scientific studies found that interacting with nature actually improve cognition, especially for those who deal with depression. Simply put, nature makes us happy.
In the book, The Nature Fix, author Florence Williams deep dives into the need for us to shut the screens off, silence our phones, and take a walk outside. Williams highlights how newly realized capabilities of scientists empower them to more easily study the effects of nature on the brain. With portable EGG units, neuroscientists can monitor a human's brain waves in different environments. Williams states, "the frontal lobe, the part of our brain that's hyper-engaged in modern life, deactivates a little when you are outside. Alpha waves, which indicate a calm but alert state, grow stronger."
Nature's strongest attribute relates to lowering stress. Research has proven that, by measuring stress hormones, respiration, and heart rate, that even short bouts of nature can reduce our levels of anxiety and stress. Some studies go as far as to claim that a picture of nature alone can decrease our stress levels and give us the needed brain bump.
Lace-up for maximum benefits
For maximum results, numerous studies concluded that mixing the outdoors and exercise provided the greatest benefits to the brain and body. In the 1990s, scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies first discovered a strong correlation between exercise and brainpower. Recently, The Journal of Physiology released a new study claiming that not all exercise is equal. What form of exercise resulted in the biggest brain boost? Running outside. As the subjects in the study increased the number of miles run,, more new cells were created in their brains. They also experienced a significant increase in neuron reserves in their hippocampus, the part of the brain in charge of memory and learning.
Kick-off your shoes
Grounding, otherwise known as walking barefoot, has been proven to have a number of stimulating benefits to our bodies and minds. Our feet contain a rich network of nerves and acupuncture points and we walk outside they get stimulated. Our feet are able to absorb free ions on the earth's surface in much the same way that our lungs are able to absorb ions in the air. The earth is negatively charged, so when you walk barefoot, you're connecting your body to a negatively charged supply of energy.
My personal go-to spot is the beach. Nothing compares to unplugging and running barefoot on the sand. Nature is powerful and enjoying the outdoors affects our bodies more than we know. So next time you are in a slump, head for the door and get outside!