Looking at nature is good for your brain. Here's why
Thursday, May 28, 2015, 6:00 AM - When it comes to increasing productivity in workers it's as easy as looking out the window.
Taking time to look at nature can have great psychological benefits for the average person, according to a recent study from the University of Melbourne.
The study was conducted with the assistance of 150 students. In the middle of tedious, mentally strenuous work, participants were asked to look at an images of both natural and city settings on a computer screen. The viewing, referred to as a 'microbreak', lasted only 40 seconds.
Students returned to the task at hand with greater attention to detail and overall improved performance after looking at the natural scenes, as opposed to the urban images.
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"Modern work drains attention throughout the day, so providing boosted 'green micro-breaks' may provide mental top-ups to offset declining attention, " said lead study author Kate Lee of the University of Melbourne. "Research shows that viewing different types of nature can also boost attention."
Within the next 30 years, 70 per cent of the world's population will live in cities, according to the World Health Organization. Maintaining health and a connection to nature will only become more difficult over time.
The findings out of Melbourne have bolstered existing scientific research that points to the health benefits of green spaces in urban settings, including parks, trees and green rooftops.
Green rooftops in Vancouver, British Columbia
As space on the ground has become limited in many cities, the creation of green roofs are a viable way of injecting the sights and sounds of nature back into the concrete jungle.
A green roof is typically an urban rooftop that is covered with plants and greenery.
Green roofs can also reduce heat retention, keeping buildings naturally cool and helping to lower energy use and costs. Plants help pull carbon dioxide from the air and produce oxygen.
When it comes to figuring out just how much 'nature time" is beneficial, experts say results vary based on frequency, duration and the state of the natural surroundings.
But as the Melbourne study shows, a matter of seconds can do wonders for the brain.
For those who work in buildings without or view, or any windows at all, a brief walk outside to admire the sky or trees can work just as well.