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Biophilia: This is Your Brain on Nature

Studies and articles abound showing the positive effects of natural settings on the human mind and body.
Biophilia: This is Your Brain on Nature

The Columbia River. Photo: Karyn Verzwyvelt

The human desire to connect with nature has been referred to as biophilia [1,2], implying an affection for plants and other living things. But recent studies show that our yearning to be outdoors is more than just a passing affection.  Humans need nature.  We need to be able to see it and to physically experience it.  In doing so, we experience lower stress levels, quicker recovery from illness, decreased rates of depression, as well as increased focus and ability to deal with stress.

In a recent article from The Atlantic, entitled "How Nature Resets Our Minds and Bodies," author Adam Alter explains the research behind understanding that natural environments refocus our attention, lessening stress and hastening healing.  "Nature restores mental functioning in the same way that food and water restore bodies. The business of everyday life -- dodging traffic, making decisions and judgment calls, interacting with strangers -- is depleting, and what man-made enviForest & Sunronments take away from us, nature gives back."

In a related article from the New York Times, "Easing Brain Fatigue With a Walk in the Park," author Gretchen Reynolds discusses a new Scottish study, published in The British Journal of Sports Medicine.  Researchers  attached portable EEGs to the scalps of 12 healthy young adults. The electrodes, hidden unobtrusively beneath an ordinary looking fabric cap, sent brain wave readings wirelessly to a laptop carried in a backpack by each volunteer.  Volunteers were sent on a short walk around Edinburgh, traveling through three distinctly different city-scapes.  Researches then complied the EEG data and found that green spaces did indeed lessen brain fatigue during the subject's walks.

What does all of this mean for us?  Well, we're lucky that Oregon and Portland especially, has ample green space for us to utilize.  From walking through a public park to having a week-long wilderness experience, make sure you take time each day to get outside and push the reset button.

For ideas, visit our Events page and find out what our member groups are doing.  You can join them for a hike, a paddle, or a wildflower stroll and learn more about the diverse natural areas in Oregon and Washington.

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