The majority of us live in cities, or work on computers all day, both of which require direct and focused attention. This continuous need of our focused attention, which allows us to cross the street without getting hit by a car, or quickly navigate a large crowd to catch a train, for instance, also fatigues our brain over time.
How Nature Helps
Spending time in nature has a restorative effect on human psychology, helping us recover from mental fatigue and the improve our cognitive functioning. Nature modestly grabs our attention, and in so doing allows our brains to recover through a process called “Attention Restoration Therapy,” a phrase coined by Rachel & Stephen Kaplan in their book The Experience of Nature.
One study at the University of Michigan found that after walking for 50 minutes in nature, subjects performed significantly better on memory-related tasks than did subjects who walked in an urban environment. Providing spaces at schools and workplaces where people can experience nature can potentially help us think more clearly and improve performance in school and at work.
Explore More Resources:ASLA 2010 Professional General Design Honor Award, Underwood Family Sonoran Landscape Laboratory, Tucson, Arizona, Ten Eyck Landscape Architects, Inc. / Image credit: Bill Timmerman
"Cognitive Benefits of Interacting with Nature," Psychological Science, 2008
“A Comparison of Leisure Time Spent in a Garden with Leisure Time Spent Indoors: On Measures of Restoration in Residents in Geriatric Care,” Landscape Research, 2006
“The Experience of Nature: A Psychological Perspective,” Rachel & Stephen Kaplan, 1989
New Research: Nature Helps With Brain Fatigue, The Dirt blog
The American Horticultural Therapy Association
Role of the Landscape Architect
Landscape architects have designed an outdoor classroom at the University of Arizona that allows students the chance to meet informally, all while having their attention restored outside.
Like other major urban parks, Phoenix Park in Dublin provides the opportunity for people to step away from the man-made environment of their city into a natural environment, giving them the chance to come away restored.
Underwood Family Sonoran Landscape Laboratory, Tucson, Arizona Ten Eyck Landscape Architects, Inc.
Phoenix Park, Dublin, Ireland