Inspire Your Spirit

A sweetly fragrant rose, golden autumn leaves or a sparkling waterfall—nature has the power to inspire, relieve stress and soothe the soul. Although this idea may be common knowledge, scientists want to know exactly how a natural environment affects us. Some ongoing research sheds light on the many ways nature improves our lives.

Live Longer and Better
Here are just a few of the ways that nature impacts human life, according to recent studies. Elderly people tend to live longer if their homes are near parks or green spaces; college students score higher on cognitive tests if their dorm windows provide a natural view; and playing in outdoor lush environments reduces ADHD symptoms in children.

At the University of Michigan, scientists observed that spending time in nature helps people relax, which probably doesn’t come as a surprise. But they also noted something else, too: time spent communing with nature helps improve memory and attention span. Paying attention to the natural world—sitting outside listening to the birds, for example—is an involuntary brain activity according to Marc Berman, lead author of a paper on the research. That’s why we don’t get tired looking at trees or flowers. Our brains work differently in a relaxed state, and time spent in that state pays off later.

Bring Nature to You
Ideally, green time is an outdoor activity. But why not bring the power of nature into your home or office, too? Adding live plants to your work environment is an easy and cost-effective way to bring a little nature inside. Plants rejuvenate the air, fit into any décor, and provide clients and coworkers the opportunity to commune with nature.

Hardy indoor hanging plants include: spider plants and a wide variety of ivy, both of which can be easily propagated to create more plants. Though ferns are pretty, they are more high maintenance. They can wither quickly and their falling leaves create a mess. Ditto for ficus, which are often sold as small potted trees. Cacti are another hardy choice.

But don’t forgo a date with your local park, beach or back yard. In a busy workaday world, you might feel frivolous when stopping to smell the roses. But remember, taking time to slow down and enjoy the outdoors might just improve your memory and attention span. If nothing else, you’ll be more relaxed and happy. That feeling alone will mean your time has been well-spent.

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