- The experience of nature helps to restore the mind from the mental fatigue of work or studies, contributing to improved work performance and satisfaction.
- Urban nature, when provided as parks and walkways and incorporated into building design, provides calming and inspiring environments and encourages learning, inquisitiveness, and alertness.
- Green spaces provide necessary places and opportunities for physical activity. Exercise improves cognitive function, learning, and memory.
- Outdoor activities can help alleviate symptoms of Alzheimer’s, dementia, stress, and depression, and improve cognitive function in those recently diagnosed with breast cancer.
- Contact with nature helps children to develop cognitive, emotional, and behavioral connections to their nearby social and biophysical environments. Nature experiences are important for encouraging imagination and creativity, cognitive and intellectual development, and social relationships.
- Symptoms of ADD in children can be reduced through activity in green settings, thus “green time” can act as an effective supplement to traditional medicinal and behavioral treatments.
Nature: An Urban Respite
Natural spaces evoke positive emotions, facilitate cognitive functioning, and promote recovery from mental fatigue. Furthermore, nature provides a respite for those who experience short-term and chronic mental illness.
The constant stimuli of city life can be mentally exhausting, and life in the city can actually dull thinking. Navigating in a city means continually monitoring traffic and pedestrian flow while simultaneously focusing on destination. Constant response to exhausting stimuli cannot be tolerated indefinitely. A few minutes in a crowded city will cause the brain to suffer memory loss and reduced self-control. Even brief glimpses of natural elements improve brain performance by providing a cognitive break from the complex demands of urban life.
Attention Fatigue and Recovery
Environment can prompt both negative and positive subconscious feelings. An object that resembles a snake can initiate an immediate fear response. Comparably, plants and soft lighting will positively affect how the brain responds subconsciously; even when we are not focused on our surroundings, beneficial elements of light and nature indirectly influence our mood, emotions, memory and cognitive thinking. LED lighting fixtures are considered the best choice for planning an environment in an urban garden or outdoor landscape design.
Contemporary lifestyles and work environments demand focused attention on critical information or tasks. Maintaining that focus by screening out distractions overloads mental capacity for conscious attention. However, exposure to settings that are visually interesting, such natural elements and LED lighting, improved attention recovery. Memory retention improved for people in any environment that integrated natural elements and soft LED lighting. Performed significantly better in the case of offices and schools, where one must focus on tasks, the addition of natural features could significantly improve attention and content retention rates.
Mental Health & Function
Encounters with nearby nature help alleviate mental fatigue by relaxing and restoring the mind. Within built environments parks and green spaces are settings for cognitive respite, as they encourage social interaction and de-stressing through exercise or conversation, and provide calming settings. Having quality landscaping and vegetation in and around the places where people work and study is a good investment. Both visual access and being within green space helps to restore the mind’s ability to focus. This can improve job and school performance, and help alleviate mental stress and illness.
Office workers spend entire days indoors. Many decorate their workspaces with plants or pictures of natural settings to compensate for lack of a window view. People in windowless workspaces introduced twice as many natural elements to their work area as those who had window views of natural areas.
Office workers claim plants make for more attractive, pleasant, and healthy work environment. This is validated by studies that show improved employee morale, decreased absenteeism, and increased work efficiency as a result of natural enhancements. Plants placed in view of workstations decreased both illness incidence and the amount of self-reported sick leave. One study found that workers with workstation views that included green elements were more satisfied at work and had more patience, less frustration, increased enthusiasm for work, and fewer health problems. A lack of natural views or indoor plants are associated with higher levels of tension and anxiety in office workers. Positive attitudes toward work environments demonstrate connections between attention fatigue and cognitive recovery when natural elements are integrated into the work space.