Low on inspiration? Lace up your hiking boots. Spending a few days in the outdoors may actually improve your reasoning and mental clarity, according to a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE.
Researchers sent 56 people on four- to six-day wilderness trips sans smartphones, laptops, and other electronics. Twenty-four of the backpackers took a 10-question creativity test on the morning of their departure, while 32 others took the same test on the fourth morning of their trip. Those who took the test near the end of the trip scored 50 percent better than those who took the test at the beginning of the trip.
The reason for the brainy boost? Aside from the fact that nature can be pretty awe-inspiring, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all about letting the brain repair itself, which happens when you have fewer distractions (read: no Instagram updates to like), says David Strayer, Ph.D., co-author of the study and a professor of psychology at the University of Utah. Ã¢â‚¬Å“When you multi-task all day, you put a heavy load on the frontal lobe of the brain, which is associated with creativity and higher functioning,Ã¢â‚¬Â Strayer says. Turning off your gadgets and focusing on the environment around you can restore and reset this area, allowing new thought to flow more freely, he says.
And although a four-day trip provided a significant boost in creativity test scores for StrayerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s volunteers, you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have to climb a mountain to get the same result, he says. Ã¢â‚¬Å“You probably wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get the full effect of disengaging, but you can see measurable benefits with just a half hour to an hour walk through a nature preserve or a park,Ã¢â‚¬Â he says. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Just leave the cell phone in your purse.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Test Yourself The standardized creativity tests that Strayer used included questions that listed a series of words and asked the pupil to choose a new word to link them together. An example would be: Envy, golf, beans. Can you think of a word that connects all three? Spoiler alert: The answer is Ã¢â‚¬Å“green.Ã¢â‚¬Â Now, take some time to unplug, unwind, and enjoy your local park (try one of these 10 best trail runs in America) before trying your hand at this set: Athletes, web, rabbit. The answer is at the bottom of the post. Good luck!
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Answer to the creativity test above: Foot.
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