Nature’s ability to Restore Attention

Nature’s ability to Restore Attention

Samrat Urval

February 5, 2021

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The evergreen and legendary study by environmental psychologist Rachel and Stephen Kaplan were laid down in the 1970s. The invaluable findings from their nine-year survey and study for the US Forest Service and research propose that direct and indirect contact with nature can help recover from mental fatigue and restoration of attention. In further support of the theory, nature experiences can improve psychological health as they found out that it aided in restoring the brain’s ability to process information.

Their research comprised the following participants in Outbound wilderness programs that took participants to the wild for up to two weeks. During these Outbound trek programs, participants reported experiencing a sense of peace and the ability to think more clearly. They also said that just by being in nature was more restorative than the physically challenging activities.

As the passing of time, the Kaplans developed the theory of Direct Attention Fatigue. Stephen Kaplan and Raymond DeYoung described it as “Under continual demand, the ability to direct our inhibitory process tires. This condition reduces mental effectiveness and makes consideration of abstract long-term goals difficult.” The symptoms commonly observed and attributed to this fatigue were irritability and impulsivity, which resulted in regrettable choices and impatience, leading to making ill-informed decisions. The distractibility then permits the immediate environment to have a magnified impact on our behavioural choices. 

The hypostatization by the Kaplans that the best antidote to a fatigue of this nature which is brought by direct attention is ‘involuntary attention’ that they coined as “fascination.” It occurs when we are in an environment that fulfil the following criteria — the setting must transport the participant away from the day-to-day routine, a feeling of extent, provide a sense of fascination, and a certain degree of compatibility with the expectation of the participant in the environment being explored. Furthermore, the Kaplans found that the natural world is as capable of a place as it gets for the human brain to overcome mental fatigue only to be restored.

Their research also suggests that nature simultaneously calms and focuses the mind, and at the same time offer a state that transcends relaxation which allows the mind and the brain to detect beneficiary patterns that it would otherwise miss out.

We at IEXP 360 design our programs with the deep-rooted foundations of Attention Restoration by nature. Parents, children and teenagers spend most of the year in urban settings in the high-tech classroom and workspaces surrounded by concrete jungles with minimal access to green space and being cooped at home are the best beneficiaries of our program. We take our program designs extremely seriously to bring the best aspect of the participants at the forefront by providing them with the toolkits to enhance, magnify, understand their optimal patterns on essential life skills. The importance of balance between nature and technology is as real as it gets to develop a fertile hybrid mind.

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