How to Double Your Attention Span

It’s been sunny in Portland lately! Isn’t that wonderful? Have you been taking advantage of it? Study after study shows that spending time in nature is profoundly good for us.

We already know that getting outside…

  • Relieves stress
  • Lowers BP
  • Boosts happiness
  • Reduces depression
  • Aids creativity

I don’t know about you, but all of that isn’t always enough to make me go outside during the day when the sun is out. I’m supposed to be working, right?

Maybe this will help. Spending time in nature has recently been shown to improve focus, so much so that simply ditching your office for a nearby park for a while might even double your attention span.

The science

Researchers behind the study didn’t discover this while looking for ways to help cubicle workers get more done. They were studying where children learn best, but their findings have important implications for anyone who struggles to stay focused at work.

Teachers were asked to teach identical lessons to groups of 3rd graders. Some taught in classrooms, others taught outside. Both groups then continued the school day inside. Independent experts reviewed all the lessons to determine which students were more engaged and which more distracted both during and after the initial lesson.

I pity those teachers who were outside, don’t you? Can you imagine wrangling a class of 3rd graders to sit and learn while outside? I’ve done it with adults and it’s not easy.

What they discovered was being out in nature doubled (!) students’ ability to pay attention.

The teachers were able to teach uninterrupted for almost twice as long after the outdoor lesson than after an indoor lesson. The students simply paid better attention after being in the outdoor class. My biggest surprise? Students were more engaged during the outdoor class too.

What does this mean for office dwellers?

The implications for office-workers are pretty clear too. Plenty of other studies back up the connection between time in nature and increased concentration.

  • Adults returning from wilderness backpacking vacations showed improved concentration afterward and more creativity (versus urban vacations.)
  • Research subjects who were shown pictures of nature (versus concrete urban settings) show boosted attention.
  • Findings suggest that office workers gained concentration if they not only took “recess” outside, but if they also brought some work with them. Think of it as “refueling in flight.”

Bottom line: if getting out in nature can get kids to settle down and concentrate, it’s bound to offer an impressive boost to your ability to get stuff done too.

Plus, it’s so simple – why not try it?

If this sounds like the type of conversation you would like to join into, and you live in the greater Portland metropolitan area, come on over to a heartspark Connections. Consider yourself personally invited!