I want to share with you what I have found to be the best solution to gaining clarity. It’s not a fast from social media. Which isn’t a bad idea. It’s not eating a healthier diet. Again, a really good idea. Rather its where I am versus what I do. Granted the activities that I choose are normally more in line with where I am at. Even now I am battling the gremlins that are fighting for my attention. It didn’t help that on my “break” from work I opened up a game app on my phone and spent 15-20 mindless minutes trying to earn more points to level up my digital baseball team. Don’t worry, this isn’t a post attacking the negative effects of technology.
When I find myself not able to make progress on a task or the inability to think straight, I know where I need to go. Outside. More specifically, into the woods. This year has proven to be a difficult one. Elevated stress and anxiety, as well as tough decisions to make. It is safe to say that we have spent more time indoors this year than years past. This has led to experiencing cabin fever. Decreased motivation, difficulty waking, food cravings, frequent napping, hopelessness, and other feelings connected to this. There is also something to be said that at a record number people have been visiting local parks and other outdoor recreation areas. There is something wired in us that tells us to go outside more often.
When I am having trouble concentrating and recognize it, I head outside. I fortunately have a patch of woods in my back yard. I also have some incredible local parks that I can visit and take a stroll. The great thing is what happens in our brains when we get outside. In the book Nature Fix by Florence Williams, the author shares about why nature makes us happier, healthier, and more creative. Based on leading neuroscience our brains change based on what environment we are in and what are exposed to. The brain will engage in one of three networks depending on the different environment. The executive network, the spatial network, or the default network. The executive network is where all the intellectual and task performance is computed by the pre-frontal cortex. The spatial network is what orients us; up and down, left and right. The default network is where the free ranging, day dreaming, and creativity happens. Without going into the science of it, the default network is engaged most often when we are in nature. There is something about not being bombarded with email and social media notifications, while at the same time taking in fresh air and natural things.
There have been so many times that I have had new and creative ideas come to me while taking a hike or out on a backpacking trip. Even this morning my first break was taking a walk around my neighborhood. When I returned I felt more clarity and was able to be more productive. That’s the contrast between a natural break and a digital break that I mentioned earlier. Today I experienced both realities.
So if you are needing a pick me up or just need to clear your head, head out your door and get some fresh air. You will see and feel the difference for yourself.
Hope From the Trail
Hope From the Trail features original content related to the healthy pursuit of self, others, and nature. Be sure to stay connected for all things outdoors.