There are some really good scientific reasons why should you spending time in nature.

With spring and beautiful weather finally here, we highly recommend spending some time outside.

Nature offers one of the most reliable boosts to your mental and physical well-being. Here are just a few potential benefits:

1. Improved short-term memory

In one study, University of Michigan students were given a brief memory test, then divided into two groups.

One group took a walk around an arboretum, and the other half took a walk down a city street. When the participants returned and did the test again, those who had walked among trees did almost 20% percent better than the first time. The ones who had taken in city sights instead did not consistently improve.

Another similar study on depressed individuals also found that walks in nature boosted working memory much more than walks in urban environments.

Sources: Psychological Science, 2008; Journal of Affective Disorders, 2013

2. Restored mental energy

You know that feeling where your brain seems to be sputtering to a halt? Researchers call that “mental fatigue.”

One thing that can help get your mind back into gear is exposing it to restorative environments, which, research has found, generally means the great outdoors. One study found that people’s mental energy bounced back even when they just looked at pictures of nature. (Pictures of city scenes had no such effect.)

Studies have also found that natural beauty can elicit feelings of awe, which is one of the surest ways to experience a mental boost.

Sources: Journal of Environmental Psychology, 1995; Journal of Environmental Psychology, 2005; Psychological Science, 2012

3. Stress relief

Tensed and stressed? Head for the trees. One study found that students sent into the forest for two nights had lower levels of cortisol — a hormone often used as a marker for stress — than those who spent that time in the city.

In another study, researchers found a decrease in both heart rate and levels of cortisol in subjects in the forest when compared to those in the city. “Stressful states can be relieved by forest therapy,” they concluded.

Among office workers, even the view of nature out a window is associated with lower stress and higher job satisfaction.

Sources: Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research, 2007; Environmental Health and Preventative Medicine, 2010; Japanese Journal of Hygiene, 2011; Biomedical and Environmental Sciences, 2012

4. Reduced inflammation

Inflammation is a natural process the body uses to respond to threats like damage (e.g., a stubbed toe) and pathogens (e.g., exposure to the flu).

But when inflammation goes into overdrive, it’s associated in varying degrees with a wide range of ills including autoimmune disorders, inflammatory bowel disease, depression, and cancer. Spending time in nature may be one way to help keep it in check.

In one study, students who spent time in the forest had lower levels of inflammation than those who spent time in the city. In another, elderly patients who had been sent on a weeklong trip into the forest showed reduced signs of inflammation as well as some indications that the woodsy jaunt had a positive effect on their hypertension.

Sources: Biomedical and Environmental Sciences, 2012; Journal of Cardiology, 2012

5. Better vision

At least in children, a fairly large body of research has found that outdoor activity may have a protective effect on the eyes, reducing the risk of developing nearsightedness (myopia).

“Increasing time spent outdoors may be a simple strategy by which to reduce the risk of developing myopia and its progression in children and adolescents,” a 2012 review of the research concluded.

An Australian study that followed almost 2,000 schoolchildren for two years found that more time spent outdoors was associated with a lower prevalence of myopia among 12-year-olds. The same association was not found for those who spent a lot of time playing sports indoors, suggesting the connection was about more than physical activity.

In Taiwan, researchers studied two nearby schools where myopia was equally common. They told one school to encourage outdoor activity during recess and monitored the other as a control. After one year, the rate of myopia in the control school was 17.65%; in the “play outside” school, it was just 8.41%.

Sources: Ophthalmology, 2008; Ophthalmology, 2012; Ophthalmology, 2013

6. Improved concentration

We know the natural environment is “restorative,” and one thing that a walk outside can restore is your waning attention.

In one early study, researchers worked to deplete participants’ ability to focus. Then some took a walk in nature, some took a walk through the city, and the rest just relaxed. When they returned, the nature group scored the best on a proofreading task.

Other studies have found similar results — even seeing a natural scene through a window can help.

The attentional effect of nature is so strong it might help kids with ADHD, who have been found to concentrate better after just 20 minutes in a park. “‘Doses of nature’ might serve as a safe, inexpensive, widely accessible new tool … for managing ADHD symptoms,” researchers wrote.

Sources: Environment & Behavior, 1991; Journal of Environmental Psychology, 1995 (2); Journal of Attention Disorders, 2008

7. Sharper thinking and creativity

“Imagine a therapy that had no known side effects, was readily available, and could improve your cognitive functioning at zero cost.” That’s the dramatic opening to a 2008 paper describing the promise of so-called “nature therapy” — or, as a non-academic might call it, “time outside.”

When college students were asked to repeat sequences of numbers back to the researchers, they were much more accurate after a walk in nature. This finding built on previous research that showed how nature can restore attention and memory.

Another study found that people immersed in nature for four days — significantly more time than a lunchtime walk in the park — boosted their performance on a creative problem-solving test by 50%.

While the research suggests the possibility of a positive relationship between creative thinking and the outdoors, it wasn’t enough to determine whether the effects were due to “increased exposure to nature, decreased exposure to technology, or other factors.”

Sources: Psychological Science, 2008; PLOS ONE, 2012

8. Possible anti-cancer effects

Research on this connection is still in its earliest phases, but preliminary studies have suggested that spending time in nature — in forests, in particular — may stimulate the production of anti-cancer proteins.

The boosted levels of these proteins may last up to seven days after a relaxing trip into the woods.

Studies in Japan have also found that areas with greater forest coverage have lower mortality rates from a wide variety of cancers, even after controlling for smoking habits and socioeconomic status. While there are too many confounding factors to come to a concrete conclusion about what this might mean, it’s a promising area for future research.

Sources: International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology, 2007; International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology, 2008; Journal of Biological Regulators and Homeostatic Agents, 2008; The Open Public Health Journal, 2008

9. Immune system boost

The cellular activity that is associated with a forest’s possible anti-cancer effects is also indicative of a general boost to the immune system you rely on to fight off less serious ills, like colds, flus, and other infections.

A 2010 review of research related to this effect noted that “all of these findings strongly suggest that forest environments have beneficial effects on human immune function,” but acknowledged that more research on the relationship is needed.

Source: Environmental Health and Preventative Medicine, 2010

10. Improved mental health

Anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues may all be eased by some time in the great outdoors — especially when that’s combined with exercise. (This is to be expected, to some extent, as both greenery and exercise are known to reduce stress.)

One study found that walks in the forest were specifically associated with decreased levels of anxiety and bad moods, and another found that outdoor walks could be “useful clinically as a supplement to existing treatments” for major depressive disorder.

“Every green environment improved both self-esteem and mood,” found an analysis of 10 earlier studies about so-called “green exercise,” and “the mentally ill had one of the greatest self-esteem improvements.” The presence of water made the positive effects even stronger.

Sources: Environmental Science and Technology, 2010; Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012; Journal of Affective Disorders, 2013

11. Reduced risk of early death

The health effects of green space are wide-ranging, and studies that can’t prove cause-and-effect still show strong associations between access to nature and longer, healthier lives.

“The percentage of green space in people’s living environment has a positive association with the perceived general health of residents,” concluded a Dutch study of 250,782 people.

Nearby green space was even more important to health in urban environments, the researchers found. In fact, they wrote, “our analyses show that health differences in residents of urban and rural municipalities are to a large extent explained by the amount of green space.”

A follow-up study by the same research team relied on mortality assessed by physicians and found that a wide variety of diseases were less prevalent among people who lived in close proximity to green space. Other studies have made a direct link between time spent in forests and other measures of overall health.

A recent study in Environmental Health Perspectives found a similar connection, finding about a 12% lower mortality rate, with the biggest improvements related to reduced risk of death from cancer, lung disease, or kidney disease.

Why the connection? Researchers point to “recovery from stress and attention fatigue, encouragement of physical activity, facilitation of social contact and better air quality” as well as nature’s positive effect on mental health, which would boost overall health and longevity as well.

Sources: Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 2006; Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 2009; Biomedical and Environmental Sciences, 2012; Environmental Health Perspectives, 2016

This article was originally published on Business Insider.

By Lauren F Friedman and Kevin Loria, Tech Insider

(Photo credits: Pixabay)

Are you playing video games? There are some good reasons why you should start from now on.

People often associate playing video games as a fun but unproductive way to spend time. However, recent studies have shown that games can actually have a positive impact and help with learning or cultivating skills.

Here are some interesting findings:

Reflexive and spatial skills

A journal article published on Education and Health listed some of the educational benefits of playing video games. Aside from the known effects such as faster reaction times and better hand-eye coordination, playing video games have also been shown to improve spatial and visualization skills, as well as helping to boost academic performance.

Metacognition and Self-Awareness

Jordan Shapiro theorized in an article published by Forbes that part of the learning process has to do with the metacognition – or the process in which a person can think about how they think – when playing video games. In controlling their in-game character, they learn to better develop their sense of awareness and have a better understanding of how they think.

Furthermore, they are better prepared to adapt to situations because they learn how to do so when overcoming the various obstacles they encounter in-game. These skills, in turn, can have a positive effect on their academic performance. It has also been shown to help improve the focus of those who have attention deficit disorders.

Social skills

Huffington Post cites some studies that indicate that video games can help students develop not just academic-related skills, but also emotional ones. The interesting thing is that they are not just limited to games designed for learning. Off-the-shelf games, including action games, can help them develop many different skills. Games that mimic real life are particularly valuable because they provide players with lessons on how the real world works.

Meanwhile, fiction-based games, especially fantasy-themed titles, encourage players to use their imaginations, which can fuel their creativity. Playing with other peers, whether offline or online, can aid them in learning how to deal with different sorts of people. Subconsciously, they end up picking up all sorts of skills that they can use not just in-game, but in a real-world setting.

Learning, Multi-Tasking, and Decision-Making

Due to the many advantages playing video games can yield, it is not surprising then that the education sector is now bringing video games into the classroom. The American Psychological Association suggests that nearly 60 percent of educators make use of digital games when teaching their students.

Furthermore, the same medium is used to evaluate their level of understanding of the topics discussed in classrooms and lecture halls at major universities.

In fact, learning through video games is no longer limited to university students. Even employees are now being trained using interactive titles. Bottomline Performance even says that popular flash games can actually subconsciously train staff on a variety of job skills. For instance, handling various “missions” in a game can teach them multi-tasking skills.

Gaming sites can also help improve their decision-making skills. For instance, innovative digital platform Slingo pits players against virtual dealers to give them the feeling of playing in a real-life casino. It removes the robotic feel of the usual gaming scenarios online and puts them in a setting akin the pressure cooker of facing a real life croupier. The player then needs to think quickly on their feet, and this can ultimately help improve their decision-making skills over a long period of time depending on their results.

Conclusion

While the above variables indicate the various benefits that people can get from playing video games, it should be noted that researchers still advise players to only limit themselves to a couple of hours per day. But with the new immersive and educational games that are coming out every day, the world is slowly coming to the opinion that video games aren’t that bad after all.

Guest Article, by Mark Davies.

Photo credits: Pixabay

Looking for ways to reduce stress? Why not engaging in a hobby?

Stress is an unavoidable part of daily life for adults. Whether stress arises from work, finances, or relationships, it can be detrimental to your emotional and physical health. There are many ways to reduce stress, but studies show engaging in hobbies has a consistent and lasting effect on stress levels.

The Importance of Entertainment

The Mayo Clinic recognizes stress as a factor in many physical and mental ailments. While some concerns, such as a headache, are temporary, stress can also play a part in long-term concerns like heart disease. Finding ways to reduce stress can also reduce health issues.

2007 study from Indiana University stated: “leisure can help people to successfully manage their stress, thereby preventing illness.” Continued research has increased the understanding of the roles that hobbies can play in health. Study results published in The Society of Behavioral Medicine showed that participants reported feeling less stress and experienced a lower heart rate while engaging in a variety of leisure activities. Those health benefits continued for about an hour after each activity concluded. The study also showed that the stress-reduction benefits of recreation can be achieved whether you have fun with others or on your own – whatever form your downtime activity takes, you can enjoy less stress.

Engaging Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of focusing on the present time and your current actions, without allowing your mind to wander to the past or the future. Mindfulness has been linked to a multitude of positive mental, physical, and social health effects, with even the American Psychological Association touting its benefits. Stressful thoughts, such as worrying about a problem at work, can be cleared away by mindful focus.

Engaging mindfulness practices can be done at any time, as they don’t require any equipment or money. Although it takes practice to have a successful mindfulness experience, getting started is easy. Visual Meditation has a great video to help you to increase mindfulness.

Find the Right Hobby

A successful hobby is one you enjoy. Each person’s tastes and talents will affect the hobbies they can enjoy. Forcing yourself to participate in an activity you don’t enjoy can have the opposite of the desired stress-releasing effects.

Here are some ideas to help you discover the hobby that is right for you:

1. Stamp Collecting

Stamp collecting is a hobby that anyone can enjoy. There is almost no physical activity, making it great for all ages and ability levels. The cost to begin collecting is very low, there is very little special equipment required, and the weather has no effect on this hobby. The American Philatelic Society has all of the information required to start your own collection.

2. Knitting

Over the last decades, knitting has seen a resurgence in popularity. Many people are taking up needles and creating blankets, clothes, kitchen materials, and more. With so much demand for the craft, stores that carry knitting supplies, like Jo-Ann Fabrics, offer classes for beginners and more skilled crafters. Not only do these classes make learning easier, they’re a great way to make new friends. If you don’t feel like taking a class, YouTube has numerous tutorials to get you started.

3. Running

Exercise has been repeatedly shown to reduce stress, and it has the added benefit of helping you stay in shape. It may seem daunting to begin running, but apps like Couch to 5K can help you get started in a healthy and effective way.

4. Gardening

Gardening is often seen as an outdoor activity. You don’t need to own a home or even have a plot of land to have a green thumb! Plenty of plants can be grown indoors. Herbs, flowers, and small selections of fruits and vegetables can easily be grown in window boxes or indoor pots, and in the case of herbs or produce, your hobby can supply you with both relaxation and a meal.

5. Reading

Books can transport the reader to another world, away from their daily stressors. With the innumerable genres and authors to choose from, everyone can find a book they enjoy. Bookstore employees are quick to make suggestions for good books, and e-readers make nearly any book available in a manner of seconds. Reading can also be a free hobby thanks to public libraries; just be sure to return your books on time to avoid late fees.

Stress Release for Everyone

Hobbies are a simple way to reduce occasional and chronic stress. Whether you choose to participate in a solo hobby or get together with a group of friends, there are plenty of different pastimes for you to try out. Finding a hobby you enjoy and combining it with the practice of mindfulness will reduce stress, clear your mind, and have lasting effects on physical and mental health.

About the author:

Elliott Garrick is a passionate blogger and crafts addict. In her spare time, she likes to collect stamps and turn them into beautiful art. She is also a regular contributor to PostageStamps101.com.

How can you develop a mindset of abundance?

There is enough for everyone in this world. The future is as bright as we want it to be. Things can seem to be bad when we focus on poverty, hunger, overconsumption and overpopulation. Being in a mindset of scarcity, of only saving money, of holding on to resources, believing that there is all kinds of lack, will attract more lack. Bring change by shifting your focus, by changing your paradigm, by having a mindset of abundance instead of scarcity.

Mindset of Abundance vs Mindset of Scarcity

Sure you have felt abundant in your lifetime. The feeling that good things seem to just come to you and happen for you is accompanying a mindset of abundance. Maybe it was a period where you were giving a lot, and noticed that you did not lack anything yourself. Perhaps you went on a winning streak in poker. Or a friend of yours attracts women effortlessly? All of these are a result of an abundant state of being. If you can feel that you have something, you will attract more of it.

A mindset of scarcity is the opposite. Life will confirm to you the scarcity you are expecting to see. By thinking that you cannot, you cannot. Your experience is a projection of your perspective. By focusing on all the things you can’t do e.g. due to not having enough money, not enough time, not enough skills, a lack of physical ability and so on you will spiral downward. Turn this around before you get into the downward spiral.

You can. Abundance is everywhere.

Commercials and media can help create a belief that we need more, we need to do more and become more. That we don’t already have enough. If we could just get that thing or do that thing that we saw someone have or do, we would be a little bit better. Relax and don’t engage in this chase. Just be. Content. Abundant. Naturally.

Our Civilization

Whether we know about every crime, every war, every corrupt person or group or have been raised without any news at all, we still have the same potential for creating a new earth. By being happy. By following our hearts. By knowing abundance. There are a lot of positive and magnificent feats the human race have managed to accomplish.

Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler wrote the book Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think. It was published in 2012 and debuted at #1 on Amazon’s bestseller list. The book envisions a future where 9 billion people have access to clean water, food, energy, health care, education, and everything else that is necessary for a first world standard of living, all thanks to technological innovation. The book is a great example of one of the infinite ways in which abundance can play out.

The book has some really good points and is recommended for anyone looking for a positive perspective on how we humans can use science and technology to create a new earth. Technologies in computing, energy and medicine are improving at an exponential rate and allow independent innovators to achieve what today seems like impossible feats with little money or manpower.

How to Shift into Abundance

Knowing that you are abundant and that life is abundance is a great paradigm to be in. There are many ways you can shift your mindset into one of abundance. Here are some:

Get in the Mindset of “I Can”

Find a way in your mind to see that you can do everything, or at least that you could if you really wanted to. Get creative and see that you are able to think of ways in which you could do whatever it might be.

Think of Everything You Could Buy with Your Money

If you have a certain amount of money, i.e. 1000$, think of all the things you are able to afford with those 1000$. Two weeks on vacation? You could probably afford that. What else? Go skydiving a couple of times, buy a really good bike, etc.

Think in terms of using 1000$ for each of the things you want, like you have an unlimited number of that amount. By doing this you get into an abundant mindset without actually spending anything.

Be Grateful

By taking a few minutes to contemplate what you are most grateful for you get into a positive state where you focus on appreciating what you already have. By putting gratitude out into the universe, you will attract even more positivity into your life.

Give

Help out someone who is in greater need than you. Volunteer at a homeless shelter, or donate to charity. You can also give to someone that has more than you or a friend of yours. Give compliments, or smiles! Free hugs!

I share this information with you, abundant with tips on how to realize you are abundant, from my abundant creative mind. I also used the abundant resource “the internet”, and as knowledge and books are abundant I got inspired by one of those as well. Inspiration is really abundant. I hope this sparked some feelings of abundance in you!

H/T: Global Harmony Crew

In this cool infographic there’s a list of nine hobbies that will keep you neurologically stimulated and mentally healthy.

Finding time for yourself can be nearly impossible sometimes.

Balancing your professional, social, and family life probably leave you feeling the need just to collapse from exhaustion at the end of the day.

Trying to find the time to keep your mind sharp amid all the chaos while also trying to maintain your personal sanity is a difficult balance to strike.

This is especially true if your free time comes in small increments throughout the day. It can sometimes feel as though you have to choose between making yourself smarter and making yourself happier.

Lucky for you, research shows that several hobbies have the potential to ‘kill two birds with one stone’.

Take reading for example (the activity you are doing RIGHT NOW). Reading is perhaps the most obvious example of a hobby that can be both relaxing and mentally beneficial.

A study published in the Neurology Journal regarding cognitive aging and cognitive activity concluded:

More frequent cognitive activity across the life span has an association with slower late-life cognitive decline that is independent of common neuropathologic conditions…

So essentially, the more you use your brain, the less you lose it later in life.

Thankfully, hobbies like reading and writing have never been easier to do no matter where you are.

Between e-books, magazine articles, news feeds, and blogs there is never a shortage of content for you to choose.

If you have a few minutes where you are stuck waiting in a line, you can pull out your phone and begin reading while you wait.

Choosing a hobby that expands your intellect while also providing you with a much-needed leisure activity maximizes the limited time you have available.

The folks at Smarter Hobby created the infographic below which is a list of nine hobbies that will help keep you neurologically stimulated and mentally healthy.

Whatever your preferences are, it is important that you choose an activity that you both enjoy and fits into your hectic life.

An infographic with hobbies that can make you smarter

Well, what hobbies you pick? Let us know in the comments!