1. Increased attention span. A 2008 study by University of Michigan psychologists found that walking outside or even just looking at pictures of natural settings improves directed attention, the ability to concentrate on a task. Put another way: nature restores our ability to focus.
Find more ways to make the planet a better place in the Outside Guide to Fixing the World.
2. Better memory. The same study supported previous experiments showing that being in nature improves memory—by 20 percent when it came to recalling a series of numbers.
3. Reduced stress. Office workers with views of trees and flowers reported lower stress levels, higher job satisfaction, and fewer physical ailments than colleagues with views of buildings, according to a 1989 study by the University of Michigan.
4. Improved mood. In a 1991 study by Texas A&M psychologists, subjects who viewed scenes of water or trees reported a much quicker return to a positive mood after a stressful event than those who viewed urban scenes.
5. Greater creativity. In a pilot study this March, psychologists found that students in an Outward Bound course showed a 40 percent boost in frontal-lobe activity—which is linked to creativity—after four days in the backcountry.