Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. -Albert Einstein
This past weekend I left the concrete jungle to go camping with friends in the Catskill Mountains. We had been talking about doing it for quite some time and finally made it happen. The mountains engulfed us – making cell phones obsolete and freeing us from any device that might pull us back to the city. While it is only a few hours outside of New York City, it was enough to make me feel removed from the everyday distractions that have clouded my mind as of late.
One of the questions that I like to ask people when I interview them for Chapter Be is what they do to re-center themselves or to tap into their creativity. Almost always the response is something that has to do with nature. People site walking on the beach or going to the mountains or just immersing themselves in nature as being the way that they spark their creative spirit. Even the most urban of people will site their city’s parks as being a place that they go to “get-away” and think. It’s not coincidental. Nature has a way of quieting our thoughts and only allowing the really important ones to stick around. When you are surrounded by massive trees or entranced by the power of an ocean, you realize how insignificant some of your worries are and only what is truly important remains. In removing those nonessential thoughts, you make more room for your brain to open up, allowing space for creative sparks.
Ruth Ann Atchley, the department chair and associate professor of cognitive/clinical psychology at the University of Kansas, conducted a study on how nature affects creativity. The study showed that the more time you spend outdoors, the greater your level of creativity. As Atchley explains, “Nature is a place where our mind can rest, relax and let down those threat responses…Therefore, we have resources left over — to be creative, to be imaginative, to problem solve — that allow us to be better, happier people who engage in a more productive way with others.” In his article, “The Sweetness of Time Off,” Tony Schwartz, CEO of the Energy Project, points out, “We don’t get our best ideas staring at our computer screens or sitting in meetings. They occur when we’re in the shower, walking in nature, listening to music or working out. They occur to us when we’re not seeking anything in particular. Distractions fall away when we’re feeling relaxed and unhurried. The external volume drops, and it becomes possible to listen again to whatever arises inside us.”
So…if you are battling with a decision, feeling overwhelmed, have writer’s block or are struggling with how to take the next step in a project you are working on – Step Outside. It might be the best thing you can do for yourself, your work and your mental well-being.