Interesting scientific back-up for how and why natural outdoor settings are beneficial for us humans — reducing our pent-up stress AND improving our cognitive functioning. Moreover, Attention Restoration Theory (ART) proposes that exposure to nature's greenery — even a view of trees and landscape from a school window — helps students tagged with Attention Deficit Disorder.
The theory describes two basic types of attention: directed and involuntary.
Directed attention is what we draw upon for focused concentration, screening out some external stimuli (distractions) in service to accomplishing specific (directed) tasks.
Involuntary attention is more expanded and open with awareness covering a wide spectrum. This kind of attention also has us be more responsive to our environment, perfect for long strolls in the grand diversity of nature.
Directed attention requires effort. Involuntary attention is effortless, natural, more relaxed. Thus, directed attention ultimately leads to fatigue while Involuntary attention rests our brain, restoring its capacity for further directed, focused attention.
This is more supportive documentation that students learn better (and we can add that employees work better) when given ample time in natural settings.
Here is a link for further information: a New York Times health blog article
that sites Andrea Fabor Taylor's research. Exposure to nature's greenery helps those with ADHD and anyone who ever experiences brain fatigue!
For me, this is obvious common sense, but I love it when researchers go to work to prove what our natural wisdom has known all along. Nature is good for us! But perhaps the theory helps relieve any guilt for taking time out to leisurely watch shifting cloud formations in the wide open sky as we amble up a meandering wooded path — while pressing work in need of accomplishment lies in wait on our desk. We'll get to it later when we are more rested, refreshed, and restored.
Now I need to get outdoors and restore my brain after this hyper focused discussion-posting. :-)