A Moment of Science

Nature May Sharpen Your Attention Span

Which environment do you think you would have the easiest time reading or studying in?

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Photo: tassiesim (flickr)

The parents reported that their kids paid better attention when in green, natural settings than in other environments.

Which environment do you think you would have an easier time reading or studying in: a traditional classroom, a bench on a city street, or a wooded and peaceful backyard? If you said the wooded and peaceful backyard, then it may not surprise you that several studies suggest that nature may improve the attention spans of kids with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Kids with ADHD have difficulty focusing their attention on the task at hand. They’re often distracted by other things going on in their environment, whether it’s another kid or the objects in their desks or cars driving down the road outside the window.

Researchers asked parents of kids with ADHD to fill out a questionnaire about how their kids perform in various extracurricular activities in different settings. The settings included an indoor playroom, a city playground, and a leafy backyard. The parents reported that their kids paid better attention when in green, natural settings than in other environments.

That doesn’t mean that kids with ADHD should be home schooled in the backyard. The effects of a little time spent outdoors seem to carry into the classroom. Another study demonstrated that kids with ADHD perform better on attention tests after being taken on a 20 minute guided walk on a nature trail than after being taken on a 20 minute guided walk on a city street.

You probably don’t have to have ADHD to get similar benefits from spending time in the great outdoors. Next time you have a project to do, and you’re feeling restless and unfocused, try taking a short walk in the woods. See if it doesn’t help sharpen your focus.

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