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Walking for an hour in green spaces restores the brain

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Walking for an hour in green spaces restores the brain

Switching off after a busy day isn’t always easy. We know - because lots of our customers tell us that they like using doppel for relaxation.

Even after arriving home, your mind can often feel like it’s running at a million miles an hour.

But what’s the solution? What do you do if you want to reboot your brain?

Well, it turns out that walking (or running!) outside for an hour - ideally in green spaces - allows your mind to wander and helps the brain to restore ‘directed attention’ quickly and effectively.

Direct attention is how psychologists describe our capacity to focus on a specific task.

Vybarr Cregan-Reid, Reader in Environmental Humanities, University of Kent in England and Author of 'Footnotes: How running makes us human' explains why it’s important for us to actively try to restore the brain’s capacity to focus:

Directed attention, or concentration, is a little bit like a muscle. Through constant use, it gets tired and must be rested to be restored. Over time, as directed attention depletes, your ability to think, make good decisions and calculate, will also decline until you can restore some of your energy.

When you’ve had a busy or stressful day, it can be tempting to relax in front of the TV, or even read a book, but these actually aren’t the best activities for mental restoration.

While losing yourself in a story feels like you’re letting go of the stressful day, in fact it takes a lot of mental work to ignore distractions that might be around you such as the sound of your family around you or the noise of traffic outside.

Eventually, this leads to directed attention fatigue - which Vybarr Cregan-Reid describes as ‘that feeling you have when you’ve watched ten straight hours of Breaking Bad, and you just … can’t … take … any more.

Walking or running on the other hand allows the brain to process the day without distraction - and it’s even better if you can find some green space.

In the paper ‘The Cognitive Benefits of Interacting With Nature’ published in 2008 by researchers from the University of Michigan, it was observed that walkers in rural locations were more mentally restored and were able to tackle more complex cognitive tasks. Not only that, but the effect of nature was so strong that even when the participants only looked at pictures of natural environments, the results were the same.

And if you’re a runner, you can also take advantage of an effect called ‘transient hypofrontality’ which is believed to occur during endurance running. In this state, ‘portions of the prefrontal cortex basically deactivate, meaning brain function slows down’ which alters your sense of time, self and consciousness allowing the day to melt away.

Fortunately walking is still very good at helping you to switch off - and may also be possible to incorporate into your commute.

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