Children and adults alike are spending more time on screens than ever before. This is not an new or unknown concept to many, and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, access to technology was a saving grace keeping people connected and engaged in meaningful activities e.g. work and school. However, this means that people are also spending more time indoors than outdoors. Additionally, the effects of urbanisation, population density, increases in physiological stressors such at noise and visual stimulation, and reduced access to natural green spaces all impact our ability to regulate our stress response.
Our stress levels often correlate with our ability to focus. When we struggle to attend and concentrate on tasks such as writing or numerical computations, or when focus is required for extended periods of time without a break we likely to experience “attention fatigue”. Attention fatigue results when the neurotransmitters in the brain’s pre-frontal cortex become depleted. Replenishing the neurotransmitters requires engagement in restorative activities, such as spending time in natural environments.
Researchers have studied the effect of green environments on people’s ability to concentrate, and found that “green” time – spending time in natural environments with lots of grass, trees and garden areas, can improve attention and focus in adults and children. Green time may also support individuals to have greater control of hyperactivity symptoms often associated with ADHD.
Spending time in natural environments, particularly green environments benefits both our physical and mental health. Health benefits include reduced stress, improvements in working memory, increase in natural vitamin D and immune functions.
Therefore, while there is a tendency for all of us to work and then play, the opposite is likely to have a greater positive effect on our ability to attend and concentrate. Suggesting that getting some green time before activities requiring sustained attention would be ideal.
While we often turn to screen time to disconnect from stress, it is likely to be more beneficial to build in regular “green” time to replenish neurotransmitters and regulate our arousal.
Finding time for restoration can be challenging, particularly when there are multiple competing demands. A Psychologist at Nurturing Minds can help you to explore your personal barriers to restorative practices and can help you to establish healthier routines to support your overall wellbeing.
Article by Patricia Marriner, Nurturing Minds Psychologist