January 11, 2013

Turn Off, Tune Out, And Drop In... To The Wilderness

Linda at Francis Lake in the backcountry of Glacier National Park, Montana, 1990
Whether it is a crisp morning in the mountains, or the silence of the rain forest ringing in my ears, nature has always been my healing sanctuary. On multi-week hiking trips, I have felt the stress and pressures of the busy life melt away. But is it possible that exposure to the wilderness was also good for my creativity?

Both adults and children are spending more time indoors interacting with a variety of  un-natural devices. Even when people go outside, they remain glued to a screen. With cell phones shielding the view, we cease to notice the beauty of nature we are passing.

When we cease to notice the natural world, we fail to cash in on its physical, mental, and spiritual benefits. In our obsession with technology and 'progress', we fail to see what we are missing.

A recent study looked at the effects of technology and exposure to nature on creativity. What would happen to creativity levels if regular, busy people turned off the screens, tuned out of the rat race, and dropped in to the wilderness for a while?

Psychology researchers took groups of adults on 4 day wilderness trips in which everyone took a digital holiday. No electronic devices allowed.

The test subjects took a test before and after the wilderness experience. The researchers reported  that, "four days of immersion in nature, and the corresponding disconnection from multi-media and technology, increased performance on a creativity, problem-solving task by a full 50%". Naturally there were other benefits, too.

One participant of the four day wilderness experience noted that as her trip progressed, people tended to  get more introspective, and talked less and less. The person also noted that when people did talk later in the trip, it tended to lead to deeper, more meaningful discussions.

The researchers suggest that being in a natural setting yields advantages due to the low stress and emotionally positive feelings associated with being with nature. They also recognized the benefits could partially be explained by cutting the exposure to "attention demanding technology".

We may not all be set up for a four day wilderness trip and the thought of sharing a meadow with a grizzly bear is hardly conducive to relaxed creativity (unless you are thinking about creative escape plans). However, we can all get outside and notice nature every once in a while, even if it is only a few minutes.

Boost your creativity - turn off the electronics and digital demons, tune out your everyday worries and concerns, and drop in to a natural setting near you.

Note: Really can't get out? Research has shown that viewing photographs of nature can also have beneficial effects on well-being. 

Beautify your indoor space with inspiring photos of the outdoors - it will do you good, and will motivate you to get out into the real thing.


  1. Anonymous1/22/2013

    thanks for share.

  2. What a peaceful photograph in such a beautiful place. Takes my breath away. It reminds me of Asian art. The human is often drawn very small in comparison to the nature they are in. Perspective for sure.

    I did not know that being in the wilderness for 4 days increased creativity and problem-solving ability a whopping 50 percent. Wow. Love that you mention photographs enhance well being. I find it true. I'm embarking on a big task, sorting through my photographs. I planned to scale down how many I have because it's way too many. In the past I kept them all, even the blurs and double prints. When I have less, I'll be inclined to enjoy them more and more often. I'd like to create a way to display them in my home and rotate them.

    Glacier NP is glorious splendor. Loved being there about 2 years after you and Linda were there. We saw grizzly bears there and the most stunning full moon rising up over a mountain. Many "moments" at Glacier. I was really relaxing into our trip to Alaska by the time we reached Montana. Civilization was becoming more sparse. Knowing we've traveled the same area makes me feel closer. I bet there are a number of places we've both been to in western U.S. And probably in western Canada too. Cool. Really cool.


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