Here’s more proof that links better focus and health to nature.

Finding peace and enhancing mental focus can be challenging. But, researchers in Utah have found a simple yet effective way to improve attention: a nature walk.

This article will explore how this natural remedy boosts your mental faculties.

The Science Behind a Nature Walk and Attention

A groundbreaking study by the University of Utah involving 92 participants revealed significant cognitive benefits of walking in nature.

Using electroencephalography (EEG) to record brain activity, the research showed that a 40-minute walk through natural settings, like the Red Butte Garden, enhanced executive control processes in the brain. That is a key aspect of attention.

On the other hand, this improvement in focus was notably absent in participants who walked through urban, asphalt-rich environments​​​.

nature and attention

The Role of Biophilia

The concept of biophilia suggests a deep-rooted connection between humans and nature. This affinity may have been embedded in our DNA through evolution. Thus, it implies that today’s tech-filled, busy, smoggy urban settings may be detrimental to our mental wellness.

But there’s encouraging news that comes from all that. The University of Utah’s findings imply that a return to natural settings appears to counteract these effects, even momentarily. It achieves this by engaging our inherent love for the living world​​​.

Executive Attention and Cognitive Tasks

Participants performed demanding cognitive tasks before embarking on their walks to deplete their attentional reserves. The subsequent improvement in executive attention following the nature walk. That finding underscores the unique restorative power of natural environments. This facet of attention, crucial for higher-order thinking like problem-solving and decision-making, is nurtured by the tranquil embrace of nature​​​.

Beyond Exercise: The Unique Benefits of Outdoor Activity

While exercise, in general, is beneficial for cognitive functions, the study highlighted that the natural environment played a crucial role in enhancing attention.

Walking outdoors led to significant improvements in the brain’s executive control. Indoor exercise does not replicate that impact. This observation aligns with attention restoration theory, which supposes that natural settings offer a mental break from routine. It suggests that the outdoor setting may induce a state of ‘soft fascination’ that restores cognitive capacities​.

The Neuroscience of Attention Restoration

Neurophysiologically, attention seems to link to increased activity in specific brain regions. The study noted that outdoor exercise, coupled with the restorative nature of the environment, led to a more effective recalibration of cerebral blood flow (CBF). This recalibration aids in focusing on relevant stimuli by reducing blood flow to areas not immediately needed, thereby enhancing overall cognitive performance​.

Future Research Directions

Continuing their investigations, researchers at the University of Utah are now examining how cellphone use impacts cognitive restoration during nature walks. This research is crucial, as understanding the factors contributing to mental and physical health can guide the design of more health-supportive urban environments​​.

Besides a Nature Walk, Try These Healthful Outdoor Activities


While a nature walk is a fantastic way to boost attention and mental well-being, the great outdoors offers many activities that may be equally beneficial for your physical and mental health. Studies remain ongoing, but it will  still be fun to give these a try!

Here are some creative and engaging outdoor activities to try:

1 – Gardening and Growing: A Therapeutic Endeavor

Gardening isn’t just about beautifying your surroundings. Rather, it’s a therapeutic activity that can reduce stress and improve mood. The act of planting, nurturing, and watching something grow is immensely satisfying. It’s also a subtle form of exercise, improving dexterity and hand-eye coordination.

2 – Bird Watching: Nature’s Meditation

Bird watching is a delightful way to connect with nature. It encourages patience and stillness, much like meditation. This activity enhances your observational skills and provides a sense of tranquility as you immerse yourself in the sounds and sights of Mother Nature’s world.

3 – Try Outdoor Yoga: Discover the Harmony of Body and Mind

Practicing yoga outdoors – in your backyard or at the park – adds a new dimension to your routine. The fresh air, natural light, and sounds of nature enhance the experience, allowing for deeper relaxation and mindfulness. Whether in your backyard or a local park, outdoor yoga can elevate your practice.

4 – Cycling: Explore and Exercise

Cycling is not just great cardiovascular exercise. Rather, it is an excellent way to explore your surroundings. Whether you prefer leisurely rides, pedaling your way through the park, or more challenging mountain biking trails, cycling is a fun way to improve your fitness and enjoy the outdoors.

5 – Stand-up Paddleboarding: Improve Balance and Seek Serenity on Water

Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) offers a unique combination of balance, strength, and serenity. Gliding on the water can be incredibly peaceful, and the required balance engages your core, improving overall strength and stability.

6 – Photography Walks: Capturing Nature’s Beauty

Combine a nature walk with photography to engage your creative side. This activity encourages you to pay attention to  details you might otherwise miss and offers a new perspective on the natural world. Plus, it’s a wonderful way to preserve memories of your outdoor adventures.

7 – Rock Climbing: A Physical and Mental Challenge

Rock climbing is not just a physical test; it’s a mental puzzle as you find the best route to the top. It builds strength, endurance, and flexibility, and the sense of achievement when you reach the summit is unparalleled.

8 – Kayaking or Canoeing: Paddle Your Way to Peace

Water-based activities like kayaking or canoeing are excellent for upper body conditioning and offer a peaceful way to explore lakes, rivers, and coastlines. The rhythmic nature of paddling can be meditative, providing a calm escape from daily stresses.

9 – Geocaching: The Outdoor Treasure Hunt

Geocaching is a real-world, outdoor treasure-hunting game using GPS-enabled devices. In this pursuit, the world is your gameboard. Participants navigate to a certain set of GPS coordinates. When they arrive, they attempt to find the geocache (container) hidden at that location. The container usually has a token prize to discover. It’s a fun way to explore your local area or new places, adding an element of adventure to your outdoor activities.

10 – Forest Bathing: Mindful Immersion in Nature

Originating from Japan, forest bathing (Shinrin-yoku) involves slowly walking through a forest, taking in the atmosphere, and engaging all your senses. This mindful practice reduces stress and boosts well-being, deeply reconnecting you with nature.

Remember that the key to enjoying these activities is to be present in the moment and soak in the experience. Whether you’re tending to a garden, cycling through a scenic route, or balancing on a paddleboard, these fun outdoor activities offer a chance to disconnect from all your digital devices and reconnect with nature. Thus, they benefit both your physical and mental health.


Final Thoughts on How a Nature Walk Supports Attention

In conclusion, a simple walk in a natural setting can be a potent tool for mental rejuvenation. It’s not just about the physical exercise; the environment makes the difference. As we navigate the complexities of modern life, immersing ourselves in nature can be a vital step towards maintaining and improving our cognitive health.

So, consider stepping outside into nature next time you feel overwhelmed or need a mental boost. Grab that breath of fresh air. That time you spend strolling outside is not just a nature walk. Indeed, it may be a journey to better attention and clarity.