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Out-of-office autoreply: Reaping the benefits of nature

sierras.jpg

In a few days, I'll be heading into the Sierras to backpack with a group of Japanese tourists. (Long story.) That means I'll be joining the legions who've had the pleasure of setting up self-satisfied out-of-office auto replies this month.

But what's the value of vacation or, more specifically, time spent in nature?

I was interested to see one answer to that question on the web this morning. John Halamka, MD, chief information officer at Harvard Medical School, writes on his blog that in office work:

We all develop a kind of ADHD, losing the ability to maintain focus, explore issues deeply, and savor the experience of the world around us.

Studies have not only shown the deleterious effects of constant connectivity; they've shown quick, quantifiable benefits of time spent in green space: One, from 2008, found that children with ADHD were better able to focus after 20-minute walks in the park. Another, from the same year, showed college students who walked through nature experienced greater improvements in mood and working memory than those who moseyed through downtown.

Does this mean we should all flee the city? Writer Jonah Lehrer asked yesterday on Wired:

Of course not. It simply means that it’s a good idea to build a little greenery into our life.

Indeed, after only 10 days in the mountains, Halamka says he returned to work "recharged and rejuvenated, with a new sense of perspective:"

It took a few days, but I regained the ability to sit on a rock, listen to the wind, and soak in the details of every flower, tree, and waterfall.

Photo by moonjazz

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