I’m obviously a big proponent of using adventure — particularly outdoor adventure — to tap further into who we are at our core and to fuel the momentum to live colorful, joy-filled lives. For me, getting out into the wild and exploring gives me clarity when I’m feeling fuzzy and gives me glimpses of my true self. Standing in wide open fields has been essential in helping me stay connected with who I am at my core and to reaffirm that I can do hard things.
And it’s not just me.
Cognitive neuroscientist, David Strayer, has been studying what he calls the ‘3-day effect.’ Strayer and his colleagues tested 28 backpackers before and after going on Outward Bound trips and found that their creative thinking and insight problem solving increased 47% after their trips. Strayer believes it’s all about the frontal cortex, which is the executive taskmaster of our brains. Day to day life has a way of frying this part of our brain: emails, texts, tasks, deadlines, chores, appointments, lists, remembering to move the clothes from the washer to the dryer all have a way of seriously taxing our brains. Three days is just enough time to give this part of our brains a much-needed break so that you can unwind from your regular life. Better yet, Strayer saw that when that part of our brains is freed up, other parts of the brain begin to take over, like those associated with sensory perception, empathy and productive day-dreaming. Pretty cool, right?
Now, not everyone has the energy or the desire to go on a outward bound backpacking trip every time they need a little refresh. I sure as hell don’t. But you can certainly gain the benefits of 3-day effect at home in your everyday life. Maybe it’s taking a walk around the building at lunch, or stopping to watch a beautiful sunset or even just shutting off your phone and reading a book on your porch.