The power of getting outside

outdoor, outside, adventure, colorful, joy, productive,

Last year, after experiencing a number of big life transitions and on the heels of a move from San Diego, CA to Salt Lake City, UT, I felt unmoored. I felt like I had lost myself. I used to grab life by the horns. Jump in feet first. Say yes more than I said no. But somewhere along the way life started to drag me down. My business grew. I had a baby. Responsibilities loomed in front of me. I started making “prudent” choices. Sensible choices that ignored the fire burning inside of me.

Maybe that sounds familiar.

Getting out into the wild and exploring my new home gave me clarity when I was feeling fuzzy and started giving me glimpses of my old 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?

(And read more about David Strayer’s research here)

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