Researchers have long theorized that green spaces are calming, requiring less of our so-called directed mental attention than busy, urban streets do. Instead, natural settings invoke “soft fascination,” a beguiling term for quiet contemplation, during which directed attention is barely called upon and the brain can reset those overstretched resources and reduce mental fatigue. But this theory, while agreeable, has been difficult to put to the test.
I’m all for scientific research, but isn’t it a shame that money has to go to proving something that is so obvious? The real problem here is that very little experience with nature is built into our everyday lives. For many, work settings and built environment discourage it. So to do social norms, which are for one to eat lunch at one’s desk rather than step outside for a bit to seek peace and refuge. Even if one wants to take a walk, a lot of offices are not near parks and other green spaces. I hope this can change as we begin to appreciate how over-stimulated and fatigued our brain gets as a result of the computer and how much of a respite it is to go outside.