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Nature: The Brain's Focus Mode

Do you have decision fatigue? Are you feeling stuck and uninspired when it comes to your business?

We’ve all felt that frustrating, panic-inducing brain-fog at our desks (and, let’s be honest, it tends to follow us everywhere). There may be a solution to this that seems counter-productive but is in fact one of the best things we can do for our brains.

There’s a reason why so much of English Literature mentions people escaping to the outdoors for a walk or a ride to gain clarity and inspiration. As it turns out, the reason is scientific as much as it is romantic.

As we’ve mentioned before, a study by psychologists from the University of Utah and University of Kansas found that being outdoors can boost your creativity (medicaldaily.com). Participants scored 50% better when tested for creativity after spending four days in nature. “This is a way of showing that interacting with nature has real, measurable benefits to creative problem-solving that really hadn’t been demonstrated before,” according to the study’s co-author, University of Utah’s Professor David Strayer. “It provides a rationale for trying to understand what is a healthy way to interact in the world, and that burying yourself in front of a computer 24/7 may have costs that can be remediated by taking a hike in nature.” These are vitally useful findings for business leaders and thought-leaders!

Experiences with nature have also been proven to restore attention (fractured from the millions of technological and real-life distractions we encounter every day), and improve critical thinking/problem solving, a vital part of any business and strategy.


Time spent in nature gives your brain’s prefrontal cortex a break. Psychologists believe this facilitates better focus, deeper thinking and new ideas. According to outsideonline.com “when the prefrontal cortex quiets down, the brain’s default mode network kicks in” which draws on our memories, and self-processing. Neuroscientists also call the meditative, peaceful state we’re in when we’re watching the tide or forest bathing “soft fascination.” It’s a sort of gentle mesmerization with nature that frees the mind to wander. It’s believed that this is the medium through which we often get our best ideas.


A bonus side-effect of time spent in nature that also boosts productivity and job performance? Two words: stress reduction. According to NBCnews.com, “a 2010 study published in Environmental Health and Preventative Medicine found that participants who walked in a forest had lower blood pressure and cortisol levels afterwards than those who strolled through a city environment.”

Time spent in nature improves our creativity, strategizing and deep thinking. It’s a no-brainer really. The next time you feel unable to focus, lead or even think clearly, you might want to resist the temptation to hole yourself up in the office for yet another evening. Take a short walk around the park, or, if you need to have a big-picture strategy session with your leadership team, consider a get-away that allows for plenty of fresh air and exercise.

The Breakaway Centre for High Performance is situated on the gorgeous, remote Thetis Island…

Swim and canoe the Cufra Inlet, or just do some river otter-spotting from the deck.

You can also take a small team to the Breakaway Centre for your year-end meeting. Click here for more info.

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