Science Tuesday: Take a Hike

By Sanah Faroke, Staff Writer
@sanahfaroke

Despite all these issues I have with nature, I moved from Miami, Fla. to Boston, Mass. for school, but also because of the culture and the four seasons. I may not extend my walks too far from the Boston University bubble as often as I would like, but for some reason, being outside and experiencing the wind on my face, the leaves wavering on tree branches and all the colors of fall clears my mind, if only for a while, but nature has that wonderful affect on me.

Yes, I’m still in the city, but when I get away from the city for a bit, I have a clearer outlook on life and I’m able to focus more when I hit the books or when I have to make a long term decision.

To those who actually go on trips to ski and hike, kudos to you. It’s just not for me, but regardless of the type of nature you intake, it’s no wonder that being outside actually makes us feel good.

Don’t you kind of wish you went on a walk now before having that fifth cup of coffee now? I’ll help you out. The answer is yes.

Researchers have found that when we look at natural landscapes, it can make us more focused in our decision-making processes. In the study, researchers created two different slideshows, one that had natural landscapes and the other that was in a city environment.

Volunteers had to view either the natural or the urban slideshow, in which they listened to an audio that tried to convince the volunteers to become immersed with the landscape they viewed. After all the volunteers watched the slideshow, the researchers offered them either 100 euros ($135) now or a larger sum in 90 days, in which the price would increase in 10 euro ($13) increments until the volunteer chose that new reward over the initial sum.

Here’s where it gets interesting: the volunteers that saw the more natural slideshow rather than the concrete urban slideshow were more willing to wait for an extra 20, 30 or 40 euros. And thus, researchers hinted that the participants who viewed the natural photos were able to make more logical decisions and made them more open to the idea for a delayed gratification.

To make sure that this wasn’t a hoax, the researchers did subsequent experiments with the same idea of showing natural beauty versus a concrete setting and then offered immediate or delayed financial awards to three groups. Like clockwork, participants who were immersed by nature were more inclined to get the delayed future award.

According to the research that appeared this week in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, this implies that those with exposure to natural scenes tend to care more for the future. Kind of scary since we live in this great, giant city called Boston, but there are ways to get your daily dose of nature.

According to researchers, it is possible that on a psychological standpoint, nature moves at a slower pace, while life in the city is so fast paced and we want everything immediate, so we want to mimic what we see.

I’ve tried to take this study into my own hands and while I’m not planning on going fishing or mountain biking, there are many alternatives for city people, like myself, who would rather watch The Big Bang Theory reruns than wake up at 5 a.m. to see the sunrise.  You could go to the Esplanade or sail on the Charles River or take a stroll in the Boston Commons. If you want to take it a step further, there’s whale watching, walking trails in the forest, the sandy Boston Harbor National Park and white water rafting.

Don’t like my ideas? You can do some research for yourself or take a hike — literally (and gain some clarity while you’re at it).

Sincerely,

The happy camper

If you ever wanted to envision me camping…

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