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Issue #2- Feeling Stuck or in a Rut?
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Issue #2- Feeling Stuck or in a Rut? Get Out in Nature, Science Says


Welcome back, or if you’re a new subscriber, to, Peak Performance, our newsletter highlighting the latest science in performance and personal growth.  Our goal is to help you get better at whatever it is that you do.  Every other Thursday, we’ll send out a pragmatic and evidence-based performance-enhancing insight that you can easily apply in your own life.
 
Feeling Stuck or in a Rut?  Get out in Nature, says Science.
In the popular book turned blockbuster movie Wild, during times when she was feeling down, Cheryl Strayed’s mom told her, “Put yourself in the way of beauty.”  It turns out that the latest science is proving Strayed’s mom correct. Nature is, in fact, often the best medicine for many of our common ailments.  And it’s not just that being in nature make us feel better. It can make us smarter, too.
 
Research shows that a walk or run in a natural setting can change the brain to lessen anxiety and ward off transitory depression.  Other studies show that being in nature enhances creativity.  Though the direct causal mechanism is still unknown, scientists speculate that when we are in nature we can’t help but feel a bit smaller and less significant.  Activity in the parts of our brain associated with critical thinking (and rumination) diminishes, and the deeper, more imaginative, and creative parts of our brain have an opportunity to break through. 
 
In addition to the psychological benefits, research also shows that experiences in nature work to “turn off” our physiological stress response, putting us in a more restful state.   One study found that being in nature – and in particular, experiencing the feeling of awe – lessens IL-6, a biomarker associated with inflammation.
 
Try This
  • When you feel the beginnings of rumination or a rut coming on, make it a priority to get out in nature. Even just a 30-minute walk can help. Getting out the door may seem like a big to do, especially when you are already feeling down, but when you return you’ll almost always feel better.
  • The same thing goes for when you get stuck trying to solve a problem. Even though you may be tempted to continue starring into the screen or working on the whiteboard (especially if you are on a deadline), have the confidence to take a break and let your mind wander in nature. If you can’t make your way into greenspace, research shows that simply looking at pictures of natural settings can help spur creativity.
  • Make a weekend hike, run, climb, or walk in a natural setting part of your routine.It will help not only with physical health but with mental health and performance too. Even if the drive out of the city and to the trailhead seems like a hassle, it’s almost always worth it.
 
Learn More
“When we get closer to nature – be it untouched wilderness or a backyard tree – we do our overstressed brains a favor” – Florence Williams
 
That’s it for this edition of Peak Performance.  We hope you enjoyed it. For past editions, check out our archive. Don’t hesitate to send us your questions or comments or to reach out on Twitter @SteveMagness and @BStulberg

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