Courtesy of Country Walkers Amanda MacMillan, SELF magazine
Taking a few days off over the holidays? If one of your resolutions is to be more creative in 2013, a new study suggests that you might want to spend that time surrounded by nature--and off the grid. (Yes, it's hard to believe, but apparently it is possible to be creative without Instagram.)
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Okay, okay, we love Instagram. But back to the science: Psychologists from the universities of Utah and Kansas sent 56 hikers, all about 28 years old, out in the Alaskan woods on a 4-day Outward Bound hiking trip--no digital devices allowed. Half of the hikers took a creativity test (think brainteasers and problem-solving questions) the morning before their expedition, the other half one on the morning of Day 4.
The study, published today in the journal PLoS ONE, found that the first group solved an average of just 4.14 out of the 10 test questions, while the second group solved an average of 6.08--about a 50% improvement.
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The researchers aren't sure if this boost of creativity stemmed from being away from technology or from being out in nature, or a combination of both. But what they did write is that modern society "is filled with sudden events (sirens, horns, ringing phones, alarms, television, etc.) that hijack attention. By contrast, natural environments are associated with gentle, soft fascination, allowing the executive attentional system to replenish."
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After months of nonstop multitasking and typing away to meet deadlines, I can seriously relate; I always feel like I need to get away for a run in the park, a hike through the woods or a drive through the mountains in order to generate any real new ideas. And now I'm looking forward to escaping to a friend's cabin in North Carolina over New Year's. I won't be completely unplugged, but I do plan to step away from my laptop for a few days. Maybe you'll even notice a difference in my posts when I get back!