Time In Nature Helps Curb Impulsivity And Boost Self-Control

Spending time in nature — aside from being one of life’s greatest simple pleasures — comes with a whole host of mental health benefits, from lower stress levels to reduced depression and anxiety to improved memory and focus.

Now, new research from the University of Montana suggests that going camping or taking a hike may also be helpful for combatting addiction, as researchers found that being exposed to nature led people to behave less impulsively and exercise greater self-control.

Impulsivity — which in this case refers to the tendency to choose smaller, more immediate rewards over longer-term payoffs — is highly correlated with overeating, drug and alcohol abuse, problematic gambling and other compulsive behaviors.

For the study, 45 undergraduate students each viewed a series of images of either natural (mountains, forests, lakes) or man-made environments (buildings, cities, roads). Then, each participant completed a task designed to measure impulsivity, answering questions like whether they’d rather be given $50 immediately or $100 at a later time. They also completed a task designed to measure their perception of time, in which they were monitored for a several seconds and then asked to estimate how much time had passed.

The researchers found that participants who looked at the pictures of nature exercised greater self-control, while those who looked at the images of buildings and cities were significantly more likely to choose the immediate payoff.

The scientists also determined that participants who saw nature pictures perceived time to go by more slowly than those who viewed the images of man-made locations.

What explains this effect? It’s likely that the calmness and tranquility of natural landscapes reduces stress levels and promotes relaxation, which results in a feeling of time going by more slowly or a sense of —> Read More