Monday Spark: Spending 20 minutes a day outside makes you smarter.

nature lifts your spiritsMost of know this intuitively, especially in the spring. We know that stepping outside for a while seems to lift our spirits and make us smile inside.

And the more of nature we see when we’re outside, the better we feel.

A view of brick walls and concrete does little to make us feel good. But the sound of birds singing, spring flowers pushing up through the ground, or an expansive view over rolling hills to the horizon seems to lift a burden from our shoulders.

It turns out that this is a proven, scientific fact.

More remarkable still, spending 20 minutes a day outside not only makes us feel good, but also makes us smarter. It makes our thinking more expansive and open. It even increases our working memory span, a factor associated with increased intelligence.

These findings are the work of psychologists Barbara Fredrickson and Matt Keller, explained in their 2005 study, “A warm heart and a clear head: The contingent effects of weather on mood and cognition.”

As you might imagine, you don’t get the same effect when stepping outside in the middle of winter, or any wet, dreary day. The effect also diminishes when the weather is too hot.

As freelancers, at this time of year, we should take note of these findings. This is the perfect time of year to maximize the benefits of spending some time outside.

Organize your day with this in mind.

– Go for a 20-minute walk in a park at lunchtime.

– If you have some reading to do as part of your work day, do that in the park, or at least do it while sitting out on the deck.

– If you don’t have a park close by, or a garden, at least figure out a way to take the extra time at the weekend. Take the family and enjoy nature.

If a client or family member questions your new-found desire to disappear outside for a while each day, just tell them you are increasing your memory span, getting smarter, and preparing to do the best work of your life.

About the author: Nick Usborne is an online writer, copywriter, author and coach.

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