How nature can improve cognitive function and well-being

You’ve all likely heard the phrase “get some fresh air” to reduce your tension or to help you think more clearly. But did you know this advice is actually based on fact? Nature has been proven to boost cognitive function and mood.

As part of a research study at Rotman Research Institute, University of Michigan and Stanford University in 2012, participants walked for 50 minutes in either nature or an urban environment. Their short-term memories were evaluated before and after the walk. Participants who walked in nature had significant increases in their memory span and in their mood.

Being in nature or looking at a nature scene can significantly lower physiological effects of stress including lowering your heart rate, increasing muscle tone and reducing headaches, according to a 2006 study at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia. This is important as aspiring dental professionals because we need to think quickly in urgent situations and build patient rapport with a friendly face. If we spend more time outdoors, we probably wouldn’t feel as drained of energy after a full day in clinic or listening to lectures.

If getting outdoors frequently isn’t an option, even looking at a nature scene or being exposed to natural light (think large windows) can reduce stress. A view to the outdoors can reduce our stress, and stress for our future employees and patients. Patients who are able to see nature during their office visit can perceive their appointments as less stressful and more satisfactory.

~Savanna Fonkert, Minnesota ’22

Finish reading this article in the June/July issue of Contour magazine.

Savanna Fonkert

Savanna Fonkert graduated from North Dakota State University in 2018. Her favorite part about dental school is the feeling of comradery with her peers. She loves the holidays because of how magical they feel, especially when a house or trees are lit up and they sparkle against the snow!

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