Cure Cabin Fever With… A Cabin? January 14, 2009 12:09
Build a Cabin and Put an End to the Cabin Fever Epidemic
Every year about this time we are faced with an epidemic of Cabin Fever. In the cold winter months people seem to lose focus and get restless. New research has uncovered a potential cure for the midwinter blahs that has no known side effects, and makes you smarter, happier, and more effective. Better still, the therapy is readily available and doesn’t cost a dime.
For years now people have been attempting to quell the onset of winter boredom and restlessness by heading out to see a movie or going shopping. According to a recently published study led by Marc Berman from the University of Michigan, heading to the mall or cinema may be exactly the wrong thing to do.
The study had University of Michigan students either take a walk in the woods or down a city street in Ann Arbor. After the walk the students were asked to remember and recite a series of numbers backwards. It turns out that just a few minutes on a city street significantly impairs a person’s memory, mood, and self control. The walk in the woods on the other hand made the students smarter.
According to Berman the mind has its limits. Scientists are just starting to understand how the city overwhelms those limits. In other words worrying about traffic, thinking about buying that iPod, or those shoes, and avoiding the panhandler wears you out. There are a limited number of things you can pay attention to, and the city offers an unlimited number of enticing engagements, or potential threats. After a short period of time your brain just shuts down.
So if you are not functioning as well right now as you might like the answer may be to do less. Stop multitasking, shut down the constant flow of media, and get out of the city for a while.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but nature is good for your brain.
When your mother turned off the TV and threw you out of the house to go play in the snow she was doing the right thing. The University of Michigan study also showed that when the same students went for a walk in the woods that their short term memory improved by 20%. Spending time in nature also improved the students mood and ability to focus.
The other striking finding is that the results were consistent no matter what the weather. Students tested the same on sunny warm days as they did on below freezing days in January. In fact it didn’t even matter if the students enjoyed the walk. They still saw improvements in their cognitive abilities, even if they didn’t like doing it.
When the weather is warm people tend to spend more time at the lake, in the woods or at the park. In the winter it takes a conscious effort to get out and go for a walk, or go skating, or skiing. Even when people do these activities they are often adapted to urban environments. After all most walking happens on sidewalks, and most skating happens in ice rinks these days.
If you want to be happier, smarter, and more effective…
In contrast to the city, the natural environment is stimulating but in a relaxed and unfocused manner. The natural world engages you through beautiful vistas and sunset, but at the same time your attention is relaxed and unfocused. This allows your multitasking city brain to replenish itself, leaving you feeling refreshed and restored.
So if you feel Cabin Fever coming on you may be suffering from a Nature Deficit. Take some time out to go for a walk in the woods. A little time away from the demands of the city can make a big difference.
If you really want to beat Cabin Fever you may want to build a Cabin. Create a space at the lake, in the woods or the mountains to restore and replenish yourself. The best part is, it will work all year round. You can leave the city behind any Friday afternoon, knowing that you’ll be truly refreshed on Monday.
If you want to be smarter, happier, and more effective, our advice is to build a cabin.