The Nature Prescription

Six all-natural (yet scientific) strategies for improving your mind and body

Florence Williams went to the forests of Japan to uncover the science behind the health benefits of mother nature. For those of you without the time to travel deep into the Japanese wilderness, here are six quick, easy, and natural ways to help your body and mind.

Temper Your Screen Time

What happens to a mind in constant motion? That’s a question we seem intent on answering, one laptop and DVR at a time. In a now famous, years-long study of employees at the Boston Consulting Group, led by Harvard Business School professor Leslie Perlow, 26 percent of participants admitted to sleeping with their smartphones within reach. Fifty-one percent said they check email obsessively while on vacation. Kids are even worse. According to a 2010 survey by the Kaiser Foundation, American teens spend about 7.5 hours a day toggling between text messages, Instagrams, and streaming episodes of Jersey Shore.This nonstop engagement changes how the brain processes information—and, in some cases, changes the brain itself. One alarming study of Internet-addicted Chinese teenagers found signs of “abnormal white matter structure”—atrophy of connective tissue—in areas of the brain involved with behavior and emotional control.

The cure is, quite literally, out there. “An expanding literature suggests that exposure to nature—either a walk through a park or looking at nature photographs—can enhance attention and memory,” says Arthur Kramer, director of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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