We have written a lot about how to relax when you are not at work or if you are getting stressed at work that it helps to go on a walk, even if it is just to go grab a cup of coffee. Apparently, though, it does actually matter where you go on that walk. Researchers are zeroing in on some of the circumstances that bring about optimal mental refreshment and, so far, it is not looking good for anyone that works in a city or drinks coffee. The cast of Friends was lying to us when they looked so relaxed all those years sitting in the city drinking coffee.
University of Michigan researchers found that subjects who strolled through a nature setting saw a 20% improvement in attention and focus tests. However, participants who took a brief walk in a busy city did not see any cognitive benefits. Taking in the sights and sounds of nature appears to be especially beneficial for our minds, researchers say. Nature images “engage our so-called involuntary attention, which comes into play when our minds are inadvertently drawn to something interesting that doesn’t require intense focus, like a pleasing picture or landscape feature. We can still talk and think while noticing the element,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
But people who don’t live in the middle of a nature preserve are not completely screwed, according to the researchers. If you can find a slightly quieter street with a few trees can work or a park or even maybe looking at potted plants may help you concentrate better.
However, for those of you who thought that little walk to Starbucks was actually helping you to be more productive when you got back to your desk, you have got another thing coming to you. While caffeine indeed revs up the body, including the brain, that doesn’t necessarily translate to better performance, researchers at the University of Bristol found.
On the plus side, for us ladies, coffee doesn’t hurt our productivity as much as our male colleagues. The study found that “men who drank more than their usual amount of coffee performed worse when working on a group assignment. The same didn’t hold true for women, likely because they tend to perform better in groups,” says Lindsay St. Claire, a lecturer at the University of Bristol in the U.K. who was part of the team that conducted the study, published last year in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology. But, ladies, we aren’t totally off the hook. “The arousal from caffeine can prolong the arousal you would have from stressful situation,” which can be detrimental, says Dr. St. Claire. So, she says, people should consider how keyed up they already are feeling before pausing for an additional cup of coffee.
I hope Starbucks doesn’t take too much of a hit from this.