Your Brain Behaves Differently When You’re Outside, According To Science

Unsplash/Zach Betten

The vast majority of people experience a tangible difference in how they feel when they move from indoor living spaces to the great outdoors. And now, new research is confirming that a physiological change really does occur in your brain when you immerse yourself in nature.

A new study from the University of Alberta explored what happens neurologically speaking when people perform tasks inside versus outside among the fresh air. After selecting a group of participants, the team of researchers asked each of them to ride an indoor stationary bike, as well as go for a bike ride outdoors. While riding, they had to identify changes in a set of predetermined stimuli. The neurologists placed EEG equipment in the backpacks each participant wore during the exercises to map any changes in the brain that occurred as they completed their tasks.

“Something about being outdoors changes brain activity,” lead study author Joanna Scanlon said in a statement. “In addition to dividing attention between the task and riding a bike, we noticed that brain activity associated with sensing and perceiving information was different when outdoors, which may indicate that the brain is compensating for environmental distractions.”

Unsplash/Micah Hallahan

While the study confirms that our brains do process stimuli differently depending on whether we’re indoors or outside, the researchers still need to uncover what exactly people are paying attention to when they are out among the elements. That kind of information is critical to not only learning more about how our minds work, but also how to better create outdoor spaces. Think biking paths layouts, roadway designs and public park setups.

Either way, know that it’s not all in your head. Your body does shift when you change environments, and when that includes a hill of green grass or a forest full of trees, the shift is nothing but positive.