Time in Nature Tempers Impulse, Helps Us Plan Ahead


Delayed gratification often involves turning down a smaller reward now to get a more substantial or enduring reward later.

Though it sounds like a no-brainer to wait for something better, it is not always easy to resist the temptation of an immediate reward. For instance, many of us would gladly take 20 dollars offered to us today instead of waiting three months to receive 30 dollars.

An interesting research study has revealed that spending time outdoors, or looking at natural landscapes, actually helps people curb their impulses – delay gratification – and make decisions with an eye to the future. The influence of nature might make waiting three months for an extra 10 dollars seem worthwhile.

The Research: Two Influences

Research participants were offered the choice between immediate monetary reward and waiting 90 days for an increased reward.

While most research participants chose not to wait 90 days for a small increase in monetary reward, and all of them chose to wait 90 days for a large increase in monetary reward, did any participants choose to wait 90 days for a moderate increase? It depended on whether the participant had watched a slideshow depicting an urban environment or one showing verdant green natural landscapes.

Those who watched the natural landscape slides were much more willing to wait three months for an extra 25 to 50 dollars than those participants who viewed the urban pictures. It seems that exposing ourselves to the beauty of nature makes us more likely to resist temptation and delay gratification.

Subsequent studies with variations were done to check the validity of the original research, and the results were the same. People who spent time in nature or viewed photos of natural places were more inclined to forgo an immediate reward for a moderate future gain.

Nature’s Pace

The researchers surmise that nature’s psychological benefit may be owed to its slower pace, its patience for growth and its natural change. The earth’s scale and grandeur can make small, immediate desires and struggles seem less consequential. By contrast, the fast pace of urban life with its pressure for acquisition is more likely to influence people to grab what is available now.

If there is any wisdom running through my life now, in my walking on this earth, it came from listening in the Great Silence to the stones, trees, space, the wild animals, to the pulse of all life as my heartbeat. ~ Vijali Hamilton

Source: Discover Magazine


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