April 23, 2018

"Take a walk during your lunch break! Be one with nature!" I can't tell you how many articles I've read that encourage me to "get outside" as a means to beat the midday slump. It's not that I doubt the advice—I trust that getting outdoors rather than hunching over my desk would probably lead to a more productive and creative me. It's just that it's not always feasible for me, and a lot of other people, to take a midday hike during the workday. In the age of Slack and constant emails, there's always so much to do and so little time.

Thankfully, I come bearing good news for us can't-get-away-from-our-desk-but-definitely-want-those-nature-benefits people: Studies show that even just looking at pictures or videos of nature can boost our health and happiness. The effects aren't as strong as getting out in the real thing—but to me, a little positive cognitive benefits are better than none!

Marc Berman, Ph.D., an environmental psychologist at the Univeristy of Chicago, has studied the cognitive benefits of nature. In a recent podcast, he said activating our "involuntary attention"—aka when we let our focus go to whatever catches our eye—can help us improve our directed attention (that "heads down on a project" kind of focus) and decrease stress. The big "but": Our "involuntary attention" has to be activated by the right kind of stimulation.

"Walking in Times Square has lots of interesting stimulation, but we think that kind of stimulation is very harsh," Berman says in the podcast. His research shows that our brains respond most positively to "softly fascinating" stimluation, which nature has in spades—think softly flowing waterfalls and leaves blowing in the wind.

Here, we rounded up eight relaxing nature videos we think fit the "softly fascinating" bill. I'm personally turning to these the next time I'm at my desk with only five minutes to spare and a whole lot of stress to shake off.

1. This Small But Mighty Waterfall

Is this waterfall epic? No, not really—but nearly 1 million people have watched it because it's so. dang. relaxing. The soft trickling sound of the water and the visuals of it slowly rolling down the hill had me so calm.

2. This Classic Rainfall

This video offers two views of a rainstorm at once—one view is from outside and the other view is from inside a cozy tent. The result is a mashup that would have DJ Khaled thinking, "Why didn't I come up with this killer collab?"

3. These Leaves in the Wind

Do you like fall? Do you like the sound of crisp leaves rustling in the wind? Then this video is for you, dear reader. It pairs well with a Pumpkin Spice Latte.

4. This Magic Rainstorm

That cozy feeling when you're inside during a rainstorm, staring out at the tress blowing in the wind? Yup, this video has it. And the sound quality of the rain hitting the window is perfection.

5. These Hawaiian Waves

This video is like discovering your own private beach—one where you can stay for 10 full hours.

6. This Field of Gold

This video features the perfect balance of windchimes, birds, and insects. As one commenter noted, "Finally a video where the crickets aren’t too harsh or loud!" Amen!

7. This More Epic Waterfall

This waterfall is a little bit bigger, and the surrounding forest is beautiful. Take note of the plants lightly waving in the breeze.

8. These Crystal Waves

This video will have you screaming, "I want to go to there!" Luckily, you can spend two full hours watching the waves gently crash along this white sand beach.

Happy nature video-ing!


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