See that picture of a majestic mountain? Give it a good, long look.
Feel better? Here’s why: Taking just 40 seconds to view even just a picture of nature can up your focus and accuracy during tedious, repetitive tasks.
Subjects in a U. of Melbourne study were asked to sit at computers on which the numbers 1–9 flashed on-screen for a split second, and quickly press a specific key each time—unless the number was a 3, which required no key press. After about five minutes (225 flashing numbers), everyone took a 40-second desk break as their screens displayed an image of either a concrete city rooftop or a city roof planted with lush grass and flowers. When the test resumed, subjects who’d viewed the grassy, flowery roof outperformed the concrete-watchers, with significantly faster times and fewer errors.
“Taking a green micro-break to view city nature for just 40 seconds—far shorter than we thought—can boost concentration,” says lead study author Kate Lee, Ph.D., because people typically perceive these scenes as effortlessly fascinating enough to promote a sense of being away from everyday concerns. “This could be a simple strategy to help deal with the demands of city living and work- ing.”
Not surprisingly, letting subjects view real, live greenery also worked, Lee says—but till you can finagle a park view outside your executive suite, set a verdant screensaver and view it often.