I recently visited Idaho Falls for work, and rather than rest my head at the local corporate hotel, I slept in a yurt in the local mountains. I had no shower and no bathroom, but it was among the most powerful travel experiences I’ve had. I was surrounded by some of the most jaw dropping scenery I’ve experienced on US soil.
The research suggests that I was more productive during my work time because of my environs.
“Nature can provide cognitive benefits in much shorter timeframes, and in smaller amounts than previously demonstrated,” the authors concluded.
For anybody who toils all day at task after task in an office building, it’s hard to miss the implications. “Modern work drains attention throughout the day, so providing boosted ‘green micro-breaks’ may provide mental top-ups to offset declining attention,” said lead study author Kate Lee of the University of Melbourne
While the natural beauty surrounding me positively impacted my work, the quality of my trip was significantly enhanced by the care and dedication of my host. While I certainly would have left feeling strongly about the trip simply based on the surroundings, the breakfasts provided each morning elevated my trip to sublime. Humans can dramatically alter the moods of those they touch, particularly if they set out to do so. From Psychology Today:
For centuries, researchers have studied the tendency for people to unconsciously and automatically mimic the emotional expressions of others, and in many cases actually feel the same feelings simply by exposure to emotions in social interactions. Studies have found that the mimicry of a frown or a smile or other kinds of emotional expression trigger reactions in our brains that cause us to interpret those expressions as our own feelings. Simply put, as a species, we are innately vulnerable to “catching” other people’s emotions.
The scientific part of me laughs at the adage that “food made with love tastes better.” This experience forced me to question my own assumptions. Was it Cami’s skill, ingredients and creativity which were responsible for the execution of 3 of the best breakfasts I’ve ever had, or did the care she provided materially alter the experience? From the Daily Mail:
Researchers looking into human experience found…that patients in hospital felt less pain during procedures when they were carried out by a sweet-natured nurse.Professor Kurt Gray said: ‘The way we read another person’s intentions changes our physical experience of the world.
‘The results confirm that good intentions – even misguided ones – can soothe pain, increase pleasure and make things taste better.
So how does one inject love into the preparation of a meal?
Before my arrival, Cami and I discussed the timing for breakfasts. Each morning, they arrived promptly at 8 am, just as we agreed, presented in a picnic basket packed with obvious energy devoted to presentation. The ingredients were hand written and labeled, allowing me to feel confident in my choices every morning.
These breakfasts were huge, more than I could possibly eat. Better yet, even without direct interaction, my host took notice of my habits and altered accordingly. Day 1, she provided orange juice, which I didn’t drink. On day 2, apple juice appeared, with a label noting that it was “unsweetened pressed apple juice.” I used a small amount in my (9 grain) cereal but left the rest. Day 3 saw no juice in the basket.
These efforts, which require uncommon dedication and feel, left me with the strongest experience I’ve had in quite some time. Perhaps it was merely the merging of creativity, talent and presentation with the ambiance that was responsible for my mind-blowing food experience. Perhaps the energetic mysticism or whatever you want to label that thing was responsible. I walked away from Idaho Falls rejuvenated, restored and satiated.