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The following is an edited transcript of this episode of Humans Outside.
Amy Bushatz: No matter who you are or where you go, heading outside even for a few minutes is always worth it. I’m your host, Amy Bushatz and here at Humans Outside, we’re using the Humans Outside 365 Challenge to build a life around spending time in nature while hearing from fascinating outdoor minded guests.
As a journalist for 19 years, I’ve let curiosity be my guide. After my husband’s injuries from military service, we started looking for a better way to live. That’s why we moved sight unseen to Alaska to see if an outdoor focused life was the answer. Since September, 2017, I’ve personally spent at least 20 consecutive minutes outside every single. No matter what to explore, how nature can change my life.
Ready to hear from experts and outdoor lovers who make heading into nature just a part of who they are? While we work to do the same, let’s go.
I never used to think about myself as creative. I’m not an artist. I’m terrible at drawing. Inviting me to play Pictionary is a recipe for disaster. Yeah, I can play the piano, but not well, really. I’m not talented in that way. It took me a while and the help of a few previous podcast guests to realize that when I dismissed myself as non-creative, I ignored that creativity is about way more than being a traditional artist.
Creativity is in how you approach the world. I, for example, love problem solving, and I’m great at coming up with solutions to tricky situations that take out of the box thinking. One of my favorite exercises is tackling a problem like the guys in that scene in Apollo 13. If something dire is happening, I envision myself with a box of random junk. My ideal solution rarely is available, so how do I fix whatever is going on with only socks and some tape?
And here’s something crazy. The longer I’ve kept up my daily outdoor habit, the better at this I’ve become. Not only do I feel like I’ve gotten better at coming up with unique solutions to sticky situations, but it happens more easily, especially when I take that problem solving on a run or a hike or a walk in the woods or even some quiet time on my back porch.
None of this is a surprise to today’s guest, Garry Pratt. Based in the UK Garry has made a specialty out of guiding clients through improving creativity by spending time outside, giving them proven tools and backing it up with all sorts of research. It’s all detailed in his new book, the Creativity Factor. And in today’s episode, he’s gonna walk us through the nuts and bolts of creativity, why heading outside works to improve it, and how to get the absolute most out of boosting creativity by spending time in nature. Garry, welcome to Humans Outside.
Garry Pratty: Thank you, Amy. Pleasure to be here.
Amy Bushatz: So we start our episodes, imagining ourselves chatting with our guests in their favorite outdoor space. I am in the US. You are in the UK. You said you’re in London today. So I know we’re going to be envisioning ourselves somewhere I’ve never been. So if we were hanging out outside with you today, somewhere you love, where would we be.
Garry Pratty: Ah, good question. Well, one answer. Anywhere outside a building with square walls, you know, whether that’s a park or a hillside or a a mountain, but I, I guess mountains are where I’m most at home and a big part of why I ended up doing this. So I think hold a special place in my heart. And if I was to pick some mountains, I’d take you to Morocco. I dunno if you’ve ever been to Morocco. But it’s somewhere I lead trips quite often and I’ve spent a lot of time. And the, the Atlas Mountains in Morocco are, I think an amazing place just to be and travel.
And I often talk to clients and teams I’m taking there, but there’s also something about being out of your comfort zone if you like. And, and I don’t mean that in any hardship way. And I think what Morocco brings, especially to Europeans, it’s very easy to get to is, the pleasure of beautiful mountains, but in a, in what is quite a radically different culture to where they got on the plane to where they get off. So I’ll take you to the Atlas Mountains in Morocco.
Amy Bushatz: That sounds great. I have not been there, so I’m excited to, to go there with you today and I have this sort of like dream of joining, actually physically joining my podcast guests in their specialty wherever they are. So maybe you’ll see me in Morocco sometime on one of your trips. That would be so fun. Okay, so fill us in, how did you become somebody who likes to go outside? Tell us your outdoor story if you will?
Garry Pratty: Okay. Well, it’s always been there. I think I was, in retrospect, I was a lucky child. Wasn’t from any privileged background. And, and our holidays were camping trips around the uk and my parents were people who would never take us to the, you know, the busy, posh seaside campsite, but to some remote field in Wales or or the west country of England with very little equipment. So, you know, I, I think in retrospect at the time, I was always jealous of friends getting on planes to Spain or something. But when I look back now, I think it was a perfect way to be just, just spending your holiday time in fields, mountains, rivers, and streams. So there’s always been there for me and it, and it sort of, I guess if you start out that way, it’s, it’s something, you know, if I had spare time, I would go and explore the mountains of the UK and the countryside. And if I was traveling with my wife I met at school actually, so I’ve been with her a long time. We always, travel’s, always involved a great outdoors. So I’m not sure there’s a massive journey there. It’s just always been there.
But more recently and how I’ve ended up here is, is that confluence of actually thinking and working out that it’s a place more than just relax. It’s a place where you can actually do, I guess what I’d call deep work. And that came about really through stresses of my own work and realizing that where I went when I needed to sort my head out was outdoors.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. Yeah. It’s amazing how something that always there for you. So you, you give this example of just growing up always going outside for holidays and whatnot, and, and I spent all of my youth hanging out on a beach. I grew up on a beach in California and I spent my time there. But, I never thought of it as being everything. I never thought of it as being the secret sauce. It was just sort of the thing. So it’s amazing how we have these moments where we realize that the, almost the light bulb on over your head that, wait a second. This super simple thing is literally right here? And it’s been here all along. Yes. and all I have to do is lean into it. And that’s how I ended up talking about this. And it’s, it’s how you ended up, I gather, having your book that we realize that this secret sauce is literally just there for the taking and other people need to know about it. And it’s so fun to talk about something that’s worked so well for you and you’re passionate about because you’ve seen the results. It’s a real pleasure. That’s why I do this podcast. That’s why you have your book. .
Garry Pratty: Absolutely. And I tell a story in the book um, after I, I exited a business about a decade ago now. And my, I’m actually an archeologist by training, which is, you know, it does come up in the book a bit, but I, I sort of have to shoehorn it in.
But um, archeology is great cause it takes place outdoors anyway. But I tell a story that I was, I went back to do a master’s in archeology. Just forfun really, and I put myself out of my own comfort zone by going and talking at conferences as part of doing that.
And it was terrifying having to talk to your academic peers and present papers. And on one trip I was flying to Edinburgh for a conference, and by luck again, I guess, I got stuck in traffic on the way there. And was worried I wouldn’t make it in time to give my presentation. So I, I got out of the car and walked directly to the conference center, walked into a lecture theater, gave my presentation, no time to spare, just picked up my lanyard and went straight in.
And it was after that that it really came together for me as I thought well, that was one of the best presentations I’ve ever given. You know, my thoughts came I was fluent and wasn’t worried about it at all. Didn’t have any of those pre panics cuz I just spent 40 minutes walking there. So that was my aha moment if you like, of of Oh yeah, this does something to your brain when you are just walking, and obviously now I do that in nature. That was in the city streets of Edinburgh. But that got, led me into the road of actually what, what is the science behind this?
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. Yeah. Well, we’ll talk in a little bit about nature versus, well, you know, mountains and seascapes and whatnot versus city walks, but, and I’m excited to kind of dive into that. But I would love to hear you talk about what creativity is. Can you define creativity for us?
Garry Pratty: Oh, I’m not sure. I, I’m not entirely sure I can, but I think you alluded to it when you, when you started. You know, it’s interesting what you said. I’m a, I’m a bad pianist and a bad sculptor sometimes. So I wouldn’t count myself as an artist at all. But I think that’s what’s important.
Creativity is something innately in all of us, and we all, I think we all tend to know that when we are children or when we have children and watch children at play, you know, I think creativity is playing, but, but what it is, is being able to imagine something, you know, and imagination and creativity are very, very intertwined.
So it’s, it’s about seeing the world diff differently. And there’s a, you know, a fantastic quote from Edward DeBono. I dunno if you, you’ve come across him, quite a deep thinker. And and he says that a radical innovation, he uses the term, but I, I think, you know, in my world, innovation and creativity are very linked.
But he says it rarely comes from people setting their ways or know more, I have more information. But from those who manage to generate alternative perspectives. And I, I think that’s what’s central to creativity is just being able to see the world differently. And of course we see that in artists’ work.
That’s why we love art cuz they, they visually represent that different view of the world or their view of the world. But, but I don’t think it’s the preserve of artists. I think it’s absolutely in all of us and one answer or one question is why isn’t everyone creative all the time? And I think, I think we are at heart.
We just, we lose it somewhere along the way. And, it’s not necessarily getting into any discussions about the state of the education system. And I, I worked in education for a long time, but I think we are all innately creative is one answer.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah, it’s, so what we’re saying is that art is the outcome of creativity.
Garry Pratty: One outcome absolutely
Amy Bushatz: Right, is a outcome of creativity. Instead of thinking about art as being creativity, we need to step back and say, art is a outcome of creativity, but so is perhaps out of the box thinking or careful or unique problem solving or, you know, anything else that takes flipping something usual on its side and seeing it in a different way.
Garry Pratty: Absolutely. And, you know, chefs are creative, aren’t they? And that’s a, a different creative process. I don’t think anyone would question that. Yeah. But I think they, I think one of the issues in the, the business world, which is sort of where I come from, it’s tilted quite often as we want to be creative and innovative, but it’s sort of not something that they practice all the time, whereas you know, artists artists practice their creativity continuously.
Amy Bushatz: So what is outside thinking and what does it have to do with creativity? This is really the peg of your system. So what is outside thinking?
Garry Pratty: So, the premise of the book is that innovation and being able to innovate and come up with new ideas is a creative process.
But if we think even more deeply than that, and I’ll come to what I mean by outside thinking, I, I think there’s a big, and I talk about this quite lot in the book, you know, we are creatures from an evolutionary point of view that were designed to solve problems. Yeah. One of our key elements is, is a society and there’s communities going back hundreds of thousands of years was to be able to be creative. That’s how we maybe invented farming and even how we navigated the world that we were living in. So it’s, it’s innate in all of us. And my point in outside thinking is if you apply that to a business world and you accept that you have to have lots of ideas, you know, there’s no point thinking about innovation in half an hour in a, in a meeting room, you need to be doing this all the time. So, and I think a lot of people accept that there’s plenty of science, that innovation is creative and you have to find ways to um, generate that, those creative thinking, those imagine futures. My thesis, if you like, is that one real shortcut to doing that is to go outside and use nature to do it and specifically walking in nature, and we can talk about some of the science around that. So outside thinking is, you know, based on the fact that to be innovative is to be creative. Everyone can be creative. You’ve just got to find ways to release it and the outside and traveling in nature is a surefire shortcut to that.
My book is based on bringing lots of other people’s good ideas together and hopefully giving some framework in how you can start to generate that creativity and those ideas and hence outside thinking cuz it’s, well, it’s thinking outside the box. I guess it’s a play on all those old words about, you know, trying to come up with new ideas.
But outside, Physically outside as well.
Amy Bushatz: Hey humans, just a quick break to remind you that if you wanna build your own outdoor habit, the humans Outside 365 Challenge is a great way to get started. Cool and exclusive Challenge swag, including a finisher, metal, and decal is waiting for you. All you need to do is visit humansoutside.com/challenge. Don’t get left out. Go to humansoutside.com/challenge to learn more now. Okay, back to the show.
So I wanna make sure we are super practical today and give people lots of actionable things that they can do to amp up their own creativity and outside thinking, if you will um, after this episode. So, first, one more framework concept here. Why is nature perfect for deep creative work? Last thing to convince us that this is the thing we need to do.
Garry Pratty: There’s quite a few answers to that and if you’ve read the book or, or have a looked at it, there’s quite a few answers. But I guess the few, the few which really resonate with me. One is there’s a fantastic Irish neuroscientist called Shane O’Mara and his work as a neuroscientist does and he’s a big fan of walking as he’d written the book about it from a sort of neuroscience point of view.
But it’s a quirk of nature, if you like, or perhaps due with our evolutionary history. The, the, the same part of your brain that supports learning memory and cognition in this, this mind wandering are actually the same bit of your brain, which is you use for cognitive mapping. So for navigation.
So one answer is it’s just the way our brain brains are wired. You know, to make your mind do the things you wanted to do creatively is the same part of the brain that you use when you are navigating. And the more you’re navigating in natural settings, the more complex that is and the more your brain works. So that’s, that’s one sort of answer why the outdoors is, you know, the perfect place for this.
I’ll give you two more quickly though. I dunno if you’ve come across attention restoration theory. So this is just about resetting your brain and your body by the use of spending time in nature. And there’s plenty of science around attention restoration theory, but again, there’s a whole host of science behind that about why being in natural places, whether that’s fresh air, whether it’s the sort of fractal patterns of nature, again, are all a shortcut to putting your brain into a stress-free and open place for creativity.
And then my specific one, which I love, is the fact that there’s this is by Norwegian academic called Mia Keinanen who did um, research into walking for thinking and worked out there’s actually a direct link that there’s an optimal speed which synchronizes your body and thinking. So all those things wrapped together in a way that, and, and I think that’s because it’s deeply part of our nature and our evolutionary history.
We weren’t designed to be shut in these square boxes looking at square screens, while we were designed to be out navigating nature, making complex decisions. So it is no wonder that being out in nature is a place where creativity flows.
Amy Bushatz: So we’re saying that by removing yourself from indoor distractions, whether that be social media or the fact that you need to start cooking dinner now, or your kid can’t find their sock. Not both socks, just the one. By removing yourself from those situations and taking yourself into a space where they don’t exist, and instead you are surrounded by different patterns and things that have nothing to do with your presence, right? They’re, they’re things that are happening independent of you being there, you are dropped into this, to this area. You know, the earth is breathing, the trees are growing, people are driving by. You’re, you’re in a new situation. You remove the distractions of inside and your brain has a chance to have that soft focus. So it’s you could describe it as mind wandering. You could describe it as daydreaming, right? Or that sort of, just kind of just staring. What are you doing? Well, I’m not doing anything looking, you give your brain a chance to almost unclog the pipes. I, I mean, that’s a very simplistic term, but that’s kind of how it feels, right? Where you are like, oh, hey, and you almost have that light bulb on situation because you gave your brain a chance maybe just rest a little bit or it feels like rest because you’re not having deep work. Am I describing this accurately?
Garry Pratty: Yeah, it’s, yeah, it absolutely is cognitive rest. But there, there is one caveat here. So I’m not gonna quote too much science specifically, but another fantastic bit of research by Brian Barnard, an American academic called Inspired by Distraction. So this is a research paper. So you’re absolutely right. You, this is how about getting your brain in the right, right place. Now actually getting it to work on creativity. There’s one more thing to do. Now this experiment was testing people’s creative reasoning through a very standard test of, of creative reasoning.
And Brian Barnard and his team took three groups. One of them they made just slob around basically and do nothing. Yep. So totally relaxed. They had another group do a quite complex task and one group do a slightly distracting task. So something, you know, you’re doing something but it’s not particularly taxing your brain.
And the results are quite staggering. So the, the group that were doing the slightly distracting task, their creative reasoning went up by about 60% compared to the other two groups. So yes, it’s about, nature gets your brain in the right place, but there are methods required to properly unlock your, what I’d call outside thinking. Though huge benefits to just going out in nature and having a walk or lying in a, on a warm beach or a warm field and let your brain wonder. Absolutely. And do your daydreaming.
If you want to really use it effectively you have to be doing some methodology, some tasks, and, and there’s a number of them in my book that I talk about which we can talk about if you like. You know, even side by side talking does this. So even just the conversations you are gonna have with someone on how your brain or put together patterns come up with solutions.
If you’re talking through a problem. Just doing that together, moving through nature hits this magic thing called inspired by distraction. So there’s a bit more than just going out in nature. Loads of benefits to that, don’t get me wrong. But to make it work there’s a little bit more.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. This would be why I feel like I have great ideas or it’s not even necessarily great ideas.
It’s this situation where if I’m have a stress in my life, if I go out and do what I’m about to describe, I understand suddenly why I’m stressed, right? I can be very spun up about who knows what. Okay? And then I go out and I do this activity, and then I have this moment where I’m like, oh, that’s what’s wrong.
And I really am able to unravel it. And my poor husband, I cannot tell you how many times I have come home just dripping sweat from a run, plop down and say, okay, we’re talking about this now. I figured out what’s wrong, bless his heart. But, so here’s what I’ve noticed, because I live in a place now in Alaska where I have very easy access to very challenging things, okay?
So my outdoor time could look like going for a simple walk or going for a run that is not very taxing. I’m, I’m used to running it’s at a fairly low heart rate, and I go for a long run where I’m just very much just on pavement and running at the same speed the whole time. I’m not, I’m working, but I’m not working very, very hard.
Okay. So in that situation or in going for a walk, if I take a friend and I go in that situation where we’re chatting side by side, just like you said, that happens. I notice that if I go for an easy ski, that same sort of lower heart rate where my, where I’m not working super hard, but I am somewhere unique. If I go for a low key, maybe snowshoe, these sorts of things.
So I’m moving and I’m have a distraction like you just described, but I’m not being very, very, very active or very, very stressed. It’s a conversational speed if you will. That happens then. When it does not happen, I get other benefits, don’t get me wrong, but that this problem solving does not happen when I go and do a hard workout.
If I go and try to do a big hike, right, where I’m very, very taxed and I’m hiking very uphill for a long time maybe my good ideas happen when I’m coming back down, you know, when my heart rate’s lower and I’m less taxed. But I do notice that I don’t experience this sort of um, distraction thinking that you’re talking about when I’m very, very under stress. So that’s exactly what you’re describing.
Garry Pratty: Absolutely. Right. And, and when I lead walks and going back to Morocco, I, I took a group out there recently and, and we did do something quite challenging and went up quite the tallest peak in Morocco in one of the days, but the rest of the time when we were walking. I actually, I have to prepare them for how slow we’re gonna go.
Yeah. And, you know, quite quite often, some of the group you know, at the outset, sort of com complain or you can see them getting a bit frustrated cuz I’m, I’m making them go a pretty slow pace because I want ’em to get all of those benefits. At the end of the day when you reflect and yeah, you find out they’ve had really deep conversations, they’ve sorted their thoughts out and you’re absolutely right. If we’d done it at how quickly can we bag these peaks or get up this slope, you know, you wouldn’t have had those benefits. So you, you are absolutely right.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah, which, which all of those peak bagging, slope hitting stuff has its own benefits. This just isn’t the top of the list. One of them, so don’t like say, oh, I’m never doing that again.
But this is just, and you’re right. I mean, I can totally put myself with your groups because I am 100% a let’s get to the destination kind of gal, and it is very difficult for me to stop and smell the roses and take my time on, especially if, if this is an out and back thing? One way I work through this is I say, and, and we talk about this with Humans Outside, with the 20 minutes, right? You’re out here for at least 20 minutes. This is not a destination, other than time. So you have this time, you can go far or not, or you can go slow. The 20 minutes is still gonna be 20 minutes no matter what you do during it. And so why not take that time to take the benefits?
Also, every day is a lot of time. Every single day. That’s every day. And you can do creativity thinking today, and you can do peak bagging tomorrow. There’s every day of your life and you have more than enough time to use the outdoors for all of the different benefits that it has.
So we’ve talked a little bit about this right here, that this is how you create this space for effective mind wandering and for effective creativity.
Garry Pratty: Absolutely. And I, I use a phrase often, just you know, it’s the free wheeling, and that’s a, it’s a good phrase for people because yeah, and maybe it’s back to thinking yourself more childlike in the path that, the path ahead of you.
But, if you see a nice bit of woodland on your left or a, a stream on your right, you allow your safe self to free will and spend time going to see it. It’s not about the destination and how quickly you get there. But also to your 20 minutes, which I love because it’s something that I talk about as well.
And it is a magical sort of number. I think the, the really important thing I like about the 20 minutes is it’s achievable in lots of circumstances. And the important thing is that I think it’s yes, that it’s a sort of freewheeling. Doesn’t really matter what you are doing. Well, my only rule really is, no tech , take that distraction away and then your 20 minutes can be really effective.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. We love to encourage people to take a picture of their outdoor time, but it can slide so quickly into, I am now looking at the pictures on my phone, and now I’m posting the pictures on my phone. And I mean, we don’t want anybody to be unsafe, you know, take your phone with you so that you have that connectivity, if that’s what makes you feel good.
Practice leaving it behind if you can. I, I go on runs periodically without any stuff , I don’t have that hydration vest. I don’t, I don’t have any way to carry it and I don’t listen to music, so I work really hard to practice leaving it behind now and then. But I often, most of the time actually have my phone with me when I’m outside and I I’m trying to build this practice of, if I take it out to take a picture of putting it right away again. I’ll say, guys, winter is great for this. It is too darn cold to have your hands out of gloves and looking at your phone . And those touchscreen gloves don’t work very well. And so I personally find winter to be the best way to cut the cord because it’s just too cold.
I ca like, I’ve got these big mittens on , I can’t even, I can’t do anything with the phone anyway, even if I wanted to. So I just practice sticking that sucker back into my, back, into my pocket.
But I do wanna hear about this 20 minute rule that you have and you talk about a 20:3:3 you referenced in your book Michael Easter, who wrote The Comfort Crisis.
He’s got a new book coming out soon. I plan to have him on the podcast to talk about that. He talks something about something similar to this. And I want you to tell us what is 20:3:3 and then if you could give us maybe some ideas of how to leverage it in a non-business environment. Right? So your book talks about using this with teams and, and your business creativity, but we’ve got lots of problems in our lives that are not business related. And um, I wanna know how we can leverage this for, for that kind of thing. So, okay. 20:3:3. What is it?
Garry Pratty: Well, yes, and it’s pretty much is stolen from Michael who’s who sort of did the, after his experience, did the sort of science behind some of this. But I take it and through my own experience, I guess, of working with teams.
So it’s pretty simple. It’s designed to be your if you five a day, I guess, for your fruit and veggie. So my 20:3:3 rule is 20 minutes a day walking in nature. And I’m very broad about what I term nature. So I’m not saying you have to find the wilderness. The first three is three hours every two weeks on a walk or hike or time in nature. And the final three is three days a quarter properly out in nature away from your office um, doing something outdoors in nature. So that’s the 20:3:3 rule and I’ve, I hope it’s something, it’s something I’ve, you know, practiced myself and experienced and see the benefits and themes that I work with have seen the same benefits.
But to your point, also, a lot of individuals now, especially, well, very much aligned with what you do, you know, can easily adopt the 20 minutes and I think anyone can probably fit in their three hour trip every few weeks into their work life and the three days a quarter. That may be a more of a challenge for people, but I think it’s a good aspiration.
So it’s definitely adapted from Michael, but through my work and experience as something I think really resonates with people and I now have, customers, teams who we are constantly booking the next three day trip, so, you know it’s great cause , they’ve embedded it into their routines.
So yes, you are, you are right that most of my actual practitioner work is with teams and groups. I think they’d all say that what they get out of it is as much individual as what’s for the company or the team, so there’s definitely a crossover and starting, I’ve used a, a few phrases as I’ve talked about the book and worked with more people.
One is that playing hooky might be the deepest work you’ll ever do. And that’s sort of born out the sense of the, the future of work and that obviously I feel that, you know, this is work and can be work, but it’s also a reflection that trying to force this is work, this is, life is a fallacy because it’s all life. And it’s very hard to put up those walls. So, using this stuff just for your own thinking and wellbeing and to work out what you want to do with your life is also a creative process. Your imagined future doesn’t need to be what the company’s gonna do next or what your product innovation. It can absolutely be what you want to do with your life. It’s the same process of using your creative juices to come up with imagined futures and, and work through problems that way.
Amy Bushatz: But I do love this 20 minute idea for business. I, many of the people listening to this probably, I mean, they’re employed, they might be running their own business, they’re tackling problems on their teams that they work with.
And when you take 20 minutes, maybe it’s in addition to the 20 minutes that you would otherwise be doing to take a work problem outside. I think that’s really powerful because it comes back to this idea of being intentional, that, that, to go outside, to spend that time, you have to be intentional cuz you have to actually take an action to do it.
And then why not take it a step further and be intentional about what you’re doing or pondering while you’re out there. So when I will take a walk in the middle of my workday with my dogs who really like the idea themselves for, for their own reasons. And I, you know, I’ll take it with in frustration, right, that something has happened that is bugging me or people aren’t doing what I want them to do and I end up thinking about work things outside. But I shouldn’t have to do that just because I’m frustrated. I should be able to say, okay, I’ve got this like major problem or this you know, tiny, tiny issue and I can take it for a walk and see if I can come up with something, or at least have a fresh perspective on how, how much this is bothering me, by the time I get back , you know, all part of my important strategy of lowering my stress level, which my doctor and I agree is probably a good idea.
The other thing I wanted to say though is that this three days a quarter thing is harder in sometimes years than others, right? So it becomes more a matter of privilege if it’s very cold outside and you can’t just go pitch a tent somewhere comfortably, right? But it could also just be a matter of intentionality for many of us. Scheduling three days away from the real world, quote unquote, is takes work that actually takes work that you have to think about what you’re gonna do. You have to think about where you’re gonna go. You have to think about all of the logistics around making that happen. You know, can you take your dogs with you? Who’s gonna watch ’em if you can’t,? What happens with your kids? Are they gonna come to who’s gonna pack the food? There’s a lot of logistics around there.
Okay it is work. Cause we take trips into the wilderness quite frequently. About once a quarter actually to go to a dry cabin or something in the wintertime, or go camping in the summertime more often than that. And I’ll tell you what, like the work around making that happen, it makes me wanna not do it, at least on the front end, right? Like, it’s like, oh my gosh, I have to like, think about like, what are we going to eat for three days and plan every single snack because otherwise we don’t have enough food on and on.
So, When I get there and when I come home, I can tell you 100%, without a doubt, it is worth it. It is worth it. It is worth it. It is worth it. I’m glad we did it. I’m glad I went through all of the logistical pain of doing it. It’s like any vacation while you and I are talking about this, I am fresh off a week of vacation with my family. All of the logistics of planning that are on me and boy howdy is at a lot of work. But I’m not sitting here sorry that I went, at all. So ,
Garry Pratty: Yeah. Oh, well I’m glad, I’m glad you, you lived that experience, cuz I, that’s absolutely what I, I try and get people to experience and, and have that light bulb moment that, you know, this is really effective and there is good science behind the three days. Yeah. There’s another paper I, I site which took groups on, not to go into all the detail, but again, took them on different trips for different lengths. And, and the three days again, is one of those real trigger points where you have a massive increase in your brain’s ability to, to process information.
So there is, there’s something in day three and absolutely when I take trips, you know, I get that feedback that, you know, I’ve I joke as a, a group I’ve taken very often and when I first started taking them, well, I now realize that day one is a bit like letting a group of puppies go for a run. They’ve just gotta, just gotta get rid. Yeah. Just gotta get rid of everything. So very little happens and where it appears on day one and you know, then it progresses. And day three is where you, you, you properly get insight and your brain’s, you know, as you, you describe that sort of coming back from that day three and, and absolute feeling, you’ve sorted stuff out in some way.
So there’s some good science behind it, but I, I totally get the practicalities of doing it. But, you know, also I’m, I’m not strict in, I think you have to, well, ideally you’d be spending that time in nature, but I don’t think you have to have carried everything off to a remote cabin. I think you can, you know, go home to a nice bed in a hotel in the evening and have a nice meal if you like, as long as the bulk of that time is spent you know, in nature. So I’m quite flexible on getting people to experience that. Although, you know, I’d like them to do the wilderness cabin in the end, but you know, maybe that’s their fifth trip. They’ve got up the courage to do that.
Amy Bushatz: Right, right. So you alluded to this a few minutes ago, we talked about it a little bit earlier. Does type of nature matter here? Is, is nature, is nature is nature or does it have to be the Grand Canyon or some, some mountain top?
Garry Pratty: I talk about this in the book and I think all nature has its benefits and you can, there’s some structure in the book about the types of things that you might think about, about how you might frame questions in different environments. So whether you are in a city park or deepest wilderness. I think they all have benefits.
I think the more you are away from your normal life, the better. And I, you know, when I started talking to you, I talked about Morocco and I, and I do think there’s something about being slightly out of your comfort zone. And I don’t mean that has to be physically, it can, you know, socially in terms of just being in a different country or place that’s, you know, has its own benefits.
So it, it’s definitely a, a ratcheting up. But I think it’s got to be about you as well. You know, some people just won’t be comfortable in a remote cabin. So you don’t wanna put yourself in a wilderness or an outdoor situation which is causing you too much stress or , cuz that’s sort of defeating the object.
So I’m sure that’s different for everyone. But I think it’s mainly, you know, number one is about having some type of nature around you. I’m sat here in the center of London but I’ve got a river outside the window and I can see the river flowing and that’s, I sit and stare at that. I know it’ll do something to my brain.
So, I think it is though, I’ve got a very broad church when it comes to what that is. , although I, yeah, I think there are, there are benefits the more you do embrace nature, but I, I wouldn’t advise someone to take their first trip , you know, doing this maybe to your remote cabin in Alaska.
Maybe , maybe that’s a step too far from the first, but although I think Michael Easter obviously, you know, that was, he definitely saw benefits to doing that.
Amy Bushatz: Absolutely. Well, it’s not as scary as we sound. We, as it sounds, we drive up to it typically. So there’s that. The, the car is a stone throw away should you need an easy escape.
Can you give us three or four practical ways people can take this creativity work outside, no matter the weather, what, what they can do to practically apply this?
Garry Pratty: Yeah, well, probably like you, it sounds I, I’m a bit of an ignorer of the weather. You know, I think most weather is just having the right kit, so I wouldn’t think weather too much.
Torrential rains not particularly nice for anyone. So generally I ignore weather. Just make sure you’ve got the right clothes on. In terms of practically doing it. I think from a daily point of view then, you know, it’s, there’s a tiny shift you can make and the obvious ones are thinking about your walk commute to work or where you might be going, and making sure that goes through nature somehow.
So that’s really easy for your 20 minutes. At work. You know, just getting up off your desk and saying to a colleague, you know, let’s go outside to the park or along the riverbank and have this conversation as opposed to sitting in a cramped room. But those are really easy things people can do on a daily basis.
So I think I’ve got a number of sort of techniques and the one that resonates in this interesting, this is sort of early new year. There’s a technique called, three stones male a wall in my book, which is born out of archeology, and I won’t go again into the detail, but the idea is, you talked about having a, a sort of, something you want to think about or a question carried with you.
I use this technique which people seem to love, which is to, to write some things on stones and keep them in their pocket and walk with. And then they, I make them, I make them only keep one or it, it is a bit of a tweak on it depend if it’s a group or individual, but as the individual you might write some things you want to think about on your stones and you, you don’t have to, you know, have your notebook with you just put in your pocket and you go for your walk and at the end you’ve gotta throw two away and keep one of them.
And it’s, it sounds really simple, but it’s the, it’s the one technique that people love. And I say it’s cuz a New year thing, because I was leading a walk just after, actually on New Year’s Day. And and we did it for the equivalent of a sort of New Year’s resolution. What’s important this year? And a really simple technique and you know, I like the fact that it’s a stone cause it’s a bit of nature, but I also like the fact that you just stick ’em in your pocket. You know, it’s a bit like having a to-do list, but it’s, it, it’s, there’s something physical about it. So there are some simple things people can do.
Amy Bushatz: Yeah. There, there are way too many suggestions in the back of your book on what to do and how to do this and, and really lay, lay it out. But if people wanna read them, they most certainly should buy your book because I found them all very useful. And in fact, I thought while I was lounging in a chair in the sun not thinking about work, I’m gonna come back to these later to tackle some problems at work because these are so, so rich and so rich and useful.
So, your book is available wherever books are books are sold online or where can people get it? .
Garry Pratty: Well in, in, in the uk It’s available now anywhere books are sold. The US version is addition is published on the 24th of January. Um, We’ll um, assuming it will be available where people buy their books online.
It’s available in ebook and also an audiobook , which, you know, I wouldn’t be against someone going for a walk and listening to my book. You know, that’s a good use of tech. It’s not me reading it. A very, a very fine voice actor has read it, which people tell me has a, a very soothing voice. So, you know, , I’ll listen to Nathaniel read it, read it if you like.
Amy Bushatz: Great. Thank you. So by the time people hear this, they will be able to find your book online, which is awesome. It’s a worthwhile read.
And thank you so much, Garry, for joining us on Humans Outside today. I sure appreciate your time and your help with this creativity topic.
Garry Pratty: Thank you, Amy. I’ve, I’ve loved it and I, I just hope like you are doing that you know, simple call is, you know, accept that it’s a good thing to do in all ways for your body, but also for your mind.
Amy Bushatz: Thanks so much for listening to this week’s episode of Humans Outside. Help me out by leaving a five star rating or review wherever you get your podcasts. It really does help other listeners find the podcast too. Now go get outside. Until next time, we’ll see you out there.