Here’s the thing: spending more time in nature plays a crucial role in reducing stress and blood pressure, improving your mood and enhancing feelings of wellbeing and happiness. Whatever you want to call it — ecotherapy, forest bathing, the wilderness cure, green time, or mindfulness in nature — humans evolved outdoors, and your brain appreciates a journey to nature.
You see, studies have shown that our environment can reduce or increase our stress. This, in turn, affects our bodies. What you see, hear, and experience at any moment changes not only your mood but the workings of your endocrine, nervous, and immune systems.
The stress caused by an unpleasant environment triggers helplessness, sadness, anxiety, or helplessness. This, in turn, triggers a rise in your blood pressure, muscle tension, and heart rate and suppresses your immune system. No doubt, a fun, and pleasing environment will reverse this.
What’s more? Regardless of culture or age, humans are always pleased with nature. A study cited in Healing Gardens reported that at least two-thirds of people prefer retreating to a natural setting when stressed.
Being in a natural setting or viewing nature scenes reduces fear, anger, and stress and makes you feel pleased. Exposure to nature makes you feel better emotionally and improves your emotional wellbeing, lowering blood pressure, muscle tension, heart rate, and stress hormone production. It also reduces mortality.
Studies done in offices, schools, and hospitals have found that plants can significantly impact stress and anxiety, no matter how small.
Nature plays a vital role in helping us to cope with pain. The human body is genetically programmed to search for plants, trees, water, and other natural elements engrossing. As a result, we are captivated by nature scenes and distracted from our discomfort and pain.
This was illustrated in a classic study of gallbladder surgery patients. Half of the subjects viewed trees in the study, while the other half viewed a wall. According to the lead researcher, Robert Ulrich, the patients who viewed the trees developed a better tolerance for pain and seemed to have fewer adverse effects. They also spent less time in the hospital. Recent studies have yielded similar results with plant and nature scenes in hospital rooms.
Another intriguing area of current research is nature’s impact on general wellbeing. In a study published in Mind, over 95% of participants admitted that their mood improved after spending time outside. According to the survey, their attitude changed from stress, depression, and anxiety to a calm and balanced feeling. Other studies show that time spent in nature scenes or nature itself is associated with psychological wellbeing, a positive mood, vitality, and meaningfulness.
Moreover, spending time in nature to view nature scenes increases our attention span. Because character is inherently interesting to humans, we can focus on what we are experiencing in nature. It also offers a respite for our overworked and overactive minds, helping us to get refreshed for new tasks.
A study found that ADHD children that spent more time in nature had their attention span increased later.
It is important to note that nature deprivation, mainly due to long hours spent in front of computers or TV screens, is associated with depression. This is unsurprising, though. Other studies have associated screen time with a lack of altruism and loss of empathy.
The risks are higher than isolation and depression; a 2011 study documented in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that time spent in front of a TV screen increased one’s risk of death. So spend less time in front of your phone and more time in nature. Your mind, body, and soul will thank you.
Bowler, D. E., Buyung-Ali, L. M., Knight, T. M., & Pullin, A. S. (2010). A systematic review of evidence for the added benefits to health of exposure to natural environments. BMC Public Health, 10, 456.
Bringslimark, T., Patil, G., & Hartig, T. (2008). The Association Between Indoor Plants, Stress, Productivity and Sick Leave in Office Workers. Acta Horticulturae, 775, 117.
Kim, T. (2010). Human brain activation in response to visual stimulation with rural and urban scenery pictures: A functional magnetic resonance imaging study Science of the Total Environment, 408(12), 2600.
Ulrich, R. S. (1984). View through a window may influence recovery from surgery. Science, 224(4647), 420–421.
Weinstein, N. (2009). Can nature make us more caring? Effects of immersion in nature on intrinsic aspirations and generosity. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35, 1315.
Stamatakis, E. (2011). Screen-based entertainment time, all-cause mortality, and cardiovascular events: Population-based study with ongoing mortality and hospital events follow-up. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 57(3), 292–299.
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