- May 25, 2022
I have written many articles over the past few years on the positive aspects of being in nature. The benefits range from decreased stress and improved fitness levels to stronger relationships and hardier immune systems. In an article published in the Greater Good Magazine by Kristophe Green and Dr. Dacher Keltner, the authors posit that
I have written many articles over the past few years on the positive aspects of being in nature. The benefits range from decreased stress and improved fitness levels to stronger relationships and hardier immune systems.
In an article published in the Greater Good Magazine by Kristophe Green and Dr. Dacher Keltner, the authors posit that the reason humans look to nature for healing is because it is programmed into us. One hypothesis, Green writes, is based on a theory by biologist E.O. Wilson called biophilia, where he suggests that people seek out nature because of evolutionary reasons. Beautiful, natural spaces are likely to be rich in resources that will provide food and shelter and will aid in survival. At this point in human history, this attraction isn’t necessarily conscious and might simply be something we feel without explanation. This may be why children like being outside and that having natural elements such as plants in our homes and workspaces helps us to be more relaxed.
Green and Keltner write that there is an abundance of research suggesting that nature positively impacts our social, psychological, and emotional lives and that living near nature benefits our bodies and brains. One specific benefit is that viewing nature seems to calm our nervous systems. In addition, positive feelings stimulated by nature can help us be more creative, resilient and form better human connections.
In one study, participants that viewed a video about nature felt 46 percent more awe and 31 percent more gratitude than control groups. This data tells us that even a brief amount of time spent looking at nature can help us to experience more gratitude, reverence, and wonder, all of which benefit overall well-being. Furthermore, these positive emotions can help foster increased feelings of trust and cooperation, both of which are good for our social well-being. Research has also found that green spaces in cities may even reduce symptoms of ADHD and decrease violent incidents.
All of the research on the healing power of nature seems to have one common denominator — reducing stress. One well-known study by Catherine Ward Thompson found that people who lived near nature had lower cortisol levels, the body’s stress hormone and that this benefit may actually decrease the likelihood of depression and heart disease.
Other studies suggest that being in nature and/or viewing nature can even impact the brain by activating reward circuits associated with increased dopamine and creating feelings of joy and increased energy.
Despite the preponderance of evidence that spending time in nature benefits our health, people seem to be spending less time in nature overall. In addition, stress levels in society are on the rise, and people are busier than ever. These conditions have led to the term “nature deficit disorder,” coined by the writer Richard Louv. So, take the time to get outside to hike, bike, walk, or simply to wander. Your mind, body, and spirit will thank you.