How nature plays vital role in Psychological wellbeing
Where would you prefer to spend time in nature?
Connect + Feel = Happiness
5 Proven Benefits of Being in Nature
Sir David Attenborough, one of the most popular nature enthusiasts the world has seen in a long time, had fairly quoted that
“We must cherish the natural world because we’re a part of it and we depend on it.”
It is difficult to gauge the benefits we can derive from being close to nature. Be that on the mind, body, or the soul, it leaves a lasting positive impression on every single aspect of our existence.
1. Nature provides
A day out in the sunshine can suffice us with vitamin D, a nutrient we don’t get from food as much we need it.
The right level of Vitamin D in the body immunes us against diseases like osteoporosis, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s. Besides, it also ensures the smooth functioning of the immune system.
Studies have indicated that a large chunk of the population today is deficient of the ‘sunshine vitamin,’ which explains the massive increase in fatal diseases today, and rather than relying on human-made supplements, a close connection to nature can help in replenishing the deficit (Naeem, 2010).
2. Nature improves
Computer Vision Syndrome (CSV) is a condition that arises from staring at the screen for prolonged hours. Naturally, such exposures take a toll on our eyesight and develop problems like dry eyes, myopia, or chronic headaches.
Spending time outdoors, especially in the greeneries is the best natural solution to this. Looking at the green grass, the trees, the flowers, and all the other aspects of the environment improve focus and eyesight.
Interestingly, studies have shown that children who spend more than four hours a day in the outdoors are four times less likely to develop eyesight problems than children who spent less than one hour outdoors every day (Rose et al., 2008b).
3. Nature cleanses
The environment is a natural purifier. Spending some hours outdoors helps in releasing the toxins from our body and leave us all fresh and rejuvenated.
The amount of bad air that we breathe in because of the pollution, industrial fumes, and indoor pollutants, is potent enough to dysregulate our respiratory tract, giving birth to breathing troubles, bronchitis, and asthma.
And there is no other solution to this except for spending more time in the natural environment and getting some fresh air every day.
4. Nature builds
Mostly, the time we spend outside involves physical activity in some form. It may be walking, jogging, cycling, diving, surfing, playing, or anything alike. Any exercise in the outdoors helps in burning fat and improves the metabolism rate in the body.
Research in this area has revealed that people who exercise outdoors enjoy their workout sessions more and are more likely to practice it regularly, than people who exercise indoors (Thompson Coon et al., 2011). Besides, outdoor activities are related to longer life span and fewer health problems.
5. Nature heals
“A walk in nature walks the soul back home.”
Nature is undoubtedly the best healer. Spending time in nature awakens our senses and provides clarity.
Many studies have proved that people who have a close connection to the landscapes are happier from the inside – they indulge themselves in positive thinking and have better coping mechanisms than others.
A strong human-nature relationship means emotional balance, more focus, solution-oriented thinking, and an overall resilient approach to life.
Nature walks and other outdoor activities build attention and focus (Hartig, Mang, & Evans, 1991). There are pieces of evidence that indicate strong environmental connections to be related to better performance, heightened concentration, and reduced chances of developing Attention Deficit Disorder (Faber Taylor & Kuo, 2009).
A study at the University of Kansas found that spending more time outdoors and less time with our electronic devices can increase our problem-solving skills and improve creative abilities (Atchley, Strayer, & Atchley, 2012).
Staying close to nature improves physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing. It makes us feel alive from the inside, and we should not compromise it for recent developments like urbanization, technology, or social media (Louv, 2015).
Nature helps in emotional regulation and improves memory functions. A study on the cognitive benefits of nature found that subjects who took a nature walk did better on a memory test than the subjects who walked down the urban streets (Berman, Jonides, & Kaplan, 2008). Further more, environmental psychologists have argued that there is a value component added to the human-nature relationship. By staying close to nature, we feel more grateful and appreciative of what it has to offer to us (Proshansky, 1976).
Examples of Nature in Psychology
Nature has a deep-rooted meaning in psychology that encompasses the core components of our existence, including our genes. The popular nature-nurture concept in developmental psychology explores all the variables that shape and influence the relationship that our internal (personality traits and genetic factors) and external worlds (physical environment that we live in) share.
The Biophilia Hypothesis delved into the human relationship with nature in 1984. The concept was initially used by German psychoanalyst Erich Fromm who described biophilia as the ‘love for everything that is alive.’ The idea of biophilia was later expanded by American biologist Edward O. Wilson, who proposed that the human inclination towards nature has a genetic basis (Rogers, 2019).
1. Stress and nature
A large-scale experiment conducted on 120 subjects ascertained the ‘nature-connection’ in stress reduction and coping. Each participant observed visuals of either a natural landscape or an urban environment. The data obtained from this survey revealed that participants who looked at the picture of natural setting had low scores on stress scales and had better heartbeat and pulse counts (Ulrich et al., 1991).
Furthermore, investigators also found that the stress recovery rate was much higher in participants who got a natural exposure than the ones who saw urbanized ambiances. The flow of this study strongly indicated the role nature plays in improving our general mental health conditions, including stress (Ulrich et al., 1991).
2. Nature for building attention
The fact that staying close to nature improves focus and attention span, was suggested in the Attention Restoration Theory by Rachel and Stephen Kaplan (1989). The theory explains why staying close to nature re-energizes us and reduces fatigue.
Encounters with any aspect of the natural environment – sunset, beach, clouds, or forests grab our positive attention without us paying much effort to it, and the whole process restores the life energy that negative emotions had taken away from us.
3. Climate crisis and denial
An immensely significant example of nature in human psychology is the research on climate crisis or climate change.
Climate crisis and global warming are international concerns today, and some psychologists argue that the impact of climate change is so vast and unimaginable, that we often choose not to respond to it.
Nevertheless, the effect of climate change on human psychology and mental health is well-established now. Studies show that climate change over the years has had a dramatic impact on the way we think, behave, decide, and execute plans (Lorenzoni, Pidgeon, & O’Connor, 2005).
The Australian Psychological Society has provided some mind-boggling figures. At the time of writing, they estimate 5-8% of the population across the US, UK, and Australia denies that climate change is happening, while 97% of climate scientists accept the fact and are concerned about it.
However small the denial rate may seem, researchers suggest that it is enough to create a judgment gap that may cause people to doubt their contribution behind the climatic adversities. No matter which direction the judgment travels, it is undeniable that climate crisis has and will continue to impact human minds in some way or the other.
4. Psychology, values, and nature
An experiment conducted on the landowners on Pennsylvania disclosed that staying close to nature adds a sense of value toward the self, others, and toward Mother Nature.
It builds connectivity and lets the way for gratitude and appreciation.
Results showed that respondents who had higher connectivity with nature and spent more time outdoors were more environmentally responsible, concerned, and happier in their interpersonal relationships (Dutcher, Finley, Luloff, & Johnson, 2007).
Environment Minister Rory Stewart said: Mental health is one of the most serious and complex issues that we face in Britain today and it is great that we now have clearer scientific evidence that nature is so beneficial for our minds and our sense of self.(www.gov.uk)
5 Ways to Apply the Positive Effects of Nature in Our Life
Although there are so many suggestions in this article, let’s focus on five practical options.
1. Walk more
We know walking is good for the heart, muscles, and the overall metabolism rate. And now scientists have proved that walking in the natural environment improves our emotional health too.
A study conducted and published by Stanford University, California revealed that participants who walked in the green parklands showed increased attention and focus, more so than participants who walked in closed urban settings or on a treadmill (Bratman, Daily, Levy, & Gross, 2015).
Not only that, but the former group also showed less engagement in negative thinking and felt more confident about themselves than the other group.
2. Keep a nature journal
A nature journal is a creative and unique way of imbibing the positive vibes of nature into our everyday lives. Many people who encourage this habit express feelings of inner peace and joy. In a nature journal, we can collect and note everything about our encounters with the outer world.
For example, after a walk by the beach on a cloudy evening, we can sketch some clouds in the journal or draw the sea and write how we felt when we were walking through the breezy shore. Many people collect small things like a pebble, flowers, feathers, or leaves, and glue them in the nature journal with their thoughts poured into it.
A great way to spend some quality ‘me-time,’ nature journaling inevitably brings a part of nature in our usual lives.
Watch this video to get started on nature journaling:
3. Spend some working hours outside
Most working professionals today have the flexibility to access daily tasks outside (thanks to technology). We can choose to spend a part of our working day out to avoid the monotony of the cubicle and the same old office space.
It may be one conference in the garden or lunch at the local park, anything that can logically amalgamates with nature. Spending some time outside alone or with co-workers gives an instant boost of freshness to the mind, thereby reducing the stress and frustration that comes from working tonelessly for hours at a stretch.
4. Plant at home
Growing plants at home not just add aesthetic beauty to your space, it also contributes to purifying the air you breathe in.
Having plants at home balances and soothes the home ambiance and aids in respiration and breathing. Studies have proved that indoor plants or a garden are beneficial for the mental health of the people who live there. They help in improving sensory awareness, cognitive functions, and enhances focus (Orwell et al., 2004).
Indoor plants reconnect us to nature, please our senses, and brings a serene feeling when we stay close to them.
5. Balance the diet with more natural elements
Diet is undoubtedly a great way of establishing a strong connection to Mother Nature. By consuming more plant-based proteins, vitamins, and minerals, we can help our body maintain its optimal state of functioning and homeostasis level.
Healthcare research proved that the consumption of plant-based protein is correlated to lower mortality rates as opposed to animal-based proteins (Song et al., 2016). It is not a bad idea, after all, to replace meat with vegetables and grains – if that brings good health and long life to us!
References and further reading: