Source Naturals header background image
Source Naturals header background image
Facebook logo image Instagram logo image
Source Naturals header logo image
home link
 
Join

Subscribe to our emails for healthy living articles, product news, surprise promotions, and periodic sample offers!

no image
Science Shows How Nature Heals

Our increasingly urbanized, indoor, screen-driven, stress-filled lives are taking a huge toll on both our physical and mental health. Luckily, science has found a sure remedy, and it’s been with us all along: Nature.

Nature’s Benefits, Quantified

Traditionally we’ve looked to the natural world to inspire, heal, and enrich us. Now researchers have the technology to directly measure the physical effects of Nature experiences, adding weight and insight to that body of historical wisdom.

  • At the...
Show Full Article

Our increasingly urbanized, indoor, screen-driven, stress-filled lives are taking a huge toll on both our physical and mental health. Luckily, science has found a sure remedy, and it’s been with us all along: Nature.

Nature’s Benefits, Quantified

Traditionally we’ve looked to the natural world to inspire, heal, and enrich us. Now researchers have the technology to directly measure the physical effects of Nature experiences, adding weight and insight to that body of historical wisdom.

  • At the University of Utah, Dr. David Strayer has showed that spending a sufficient length of time in Nature—say, on a wilderness backpacking trip—gave people’s brains a needed break. Subjects not only reported increased feelings of well-being but also demonstrated a 50% increase in creative problem-solving skills and corresponding changes in brain patterns on their EEGs.
  • At Stanford, researcher Gregory Bratman sent people out for 90-minute walks in either natural or urban settings, and then compared how they felt afterward to actual scans of their brains. Subjects who walked in Nature had more positive thoughts and showed consistent changes in their brain activity.
  • In Japan, scientists have found significant, lasting reductions in stress hormone levels, blood pressure, and heart rate among people who walk mindfully in forests, immersing themselves consciously in the sights, sounds, smells, and textures of the natural setting.
  • Researchers in England, Canada, and Scotland have documented lower rates of disease and death among people who lived near parks and green spaces—even if they didn’t actually use those places.

Consequences of a Lost Connection

Humans evolved as part of the natural world, and we have an innate connection to it. Biologist and educator EO Wilson calls this connection biophilia, “a rich, natural pleasure derived from being surrounded by living organisms, including plants and animals.”

Modern culture, however, is turning us indoors. We’re spending our time in an increasingly urban, sedentary, screen-lit lifestyle.

  • The Harvard School of Public Health calculates that American adults spend less time outdoors than they do in their cars: less than 5% of their day.
  • Only about 10% of American teens spend time outside every day, according to the Nature Conservancy.
  • The Learning Works found that American children ages 8 to 18 spend half as much time outside as their parents did when they were kids, yet more than 10 hours a day with digital technology—often on more than 1 device at a time.

In his landmark book Last Child in the Woods, author Richard Louv coined the term “Nature-Deficit Disorder” to describe the problems that kids can develop when they’re isolated indoors, but our retreat from Nature has affected every age group. We’re enduring exploding rates of obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, myopia, and mental illness and mood disorders, including depression and suicide. In fact, the World Health Organization reports that suicide rates worldwide have increased 60% over the past 50 years, most strikingly in the developing world—and they predict that by 2020, depression will be the second most prevalent medical condition in the world.

We Need to Reconnect

How do we repair lifestyles that are literally making us sick? It turns out that the safest, most effective remedy is also the simplest: Reclaim our connection to Nature. The benefits of this “Nature Prescription” are immense:

  • Nature reduces stress—Researchers believe that Nature works primarily by reducing stress and related effects. People who can see trees and grass have been shown to recover faster in hospitals, perform better in school, and even display less violent behavior in neighborhoods where it’s common.
  • Nature improves mood—Natural settings make us feel happier and obsess less.
  • Nature restores cognitive performance—Nature experiences free our minds, improving focus, memory, creativity, and problem-solving.
  • Nature strengthens body systems—Outdoor activity is good for our whole body and may specifically help boost our immune system. Our bodies also produce the key nutrient vitamin D in sunlight (even with sunscreen).
  • Nature protects vision—At least in children, research has shown that outdoor activities can reduce the risk of developing myopia.

Put the Nature Rx to Work Yourself

Even small changes have big benefits, no matter what your age or stage of life.

  • Take a short “Nature micro-break” from work. As little as 5 minutes in (or viewing) a natural setting can improve focus, mood, self-esteem, and motivation.
  • Get your kids outside. Experts recommend that kids get 60 minutes of physical activity outdoors daily. Have your kids walk to school, if possible; encourage their teachers to make outdoor spaces part of class activities; get your kids outside after school to move, play, and unwind from the day.
  • Take a walk. A 20-minute walk outside boosts feelings of vitality and “zest for life” in kids as well as adults. Bring along the dog (if you have one) and share the activity with the whole family.
  • Bring some outdoors in. Add some green plants to your space to clean the air. Open curtains or blinds to let in natural light, if you can. Especially in winter, add a photo of your favorite natural scene to your workspace or computer screen(s).

Reconnecting to the natural world can heal so much of what ails us today. Best of all, even when taken liberally, Nature has no side effects (except maybe that you’ll keep wanting more)!

There’s a global environmental bonus to the Nature prescription, too: When we appropriately value the natural world and the benefits it provides, we’ll be more likely to recognize that it deserves our care and protection in return.

 

References  

To dig deeper into the benefits of the Nature prescription, try these links.

Adam Alter, “How Nature Resets Our Minds and Bodies,” TheAtlantic.com, Mar. 29, 2013. Accessed Oct. 3, 2016.

Carol Sorgen, “Do You Need a Nature Prescription?” WebMD.com, Jun. 19, 2013. Accessed Jul. 12, 2016.

Catherine A. Wood, “7 Reasons to Get Outside NOW,” HuffingtonPost.com, Oct. 3, 2016. Accessed Oct. 4, 2016.

Chris Mooney, “New research suggests Nature walks are good for your brain,” WashingtonPost.org, Jun. 29, 2015. Accessed Jul. 5, 2016.

Florence Williams, “This Is Your Brain On Nature,” NationalGeographic.com, Jan. 2016. Accessed Oct. 5, 2016.

Jill Suttie, “How Nature Can Make You Kinder, Happier, and More Creative,” University of California, Berkeley, Mar. 2, 2016. Accessed Sep. 20, 2016.

Lauren F. Friedman and Kevin Loria, “11 scientific reasons you should be spending more time outside,” BusinessInsider.com, Apr. 22, 2016. Accessed Oct. 4, 2016.

Susan L. Prescott and Alan C. Logan, “Connecting with Nature Has Real Health Benefits,” HuffingtonPost.ca, Apr. 29, 2016. Accessed Jul. 12, 2016.

T.M. Luhrmann, “Is the World More Depressed?” NYTimes.com, Mar. 24, 2014. Accessed Oct. 4, 2016.

University of Minnesota, Center for Spirituality & Healing and Charlson Meadows, “How Does Nature Impact Our Wellbeing?” Jun. 25, 2014. Accessed Sep. 29, 2016.

WomensHealthMag.com, “Are You Getting Enough Vitamin N?” Mar. 1, 2013. Accessed Jul. 8, 2016.

Share Your Thoughts!
X
To who would you like to send the Source Naturals article
'Science Shows How Nature Heals'?


Whom would you like to say sent it?


You may include a message if you like.