There’re plenty of facts about the value of the human/nature connection.
Most of it’s common sense. I share some of my favourite facts and research studies here.
1. Benefits of nature connection for humans
Eco-psychologists and others have amassed substantial evidence that humans need nature not just for food, shelter and water, but for our mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.
Multiple research studies show that contact with nature, for example in the form of walking and exercising outdoors and living in “green spaces”:
- Speeds recovery from illness
- Reduces stress and elevates mood
- Improves our attention capacity and the ability to focus
- Enhances our creativity
- Increases our cognitive ability
- Improves memory
- Boosts the efficiency of exercise (when we exercise outdoors vs. indoors)
- Improves concentration in children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder
- Reduces development of anxiety disorders, depression and cardiovascular disease
Contact with nature may even reduce the risk of dying, particularly when you consider that according to the World Health Organisation, cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death globally.
2. Benefits of combining mindfulness with nature connection
WithNature’s offerings typically combine mindfulness with nature connection practices.
Combining mindfulness and spending time with nature, two activities that have restorative properties on their own, can yield additional well-being benefits.
Nature is a perfect setting to practice mindfulness, however research in this field is in its early stages. One study has been done on ‘shinrin-yoku’, a Japanese mindfulness practice involving walking in silence while engaging with nature using the five senses. Tokyo’s Nippon Medical School found that when people strolled in a wooded area, their levels of the stress hormone cortisol plummeted almost 16 percent more than when they walked in an urban environment. And the effects were quickly apparent: subjects’ blood pressure showed improvement after about 15 minutes of the practice. One of the biggest benefits may come from breathing in chemicals called phytoncides, emitted by trees and plants. In a study where women spent two to four hours in the woods on two consecutive days, they experienced a nearly 50 percent increase in the activity of cancer-fighting white blood cells.
Research studies & references
- Herman, M.G., Kross, E., Krpan, K.M., Askren, M.K., Burson, A., Deldin, P.J., Kaplan, S., Sherdell, L., Gotlib, I.H. & Jonides, J. (2012). Interacting with nature improves cognition and affect for individuals with depression. Journal of Affective Disorders, V140, Issue 3, 300-305.
- Kaplan, R. & Kaplan, S. (1989). The Experience of Nature: A Psychological Perspective. Cambridge University Press, USA.
- Kwak-Hefferan, E. (2012). Hiking Makes You Smarter, accessed 22/10/15.
- Nisbet, E.K. (2013). Results of the David Suzuki Foundation 30×30 Nature Challenge English Survey. Trent University.
- Ratcliffe, E., Gatersleben, B. & Sowden, P.T. (2013). Bird sounds and their contributions to perceived attention restoration and stress recovery. Journal of Environmental Psychology, V36: 221-228.
- Selhub, E. & Logan, A. (2012). Your Brain On Nature: The Science of Nature’s Influence on Your Health, Happiness and Vitality. Wiley, USA.
- Strayer, D. (2012). Nature Nurtures Creativity: Hikers more inspired on tests after four days unplugged.University of Utah.
- Townsend, M. and Weerasuriya, R. (2010). Beyond Blue to Green: The Health Benefits of Contact with Nature in a Park Context – Literature Review. Deakin University / Beyond Blue Limited: Melbourne, Australia.
- Tudino, C. (2012). Nature’s Touch: 5 Ways to Boost your Health by Going Outside. Oprah Magazine.
- Various, A Collection of Studies: Research Resources for Nature Therapy Guides, accessed 22/10/15.
- Wilson E.O (1984). Biophilia. Harvard University Press; Cambridge, MA, USA.