Most of us know the relaxing feeling of being in nature. Being in a natural setting can be empowering, calming and can make us more focused and energized. Even a simple stroll in the neighborhood park can have this affect. These affects are well documented:
‘ Urban public greenspaces form the arena of many people’s daily contact with nature and such contact has measurable physical and psychological benefits.’
This study reveals a pathway by which nature experience may improve mental well-being and suggests that accessible natural areas within urban contexts may be a critical resource for mental health in our rapidly urbanizing world.
The reasons for this effect are unclear; but scientists believe that we evolved to be more relaxed in natural spaces. A few studies have, however, looked into the root cause and all of them have suggested that nature triggers the parts of your brain responsible for relaxation and calm. In one study for example scientists used fMRI technology to measure the affects of nature of rumination (repetitive thought focused on negative aspects of the self), a known risk factor for mental illness. They measured participants before and after a 90 minute walk in a natural or urban setting
“Even so, participants who walked in a natural setting versus an urban setting reported decreased rumination after the walk, and they showed increased activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain whose deactivation is affiliated with depression and anxiety—a finding that suggests nature may have important impacts on mood.”
A 2013 study using an EEG ‘showed evidence of lower frustration, engagement and arousal, and higher meditation when moving into the green space zone; and higher engagement when moving out of it. (Source)
We don’t even necessarily need to be in nature. Videos, pictures and audio can also have this affect. The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that
“Viewing green scenes may thus be particularly effective in supporting relaxation and recovery after experiencing a stressful period, and thereby could serve as an opportunity for micro-restorative experiences and a promising tool in preventing chronic stress and stress-related diseases.”
So even when we are busy taking a few minutes to enjoy some pictures, audio and/or video can help us stay relaxed and focused. Thanks to the internet these things are widely available. Here are five ways to easily keep nature in your life:
- Get outside: Even in big cities there are nearly always parks and trails nearby most homes and all you need is a few minutes. Take a few deep breaths and you you will feel much better.
- Decorate your home: You don’t need to be extravagant but a couple of plants or nice pictures on your wall can help you stay in touch with nature.
- Set your device background: Most of us has access to a cell phone, tablet or computer. Set your background to something nice.
- Watch: YouTube and other video sources have plenty of great, relaxing nature videos.
- Listen: Nature sounds are available in all forms of audio from dvds to mp3s. Some are set to calming music to help you relax.
Best of all this kind of relaxation is free. The planet has given of us plenty of free nature to enjoy and relax in. No matter what you do keep nature part of your life and you will always be, at least a little bit, healthier and happier.
Here are some good free sources online:
Somerset Entertainment Home of Nature Sounds pioneer Dan Gibson’s Solitudes