How To Let Nature Nurture You!

How to Let Nature Nurture You!

Is it possible that nature can help us resolve several major modern issues? For generations people across the globe have believed in the healing power of nature. Now, modern science is demonstrating that nature does indeed hold a powerful influence on how we feel, our attention level and general state of well-being.

Think about it: have you ever felt rejuvenated gazing at a spectacular sunset, breathing in the freshness of a pine forest, or hearing the ocean roar?

Chances are you have experienced similar sensations of increased energy, even awe, simply by taking in nature’s splendor.

In the late 80’s researchers Stephen and Rachel Kaplan decided to test the theory that nature can restore our focus and enhance well-being. What they found was amazing! 

According to the Kaplans, being exposed to the natural environment has the power to lift our mood as well as improve concentration, and they developed Attention Restoration Theory (ART) to describe their powerful research.

As you might imagine, their work generated considerable curiosity among those interested in finding easy, inexpensive and sustaining ways to reduce mental fatigue and restore energy levels. In other words, the Kaplan’s appeared to have stumbled on to a satisfying low tech way to combat the toll of our high tech world.

Since their initial assertion about nature’s healing powers, many studies have corroborated the Kaplan’s findings, specifically in the areas of stress reduction, psychological rejuvenation, and improved concentration.

What if you’d love to increase your mental focus, but a visit to a natural landscape simply isn’t doable? No problem!

Interestingly enough, researchers have discovered that simply viewing scenes of nature can help improve concentration levels.

For example, scientist Rita Berto conducted an ingenious experiment in which she induced mental fatigue in study participants then showed them a collection of pictures ranging from scenes of the natural world to geometric patterns (The Role of Nature in Coping with Psycho-Physiological Stress: A Literature Review on Restorativeness, 2014).

What she found was that the ability to re-focus was greatest among the subjects who viewed scenes of nature versus random designs or other restorative sights.

Most of us can relate to the sensation of feeling our troubles float away or at least lessen when we’ve had the pleasure of actually encountering nature.

As result of this phenomenon, several researchers have put this theory to the test, seeking to discover if Mother Nature does indeed decrease stress levels.

It is hard to argue that having a major illness is not a major stressor. In a landmark study researcher Bernardine Cimprich tracked the recovery rates of breast cancer patients in an effort to determine if nature could play a healing role in their progress.

What Cimprich found was that the natural environment beneficially influenced several factors. First,   participants who were exposed to elements of the natural world were more likely to return to work, displayed increased gains on attention-related tasks, a greater disposition for beginning new projects, and increased quality of life scores.  

Another intriguing study found that just a little green space in one’s environment may act as a small buffer against the stresses of modern life. In this case, researchers asked subjects to describe their stress levels and found that the amount of greenery around one’s home was linked to one’s perception of stress. For example, individuals who had the most green space at home also reported the lowest levels of stress.

Finally, intriguing study results show that nature may positively impact symptoms in individuals with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

For example, one study exposed school-age children with ADHD to two unique environments, one suburban and one wooded. The subjects who performed better on a task requiring them to focus were the ones who visit the wooded area versus the town environment. In general, these children also displayed a more positive mood and fewer behavioral issues during the study.

These results were duplicated in another study which tested the effects of 20-minute walks on ADHD. Again, the subjects were exposed to a town setting versus a natural environment and the ones who displayed fewer ADHD symptoms were those who experienced nature. Additionally, these individuals described their walk as more restorative than the subjects who walked in an urban setting.

It should also be noted that while many researchers have found evidence to support Attention Restoration Theory, there are other studies which display inconclusive results. So, while it appears in many ways that nature confers beneficial effects on our overall functioning, the evidence cannot be considered conclusive, and more research needs to be done in this area.

Nonetheless, many experts believe that the findings to date on the effect of nature on well-being are promising enough to merit serious attention as far as its application to the workplace and in urban environments.

For example, many real estate developers, planning department personnel, and even policy makers have incorporated tenets of Attention Restoration Theory into their work and practice, which makes immense sense. If you knew of a relatively free resource that has the power to boost mood and attention span, wouldn’t you want to take advantage of it, too?

So, what is the takeaway message to be gained from the age-old notion that nature has what it takes to heal at least some of what ails humankind?

Maybe it is enough just to remember that the next time you are feeling tired, moody, or unable to concentrate, the antidote may be just outside your window or front door!

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Our professional, dedicated staff have the understanding, experience, and compassion necessary to support each resident’s clinical treatment team goals. We offer individualized tier level programs, and guidance with residents’ personal recovery and independent living goals.

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