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Being in Nature Reduces Stress and Improves Health

April 22, 2011

There are many roads to better health. Nutrition is just one of them (one of the most powerful, possibly, according to the research).

But another powerful source of healing and better health is a bit simpler than that. In fact, these pictures are scientifically proven to improve your health! Notice how you feel after seeing these pictures. More relaxed? Less stress? Happier? Joyful? Excited? In awe?


Nature Photo: Owl in Flight

Nature Photo: broiling brook

Nature Photo: Trees

Nature Photo: Heron

Beautiful Ocean Nature

Beautiful bird

Forest Nature

Mountains behind a lake

Cute Kitten

Pink Rose

Hummingbird Feeding

Moss in woods

a Fiddlehead Fern


Flowers and Mountains

You feel better now don’t you? Great!

Here’s just a sample of some of the new research findings that show why and how just the simple act of looking at pictures of nature can make you healthier and feel better:

How Nature Can Improve Your Health

Research has documented that even small amounts of time seeing nature or being in nature dramatically reduces stress, improves health outcomes, improves pain management, and promotes a sense of overall well-being among patients, visitors, and staff in care centers.

Researchers have even found that being near nature reduces depression, especially in conjunction with exercise (like talking a walk in the woods). Patients who are in direct contact with nature with any of their senses have demonstrated higher thresholds of pain. This means, even just hearing birds chirping or seeing pictures of nature on a computer screen can dramatically improve your ability to cope with pain and stress.

Studies have even found that when patients with chronic diseases interact with nature, their quality of life is greatly improved

The research on nature and its profound improvements in human health physically, emotionally, and psychologically have led many architects and designers to use nature in their works. Some studies have even found that incorporating nature in work environments (whether it just be having a view of the trees outside or a courtyard to walk in during breaks) can improve worker happiness, health, and productivity.
People who live within 1 kilometer (.6 miles) of a park or wooded area experience less anxiety and depression, according to Dutch researchers. In fact, the likelihood of someone getting anxiety disorders or depression was more than 30% lower in those who lived nearest to parks or wooded areas!

“It’s nice to see that it shows that, that the closer humans are to the natural environment, that seems to have a healthy influence,” said Dr. David Rakel, director of integrative medicine and assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

Rakel continues,

“If patients in hospitals have direct exposure to sunlight through a window or natural sunlight, hospital stays are shorter and patients have less complications,” Rakel said. “That’s been well-established.More light also means more vitamin D in the skin, which has been found to elevate mood and improve muscle strength…”

Another study showed there were fewer health inequalities between rich and poor people in areas with lots of green space, and other studies have echoed these health benefits. But much of this research had relied on people’s perceptions of their physical and mental health.

“As health-care costs spiral out of control, it behooves us to think about our green space in terms of preventive health care,” said Dr. Kathryn J. Kotrla, associate dean and chair of psychiatry and behavioral science at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine Round Rock campus. “This highlights very clearly that our Western notion of body-mind duality is entirely false. The study shows that we are a whole organism, and when we get healthy that means our body and our mind get healthy.”

As one researcher of nature’s impact on health, L. Mack said, “Seeing the sky or feeling the sun on your skin can literally make you feel better…our surroundings affect our well-being.”

So there you have it. Nature makes us healthy. I’m going to take a walk in the woods now. Who’s with me?

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