We all know intuitively that being in nature makes us feel more peaceful. But studies show that it also can have a significant positive impact on your health—even in the smallest of doses.
Nature and Your Overall Well-Being
There are several studies out there that show being in nature (hiking, camping, going for a walk, etc) can improve well being. This study measures improvement by both self-reported subjective feelings, as well as performance results after being in nature for a period of time.
This study shows that living in a green environment is correlated with positive health measurements, and this study shows that connectedness to nature profoundly affects overall vitality and psychological well-being.
Indoor Plants and Health Improvements
But even if you don’t live in a jungle or can’t go on a week-long camping expedition, a little bit of green here and there can still make an impact. This study shows that workplace environments with indoor plants improve productivity, and decrease sick leave.
This study also shows that the environment of a health care clinic actually makes a difference in health outcomes. And this study shows that surgical patients with plants and flowers in their recovery rooms have lower blood pressure, lower levels of pain, anxiety, and fatigue.
Even if you can’t see nature, it might be enough if you can hear it! This study shows that nature sounds (and sights) significantly reduce pain.
Natural Lighting and Views
Artificial light can make you feel lousy — and there are several reasons for this. In hospitals especially, most rooms and corridors are lit with fluorescent bulbs. Yet 92% of surveyed office staff believe that natural lighting leads to faster patient recovery and shorter hospital stays. And this study shows that surgical patients given rooms with a natural view had shorter hospital stays and required less pain medication than those with a view of a brick wall.
Access to Green Spaces
Even if you aren’t always in it, having access to a green and natural space makes a difference in health as well. This study indicates that access to green spaces in low income populations raises their health indices overall. This study specifically shows that risk of stroke and all cause mortality is lower in areas with access to nature and cleaner air.
This study, interestingly, shows that access to greener spaces also decreases aggression and violence in high risk populations.
Some element of this may be that green spaces increase socialization, as natural environments often serve as a gathering place.
Nature Calms Down Your Brain
Anyone who has been on a long hike or a camping expedition can attest to the calming effect on the brain of “unplugging.” But this same effect still occurs even on a much smaller scale. Even twenty minutes in a park can improve attention and focus, suggesting nature therapy as an excellent adjunctive treatment for those with ADD/ADHD.
What if you can’t get to a park? This study shows that just viewing pictures of nature helps with restoration of attention.
And as we all intuitively know, nature has a way of giving us perspective on our lives that we might not have had otherwise. This study shows that natural environments caused participants’ focus to shift from “extrinsic aspirations”—those to do with earning, doing, going, and acting—to “intrinsic aspirations”—that is, those to do with being.
Everyone can incorporate more nature into our lives, even if it just means putting a calming YouTube nature scene video on as background noise in your home, getting more house (or office) plants, or opening the windows. Also, if you have access to a green space, enjoy it! Spend time there as often as your schedule allows. Nature in even the smallest of doses will help you to be both healthier and more peaceful.