Nature and health

Back in March I discussed research showing that we’re happier in natural environments than in cities (Happy yet? Naturally!) I’ve now found lots of similar research related to health.

Dr Roger Ulrich was interested in whether a natural view from a hospital room made any difference to recovery. He studied patients recovering from surgery and found that those who had a view of a grove of trees recovered faster than those looking out on a brick wall. “The results were dramatic and statistically significant” (Sternberg, 2009: 3). Not only did the patients with a natural view recover a full day sooner,  they also needed less pain relief medication and had fewer minor complications.

These positive effects kick-in within minutes. Views of nature quickly increase positive feelings and reduce negative emotions like fear, anger, and sadness. We can measure parallel positive impacts on blood pressure, heart activity, muscle tension, and brain activity (Ulrich, 2002).

Tree in grassland with sea in the background

But you don’t have to be ill to benefit from nature! Robert Taylor Homes was a public housing development in Chicago. It was plagued with problems including narcotics, violence and poverty. But studies done by Frances Kuo and William Sullivan revealed that people living in flats overlooking trees had more positive emotions, were less aggressive and enjoyed more social  interaction.

We’re seeing similar resuts in care farms across the UK. Hasan, a 14 year old boy who’s recently been excluded from school, spent a few days on a farm. He says: “It’s funny being here, you feel much calmer. There’s time to think” (Bibi van der Zee, 2011).

This kind of  care works, as evidenced by the financial support given to ecotherapy projects by the mental health charity, Mind. But how does it work? According to Dr Ester Sternberg, research into understanding these effects is “taking the science of the mind-body connection beyond the body, beyond the mind, into the environment around us” (Sternberg, 2011). In essence then, the healing power of nature emerges from a bodymind place.

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4 Responses to Nature and health

  1. Pingback: Nature Connection Workshops: Reflections | Bodymind Place

  2. Pingback: Architecture and the bodymind | Bodymind Place

  3. Michael says:

    Hi Adrian,

    Love your blog, so much interesting stuff here. Are you coming over this way in Autumn at all as I am going to start the school group up again and would love to have your input.

    i am also interested in running a seminar or conference on ‘health and nature’ at the centre where I work next June as an official openning of the space. Penny brohn Cancer Care is its name if you google you will find it. I am director of services there and we engage with the garden 4.5 acres which we have re wilded over the last 4 years. I am really looking to research the impact of a transformation 5 day retreat we run there based in nature.

    So would love to chat and I see you have gathered some research above and have a deep resource on this blog. I was wondering if you would mind to review an information sheet we are putting together for eco psychology that we apply at penny brohn. would be great to have some brief feedback from you.

    Great to see you at the weekend.

    Sunny blessings

  4. Hi Michael, lovely to see you over the week-end and to get such positive feedback on the blog – thanks! I’d be happy to take a look the information sheet – email it to adrian@gn.apc.org

    I don’t have plans to be in Wales this autumn – It would be nice, but I imagine I’ll be up to my eyes in essays!

    Interesting crossover – Penny brohn Cancer Care use (or have used) William Blooms’ Core Energy Management (CEM) to treat patients. I’m trained in CEM – see my site for a taster! About CEM

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