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Seeing The Forest, As Well As The Trees

Take another look at the image. It’s Yosemite National Park. Does it spark even an ounce of feel-good? Sure does for me. How do you think actually being there would make you feel?

I think it’s safe to say most of us realize a sense of ease and calm when we, in some manner, interact with nature. But did you know there’s scientific evidence confirming it?

Among other studies, several years ago Dutch researchers observed the closer one lives to nature, the more emotionally, mentally, and physically healthy he/she is likely to be. Specifically, the study observed that those living within 1 kilometer (.6 miles) of a park or wooded area experience less anxiety and depression.

To ensure meaningful data, the researchers rummaged through the medical records of some 300,000 people. And they focused upon specific conditions; including cardiovascular, respiratory, neurological, and psychiatric disorders.

And then they correlated how much green space was within 1 and 3 kilometers of the person’s postal code.

The study found that folks living in a more urban environment showed a higher prevalence of 15 of the 24 disorders focused upon. Of interest to us, the prevalence of the anxiety disorders went from 1.8% of people in areas with 90% green space, to 2.6% in areas with only 10% green space. And the same pattern was observed with depression.

The bottom-line: it’s fact that natural green settings reduce stress, anger, and aggression. And blood pressure, levels of stress hormones, and muscle tension all rebound faster in a natural setting. And, of course, we’ve established that natural green settings can elevate our mood, while decreasing anxiety.

Interesting – it’s even been observed that children enduring ADHD do much better when they play in a natural setting.

So what accounts for all this green healing? Well, we don’t have the space to list all of the contributors, but here’s just one – sunlight.

It’s known that hospital patients who have access to direct sunlight – or even better, natural sunlight – have fewer complications and shorter stays. Among other factors, it seems the absorption of Vitamin D through the skin is significant. It’s known to boost both mood and muscle strength.

But it’s believed, far and away, the most significant factor involved in the enhanced ability to de-stress in the midst of nature is truly being into it. If we stay up in our heads as we interact, we can’t expect to realize any positive results.

Even without the minutia of studies, doesn’t everything we’ve discussed simply make good sense? I mean, nature is our natural setting – our intended environment.

And consider the fact that more than half of the most commonly prescribed medications include compounds derived from nature?

You know, I’ve always believed we have but one body; with no above or below the neck distinction. And, for my money, the positives derived from interacting with nature only underscore the point.

Please give our discussion lots of thought, and do your best to maintain contact with natural green environments. And this is especially crucial in the midst of tough times, and immediately after their resolution.

Your feelings and thoughts are so important and helpful to all of us. Won’t you share in a comment? Thanks!

  • Kvervaecke

    it’s the ocean for me- although that usually entails sunlight.

    • Thanks, Karen. You know, I enjoy being around the ocean; however, I’m more of a mountain/forest kind of guy.