Written by Cathy Petchel

There is a strong body of research confirming that direct contact with nature or even viewing scenes of nature, increases mental health and psychological and spiritual development.

One of the most intriguing areas of current research is the impact of nature on general wellbeing. In one study in Mind, 95% of those interviewed said that their mood improved after spending time outside, shifting from an anxious, stressed and depressed state of being to feeling more clam and balanced. Another study by Kim and Cervinka show that time in nature or scenes of nature are correlated with a more positive mood, psychological wellbeing, and increased energy.

Exposure to nature, directly and virtually not only makes you feel better emotionally it contributes to your psychological wellbeing by reducing anger, fear and stress and it contributes to your physical wellbeing by reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones, such as cortisol. It may even reduce mortality, according to Public Health Researchers Stamatakis and Mitchell. Benefits of our contact with nature extend and include a sense of coherence and belonging, improved self-confidence and self-discipline, and a broader sense of community.

Additionally, time in nature or viewing nature scenes increases our ability to pay attention, potentially providing respite from our overactive minds and rejuvenating us for new tasks. Andrea Taylor’s research on children with ADHD shows that time spent in nature increases their attention span.

And regardless of age or culture, humans find nature pleasing. In one study cited in the book Healing Gardens, researchers found that more than two-thirds of those interviewed, chose a natural setting to retreat to when stressed. Forest bathing, or shinrin yoku, speaks to the benefit of being out among the trees and what they offer. Specific immune response cells become more active in the woods and so do our senses. So use all of your senses to maximize the benefits. Dr. Kurt Biel, ND, stresses the importance of getting out in nature, no I think the word he used was imperative! The aromatic cedar, firs and pines produce phytosides, which elevate our immunological functioning.

So breathe in natures air, walk among the trees, let nature serve as an opportunity to feel better, both psychologically and physically.

Here at Washington and Jefferson College each Fall, you have the opportunity to select a Health and Wellness Course PHW 107 Vitamin N with Jamie March and Cathy Petchel. We believe in the restorative value of Nature, come join us!