Contact with nature is known as ecotherapy. It is an effective type of therapy older than time itself, is free and absolutely available to everyone anytime. Being outdoors can make you feel better right away. The sun’s warmth, the fresh ocean breeze, the clean, sweet smell of the air after a heavy rain, the chirping of the birds – all these can instantly revive your spirit. And this is no tall tale either, studies have shown that contact with nature is an integral part of our well-being as humans.
A most significant research called “restorative environments” that has documented the importance of nature to a person’s well being, health and functioning has been conducted by Stephen and Rachel Kaplan, psychology professors at the University of Michigan. According to the Kaplans, the reasons why contact with nature presumably help in a person’s well being include :
- When in nature, a person has this feeling of being away from life’s daily strains and stresses.
- Being in contact with nature helps a person put things into proper perspective.
- Nature delights and stimulates the senses
- When in nature, a person usually feels being in a harmonious and supportive surroundings
Studies also showed that direct contact with nature has plenty of positive effects on the mental and physical health of a person – help treat illness, prevent health issues and provide healing and care. A 1974 study by Russell and Mehrabian indicated that pictures of natural scenes shown to subjects promoted health-oriented behaviours. On the other hand, RS Ulrich, in his research “View through a window may influence recovery from surgery” established that patients in a hospital who have views of nature from their windows were considered more cooperative, required the administration of less painkillers and were discharged faster than those with only a brick wall for a view. Another study conducted by Ulrich in 1991 proved that nature views impact positively on physical health, specifically on muscle tension, blood pressure and more, as well as in reducing stress.
It comes as no surprise that contact with nature would have a curative effect considering that man’s progenitors have always bonded with nature. In fact, it is only in this modern world where man has less exposure to nature and more restricted to the man-made surroundings. For man, therefore, being in a natural environment is like going home to a sanctuary that gives man a feeling of belonging. It’s the calming and soothing effect of nature that brings healing. Being in nature, a person seems to quieten and the soporific effect of nature’s beauty checks the incessant and chaotic thought-chatter that normally runs around his mind acting like a mantra. This fills the person with inner energy and tranquility that promote healing.
You need not go to the mountain or even drive a long way to the beach to experience nature. Taking a brisk walk in the park rather than sweating it out in the gym is a great way to take in nature while exercising. If going outdoors often is too much of an effort, you can always bring nature inside by having an indoor garden. Even indoor plants can improve your disposition, purify the air and lessen weariness and stress. Urban living and a modern way of life should not be a reason to be deprived of nature’s bounty.
Sharon Freeman is a professional freelancer who writes about coaching and the latest performance coaching trends in the business world.