The scientific literature is replete with references that humans derive both physical and psychological benefits in spending time in natural surroundings. Using a variety of methodologies, researchers have shown that exposure to the natural world decreases negative behaviors and states (e.g. aggression, anxiety, depression, illness) and increases positive ones (e.g. affect, health, cognitive capacity). Contact with nature creates a sense of well-being and has a mood priming effect. Five potential mediators of nature's benefit have been proposed and studied: encouragement to exercise; facilitating social contact; recovery from stress and attention fatigue; encouraging optimal development in children; and providing opportunities for personal development and a sense of purpose.
A mind body revolution is under way in the medical world. Only when the mind is able to reach a certain level of calmness, it triggers deeper states of physiological rest - reduced metabolism, blood pressure, heart rate and respiratory rate. Referred to as relaxation response, it plays a vital role in preventing many diseases and maintenance of mind-body health. Relaxation response has also made inroads in treatment of various types of diseases and is being treated as a revolution in reducing the cost of the health care.
Connection with nature is also linked with many positive mental health impacts, such as increased subjective well-being, quality of life, and positive affect. When practicing contemplation of nature, the mind slows down and appreciates the things we generally take for granted. The beauty of a landscape, the interconnectedness of living things, and our place in the world are just a few realizations we might come to while contemplating. The mindfulness that comes with nature contemplation can help one to live in the moment and become aware and conscious of their emotional states. Mindfulness can also contribute to a clarification of one’s true values, and motivate behaviors that are consistent with those values. Personal growth, relationship, and community values are just a few examples that can be enhanced through mindful living. We may also find a greater sense of empathy, causing us to be more compassionate to others around us.
Try and spend 30 minutes today in a forest, a park, or the back yard, anywhere that has some kind of greenery, and experience for yourself the benefits of nature exposure. If you want specific details on how to practice contemplation of nature, visit the How section.