Green Therapy: The Untapped Medicine of the Great Outdoors

September 23, 2023

Green Therapy: The Untapped Medicine of the Great Outdoors

Have you ever taken a moment to really examine how much time you're glued to your electronic screens? On average, most people are racking up more than 10 hours a day!! This, coupled with more people living in urban environments, means substantially less time outdoors.

Getting outdoors is essential, as nature is great for your brain as well as your body, and provides huge benefits such as improved focus, reduced stress, a happier mood, and can even make you feel more connected and understanding towards others. Plus, you don’t have to have access to a remote wilderness, as a city park can work magic too. Let’s get a closer look.

What Can Nature Do For Your Brain?

Nature is like a soothing balm for your overworked mind. Studies suggest that children who have greenery around their schools and homes do better in terms of both attention span and self-control. For example, one study showed that students who took a short 40-second break to look at a green, flowery roof performed better on a task than those who stared at a concrete roof during their break. For adults, just living near a green space has shown to improve attention span. Surprisingly, even just listening to nature sounds like chirping crickets, bird songs, or ocean waves can improve your cognitive abilities!

It seems that humans are wired for nature. One theory, called the "biophilia hypothesis", believes humanity’s love for nature comes from our ancestors who evolved in wild settings, such as the savannas of Africa. Another theory proposes nature simply helps to reduce stress, while a third says nature works to rejuvenate your ability to focus, known as the attention-restoration theory.  It’s likely all of these are contributing factors as to why most people feel so good when they can get outside.

Nature And Your Well-being

But the beauty of nature isn't just all about cognitive perks, as time in nature can also be emotionally and spiritually enriching. Research suggests that being in nature boosts happiness, positive feelings, and a sense of purpose in life. For children, spending more time outdoors can significantly shape their mental well-being in adulthood.

But if you can’t get outside, here's something cool: even simply watching nature videos can boost your mood! And for those who can't go outside due to health reasons, virtual reality nature experiences using 3-D goggles can be the next best thing.

The More Nature, The Merrier

Considering nature's fantastic benefits, it's natural to wonder how much outdoor time is ideal? Research shows that just two hours a week can significantly boost your well-being. But remember, it's not just about the time, it’s also about the connection you feel. Even if you're indoors, getting in touch with nature through videos, photographs, or even taking care of green houseplants has its advantages.

Nature’s Diversity: Green and Blue

While we often hear about the benefits of green spaces, blue spaces, like rivers, lakes and oceans, are equally rejuvenating. It’s no wonder so many people flock to the ocean or to a beautiful lake to spend their vacation time. The diversity of the natural world, from hiking through a fragrant forest, “tubing” down a flowing river, or spending time at a beautiful mountain retreat, can all play unique roles in uplifting your spirits and increasing your sense of wellbeing.

But access to nature isn’t always equitable. Less affluent neighborhoods might not have leafy parks or serene views. As awareness grows, more city planners and organizations are prioritizing these spaces, understanding their value to communities. Even hospitals and other health care institutions are recognizing the benefits of incorporating natural settings into their building designs.

Fostering a bond with nature is essential, as it benefits you and, in return, when you feel connected, you are more likely to care for the environment. After all, with the current environmental challenges, our planet could really use some extra love. So, take a step outside, reconnect with nature, and embrace its wonders.

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