Health and Nature have always been correlated. Health is not only the mere absence of disease but the state of absolute mental, physical and social wellbeing whereas Nature refers to the earth and things on it. Nature involvement not only has physiological benefits but also has an effect on mental health. If you are a person who is in love with nature and its charisma, you can have multiple amazing health benefits from nature. This article reflects the positive impacts that nature can have on human health in many ways.
Psychological benefits of being in nature
Mental health improvement
Various studies have shown that nature involvement in human life improves mental health, regardless of age. Nature helps people recover from mental fatigue and viewing nature or spending time in green environments helps with mental health issues like anxiety and sadness. Environments that are intense, especially those with a high level of visual complexity and noise pollution have a negative impact on the mental health of people in comparison with green spaces or natural components that have a lower level of intensity and have positive effects on human wellbeing.
Low Risk of Depression
People close to nature are at a lower risk of depression. Urbanization and natural deprivation are one of the major causes of mental disorders like depression. Nature involvement in life helps people who are restless, anxious, or have suicidal thoughts. Green environments, mountains, waterfalls, and other natural components help people with Seasonal Affective Disorder. Nature has healing effects and is significant in the well-being of human beings.
Fear, anger, sadness, and tension are some of the emotions associated with stress. Research has shown that the natural environment, especially green spaces, helps in stress relief and improves the well-being of people.
Being in nature helps people feel more relaxed. People living close to nature are relaxed and calm as compared to urban people. The negative ion-rich oxygen found in places like waterfalls has a soothing effect on the mind. Being in a natural place or just even looking at greenery makes a person forgets problems for short time and somehow soothes and relaxes the mind as well as the body.
Nature makes people happy. Natural components especially green spaces have a calming effect that makes people happy and less anxious. Being in nature help people to focus on positive emotions and decrease negative thoughts. Contact with nature is linked with a feeling of well-being and meaningfulness in life. Contact with nature especially sunlight helps in the release of the neurotransmitter ‘Serotonin’ that makes people happy. This increased level of endorphins and serotonin which people call euphoria.
Nature helps people to be more active. People living away from nature are lazier and more fatigued as compared to those living in proximity to nature. This increases the confidence and self-esteem of people and makes them lively.
Nature involvement boosts various aspects of thinking including memory and creativity. Walking in green spaces or just viewing any tree results in decreased activity of the area in the brain associated with negative emotions and increased creativity. Green spaces help in the cognitive development of children especially those with attention difficulties. Children who live close to nature have increased learning and concentration.
Children who spend more time in outdoor spaces have better ability for decision making and problem-solving, essential for academic success. Studies have shown that time spent in green spaces reduces symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and boosts concentration in children. Nature involvement in the lives of children is related to stronger attention, increased observation and memory, improved learning, and successful academic performance. This led to the conclusion that nature especially green spaces are of significant value in the well-being of children.
Reduction of Stress hormone ‘cortisol’
Experiments have indicated that Cortisol is a primary stress hormone and prolonged increased levels of cortisol interfere with memory. Studies suggest that green spaces and natural components reduce psychological stress levels whereas urbanization has led to various psychological problems due to excessive release of cortisol. Natural environments are responsible for stress reduction by reducing cortisol levels. Walking in green spaces has tended to decrease the level of stress hormones and helps in improving mental wellbeing.
Nature therapy or green exercise refers to ecotherapy, a treatment that uses nature to improve mental and physical wellbeing. It is based on the concept that people have a deep connection to the environment and its components and this relation helps in maintaining wellbeing, especially mental health.
Several types of ecotherapy are present. Some include:
Gardening with neighbors on common land helps in forming friendships and spending time outside.
Young adults learn therapeutic abilities while camping and hiking in the wilderness.
This enables the usage of all five senses as one walks through the forest.
This helps in improved mental health especially when done outside.
People are recommended by specialists to spend ample time visiting parks and green spaces.
Physiological benefits of being in nature
Pathological conditions due to nature deprivation: Nature involvement not only affects mental health but also has an impact on physical wellbeing. Nature deprivation can make a person nervous and in turn, it affects blood pressure and muscular tension, however, it is countered by green space. In the past few decades, pathological conditions like hypertension, cardiac illness, and muscle tension have been increasing and according to scientists, Ecotherapy is one of the best treatments for curing these diseases and can even reduce the mortality rate.
Various studies have shown that children who spend less time close to nature are more likely to be obese, vitamin d deficient, have decreased immunity, and have problems related to academic performance as compared to those who are more exposed to natural components and green spaces.
Vitamin D levels
Exposure to sunlight tends to increase vitamin d levels. Many children who are not exposed to proper sunlight suffer from bone diseases like Rickets. In the case of adults, it does not only related to bone diseases but is associated with the release of two important mood-enhancing neurotransmitters; Dopamine and Serotonin. Dopamine is also known as the ‘happy hormone’ so not only it is linked with physical well-being but is also associated with mood regulation.
Improvement in the Immune system
Nature involvement has been demonstrated to boost the immune system. Natural components like plants contain higher concentrations of organic compounds which change autonomic activity and improve the immune system. Nature involvement tends to boost the immunological defense mechanisms of the human body. Inhalation of natural substances affects immunological mechanisms and has been linked with increased production of anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic chemicals. Green spaces contain microorganisms that appear to boost the Immune system.
Trees and plants produce microbes ‘phytoncides’ that help the body fight against diseases and infections. The immune system of humans contains specialized cell Natural Killer cells that help fight infections and these microbes present in green spaces tend to help these cells.
Nature involvement and Neurological responses
Viewing scenes of nature results in restorative benefits. In response to natural sceneries, the Parasympathetic system dealing with fight or flight response slows down resulting in overall relaxation of the body and reducing stress levels. Decreased parasympathetic functioning is associated with more stable emotional functioning. In sum, there are soothing effects of green spaces on the brain which are linked with physical as well as mental wellbeing.
Physiological stress relief
Cortisol is a primary stress hormone and excess release of this hormone causes hypertension, cardiac diseases, headaches, and problems with digestion. Natural components tend to reduce physiological stress by reducing stress hormones and alleviate the risk of high blood pressure and heart attack. Walking in parks or viewing greenery has soothing effects on the human body and causes humans to lead a healthy and stress-free life.
Sleep is necessary for the normal functioning of the human body and for overall wellbeing. Sleep disorders are prevalent in people who are less exposed to nature. Sleep disorders and insomnia are directly linked to obesity, CVS disorders, and cognitive functions. Studies have shown those people who are close to nature have sound sleep and have improved physical and mental health.
Natural Deficit Disorder
It is a concept that children are spending less time outside as compared to previous generations and it can result in serious behavioral problems. The symptoms include diminished use of senses, physical and mental illnesses and reduced attention span, myopia, and adult obesity. However, research shows that exposure to green spaces can make children physically and emotionally and cause stress relief.
The therapeutic effect of Nature involvement
Nature assists people in coping with pain and discomfort. Viewing natural scenes gets people distracted from anguish and pain. People who are more involved in nature or live near green spaces recover fast from any medical illness as compared to others who are less involved. This led to the conclusion that not only nature is responsible for physical and mental well-being but also has a healing effect in case of diseases.
Social benefits of being in Nature
Reduced social isolation: Nature connects people to themselves and to the outer world. A sense of connectedness to the natural world reduces the feeling of social isolation in people. Community gardens and parks serve as places of social gatherings and by communication and sharing experiences people understand one another this pulls them out of their shells and is a significant factor responsible for the well-being of people.
Nature helps people to develop social bonds and interpersonal communications. Research has shown that people with trees and green spaces around their houses are strongly united and know more people and are concerned about supporting and helping neighbors. Unity then leads to trust, belonging acceptance, and connectedness which results in positive social interaction and well-being people.
Reduced crime and violence
In addition to a strong feeling of community, there are reduced risk of street crimes, less level of violence and aggressiveness between people, and a better capacity to cope with life’s responsibilities. Nature involvement helps to reduce hostility. There is a link between the usage of green space and a reduction in vandalism. Green initiatives were credited for lowering the incidence of vandalism.
Green spaces and parks are places where people usually meet with one another and this can strengthen communities and help people from minority groups or different cultural backgrounds become integrated. There is a positive relation between green spaces and a reduced crime rate. In poor urban neighborhoods, vegetation can reduce crime by boosting residents’ informal surveillance of the neighborhood.
Physiological, psychological, and social benefits show that nature involvement is much essential in human lives for their well-being. A man can have benefits from nature if he enjoys nature and adopts a routine to have a constant touch with nature.