By Terri Mudge
Nature is Captivating!
I have been captivated by the power of nature! When I stumbled on some research that proved its power in restoring our wellbeing, I paid attention. Here’s what I found.
Studies at a hospital in Pennsylvania from 1972-81 generated some interesting data about the power of nature. Identical hospital rooms on either side of the building were the same except the view from the windows–one side faced a brick wall, while the other side faced a small stand of trees. Over many years, the patients facing the natural environment required less pain medication and recovered a day sooner than those facing the brick wall. Patients gazing out at a natural scene were four times better off than their counterparts!
In another study, psychologists studied a group of parents living with their children in upstate New York. While many of the families experienced hardships and stresses when their children were growing up, those that lived in more natural environments seemed to withstand stresses better and show a higher level of self-esteem and lower stress.
Another study asked hundreds of parents of children with ADD (attention deficit disorder), again and again reports showed that those playing outside in nature or even simply viewing nature from inside, were happier and more likely to interact with friends.
Nature Draws Us In
What is it about the natural environment? How does this work? William James, an early psychologist from the 1800s explained “involuntary attention” as something that gets our attention without any mental effort on our part. Our natural environment is full of things that capture our attention involuntarily, such as water rippling in the wind, breezes blowing clouds across the sky and ocean currents sending waves ashore. And this restores us! In the same way food and water restore our bodies, we can benefit from nature restoring our mental functioning that takes a beating in everyday life.
Nature Restores Us
Psychologists refer to this as the “Attention Restoration Theory” (ART). One article by Adam Alter explains it this way:
“According to ART, urban environments are draining because they force us to direct our attention to specific tasks (e.g., avoiding the onslaught of traffic) and grab our attention dynamically, compelling us to “look here!” before telling us to instead “look over there!” These demands are draining — and they’re also absent in natural environments.”
Our natural environments demand nothing and yet they are ever-changing. When they move and shift, they grab our attention, require nothing, and provide an opportunity to restore our exhausted minds. Let’s challenge each other to take some time out this week to spend a couple hours with nature without any agenda of doing anything specific or urgent. Just be. Just soak it in and take note of how it changes your mood and mindset.
Source: Alter, Adam. “DailyGood: How Nature Resets Our Minds and Bodies.” DailyGood: How Nature Resets Our Minds and Bodies. DailyGood, 29 Mar. 2013. Web. 16 Mar. 2016.