Nature at its best makes us feel less negative, helps to direct towards to positive things.
The biophilia hypothesis (BH) is the belief that humans are genetically predisposed to be attracted to nature. It states that all humans inherently love the natural world. This idea that we are drawn to and need nature was first put forth by a man named Edward O. Wilson in his book Biophilia (1984).
The idea that humans have an innate love and need for nature has been adapted to many different areas of study. BH has been used to support the idea that humans are healthier when they’re connected to nature. BH has even become popular within the movement of green design, reusing materials, and eco-friendly architecture.
In 1991, the researcher Roger Ulrich developed Stress Reduction Theory (SRT), based on numerous studies, notably those carried out in hospital settings, to explain our emotional and physiological reactions to natural elements. SRT states that looking at scenery containing natural elements – like greenery or water – creates positive emotions and feelings like interest, pleasure, and calm. It has a restorative effect, easing our state of alert following a stressful situation. Our response is then improved rapidly and spontaneously
Also Rachel and Stephen Kaplan’s Attention Restoration Theory (ART) (Kaplan & Kaplan 1989 & 1995) suggests that mental fatigue and concentration can be improved by time spent in, or looking at nature. The capacity of the brain to focus on a specific stimulus or task is limited and results in ‘directed attention fatigue’. ART proposes that exposure to natural environments encourages more effortless brain function, thereby allowing it to recover and replenish its directed attention capacity.
More on Kaplans’ theory you find from the article linked here:
Ohly, Heather et. al.:
Attention Restoration Theory: A systematic review of the attention restoration potential of exposure to natural environments.
Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B: Critical Reviews. Volume 19, No. 7, 2016, pp. 305-343.
According to Kaplans’ theory (ref. Ohly, Heather et. al., 2016), the natural environment must have four properties in order to provide this restorative effect:
- Extent: the scope to feel immersed in the environment.
- Being away: providing an escape from habitual activities.
- Soft fascination: aspects of the environment that capture attention effortlessly.
- Compatibility: individuals must want to be exposed to and appreciate the environment.
It is thought that soft fascination plays the key role, with the other three properties enhancing or sustaining fascination.
These research results indicate that residential green space may be beneficial for intellectual and behavioral development of children living in urban areas. These findings are relevant for policy makers and urban planners to create an optimal environment for children to develop their full potential.
It also seems true that those, who are excluded or live in poverty, are more likely to benefit from the restorative effects. As the park is a free access environment, the improvement of its recreational possibilities may especially benefit those with fewer opportunities for chargeable free time activities.
Living in areas with green spaces significantly reduces income-related health inequalities, counteracting the effect of deprivation. Green areas or parks level out welfare gaps.
One recent study (Nurminen et al. 2021) suggests that exposure to an agricultural environment (comprising non-irrigable land, fruit trees and berry plantations, pastures, natural pastures, land principally occupied by agriculture with significant areas of natural vegetation, and forestry) early in life is inversely associated with the risk of type 1 diabetes.
Nature not only improves health, it helps people to feel happier.
From: Varpu Wiens, RMH Online training: Promoting Welfare and Citizenship in Rural Communitites, June 9th, 2021.
Baklien, Børge; Ytterhus, Borgunn & Bongaardt, Rob
When Everyday Life Becomes a Storm on the Horizon: Families’ Experiences of Good Mental Health while Hiking in Nature
Anthropological Medicine, Vol. 23, No. 1, 2016: pp. 42-53.
This article challenges the strong belief in nature as having an innate health-providing effect, the biophilia hypothesis, by examining what Norwegian families with young children experience when walking in the forest. It shows that a hiking trip clears space for the family in their everyday lives which is largely dominated by relations with non-family members at both work and leisure. The families experience that they actively generate a different existence with a sense of here-and-now presences that can strengthen core family relations and also provide the opportunity to pass down experiences that can be recollected and realized by future generations.
Rigolon, Alessendro; Browning, Matthew; McAnirlin, Olivia & Yoon, Hyunseo:
Green Space and Health Equity: A Systematic Review on the Potential of Green Space to Reduce Health Disparities.
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Vol. 18, no. 5, 2021.
Disadvantaged groups worldwide, such as low-income and racially/ethnically minoritized people, experience worse health outcomes than more privileged groups, including wealthier and white people. This article uses the preferred reporting items for systematic reviews and meta-analyses (PRISMA) method and search five databases (CINAHL, Cochrane, PubMed, Scopus, and Web of Science) to look for articles that examine whether socioeconomic status (SES) or race/ethnicity modify the green space-health associations. The review researchers found lower-SES people show more beneficial effects than affluent people, particularly when concerning public green spaces/parks rather than green land covers/greenness. No notable differences was found in the protective effects of green space between racial/ethnic groups. Collectively, these results suggest green space might be a tool to advance health equity and provide ways forward for urban planners, parks managers, and public health professionals to address health disparities.
Gianfredi, Vincenza et.al.:
Association between Urban Greenspace and Health: A Systematic Review of Literature.
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Vol. 18, no. 10, 2021.
The current review aimed to explore the association between urban greenspaces and health indicators. Almost all the included studies found a positive association between urban greenspace and both objectively measured physical activity and mental health outcomes. However, only guaranteeing access is not enough. Indeed, important elements are maintenance, renovation, closeness to residential areas, planning of interactive activities, and perceived security aspects. Overall, despite some methodological limitations of the included studies, the results have shown almost uniquivocally that urban greenspaces harbor potentially beneficial effects on physical and mental health and well-being.
Rojas-Rueda, David; Nieuwenhuijsen, Mark; Garscon, Mireia, Perez-Leon, Daniela & Mudu, Pierpaolo:
Green spaces and Mortality: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Cohort Studies.
The Lancet. Planetary Health. Vol. 3, no. 11, 2019: epp. 469-477.
Green spaces have been proposed to be a health determinant, improving health and wellbeing through different mechanisms. This study systematically reviews the epidemiological evidence from longitudinal studies that have investigated green spaces and their association with all-cause mortality. The researchers found evidence of an inverse association between surrounding greenness and all-cause mortality. Interventions to increase and manage green spaces should therefore be considered as a strategic public health intervention.
Rossiter Hunter, MaryCarol; Gillespie Brenda W & Chen, Sophie Yu-Pu
Urban Nature Experiences Reduce Stress in the Context of Daily Life Based on Salivary Biomarkers.
Frontiers in Psychology, No. 4, 2019.
This study describes the relationship between duration of a nature experience (NE), and changes in two physiological biomarkers of stress – salivary cortisol and alpha-amylase. The results provide a validated starting point for healthcare practitioners prescribing a nature pill to those in their care. This line of inquiry is timely in light of expanding urbanization and rising healthcare costs.