Jan 04, 2016 | By

Experiences in Nature Bring Health Benefits!

This may not come as a surprise, since most of us appreciate the good feelings we experience when enjoying nature, but scientific research is now validating physiological benefits correlated with these good feelings. In a series of studies at Stanford University (reported in the NY Times and elsewhere), Gregory Bratman and his Team found that volunteers who walked briefly through a lush, green portion of the Stanford campus were more attentive and happier than volunteers who strolled for the same amount of time near heavy traffic. More specifically, walking along the highway resulted in higher blood flow to their subgenual prefrontal cortex (a key part of the brain involved in mood) and a greater broodiness. Volunteers who strolled along quiet, tree-lined paths showed slight but meaningful improvements in their mental health, reduced dwelling on negative thoughts and less blood flow to the subgenual prefrontal cortex.  A study at UC Berkeley led by Jennifer Stellar, has also found that the awe we feel when touched by the beauty of nature, art and spirituality generate positive emotions and lower levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, proteins that signal the immune system to work harder. Sustained high levels of cytokines are associated with poorer health and disorders such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, Alzheimer’s and depression.

Enjoying nature is not just a self-indulgence – it is a healing experience.

One Response to “Experiences in Nature Bring Health Benefits!”

  1. Stephen H. Smith, M.D. says:

    Early in my career as an orthopaedic surgeon I came across an article in the New England Journal of Medicine describing what was known as Morita therapy as a treatment for neuroses. The article claimed that this Japanese, somewhat mystical therapy, was the only successful approach available to the treatment of neurosis at that time. One of the cornerstones of the treatment was to have the patient take a daily walk out in the wilds of nature and to keep a journal of his or her observations, at no time ever mentioning self in any way. How radical! How common sense!

    Having just finished The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World by Andrea Wulf, it is apparent that immersion in nature as therapy was something described in one way or another by a variety of naturalists at a time when Romanticism was becoming attached to the somewhat dull strictly descriptive scientific approach to the natural world. Here Goethe, an alleged Swedenborg reader had a significant influence on Humbolt, who for all his pantheism, nevertheless admitted to the will being an important ingredient is truly understanding nature.

    For a truer picture of how things really stand in regard to the importance of the will in understanding the deeper truths of the natural world one may want to tackle Karl Birjukov’s “Relativity Reviewed” in the Jan-Dec. 2015 volume of The New Philosophy.

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