Jan 04, 2016 | By George Gantz
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.