Updated: May 25, 2021
“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God.” Anne Frank - The Diary of a Young Girl
As our aspirations grow, so too can our stress levels, especially when it comes to balancing the rigors of career and family life. Those finding themselves in this predicament, sometimes seek solace in the conventional bar crawl, while those in more unbearable situations may even opt for prescribed medication.
While this may be the solution for some, others may not be looking in the right places. A lot of research suggests that our immediate surroundings impact and influence our stress levels. This in turn, has a direct effect on our bodies. These studies emphasize, that not only is our disposition impacted, but our nervous, immune and endocrine systems also function differently. As we continue in this state, so too, will our anxiety levels rise. This has been proven to lead to feelings of depression, high blood pressure and general tension in the body. If we counteract this, by immersing ourselves in a more pleasant environment, this could all be overturned!
On this issue, the Norwegian Ministry of Environment suggests that choosing nature or the natural environment as this option, could be the solution. They suggest that since mankind has walked this earth, little has changed in our sensory apparatus. In fact, our genetic makeup has not changed more than 0.003% over the past 50,000 years.
As a species, we have never detached ourselves completely from nature, regardless of how developed the world has become. Many experts in this field of study, hold the opinion that nature appeals to our basic instincts. This in turn, assists us in establishing mental balance, when modern life becomes unbearable.
Renowned Harvard and Duke University biologist, Professor Wilson, believes that life without contact with nature is actually an unhealthy situation to be in. There is research in this area, which even shows that a simple plant or aquarium in an office environment, can help reduce stress and anxiety.
Pain and General Wellbeing
Dr. Robert Ulrich, a pioneer in Evidence Based Design (applied to the design and layout of health facilities), conducted a study in this field. He concluded that patients with views of trees, coped with pain much better and spent less time in hospitals, as compared to patients without a view of some form of nature.
Dr. Ulrich also suggests that time spent in nature, or even views of nature, are associated with a more optimistic mood, liveliness and a greater level of general psychological wellbeing.
Again, because of our inherent connection with nature, spending time in this environment, can also help with our attention spans. Human beings will more often than not, find some aspect of nature very interesting. This interest can in itself, provide a much needed break or refresher from our daily routines. It can also motivate us to take on the challenge the tasks which lie ahead.
Dr. Andrea Taylor of the University of Illinois, has also explored the impact of the natural environment on diverse populations of children diagnosed with ADHD. Here it was shown that this form of therapy, increased attention spans of these children.
The University of Illinois has examined the behavior and attitude of tenants at public housing developments in Chicago, who had access to ‘green’ spaces and compared them to those without.
It was found that those who interacted with the natural environment had a more positive outlook on life and a greater sense of community spirit. This was also accompanied by lower levels of crime and domestic violence, in these poverty-stricken communities.
Nature, FMRI and Brain Activity
Even in studies utilizing Functional Magnetic Response Imaging (FMRI) to observe human brain activity, it was shown that when subjects viewed scenes of nature, the brain segments linked to love and compassion were stimulated. This was in direct contrast to the brain segments which were stimulated by fear and anxiety when metropolitan scenes were shown.
Smart Phones, TVs and Computer Screens
Dr. Netta Weinstein, a leading researcher on the effects of technology on human behavior, associates extensive use of smart phones, TVs and computers, with negative impacts on human connectivity and relationships. Large amounts of time spent in front of these devices has also been linked to depression. If you are able to relate to
this situation, why not opt for spending a bit less time in front of these devices and consider allocating more time to outdoor activities?
Benefits of ‘The Green’
All of this evidence suggests that making time at some point, to immerse yourself in nature, could be the stress reliever you have been searching for all along. Some of you may even experience the ripple effect of your overall health being boosted, for just being in nature, persuades us to get in some much-needed exercise. If doing this in a group it can even improve your social interactions, as you are now in a much less stressful environment.
Findings in the Environmental Science and Technology journal show that people exhibit more positive moods and overall increase in self-esteem, just by spending a few minutes outside, as part of their daily routines.
Some Simple Suggestions to Incorporate Nature
Find a way to do your activities outside. This could include:
Doing your light reading in the garden instead of at a desk or in bed
Warming up before your gym session with a small jog within the vicinity of your gym rather than on the treadmill
Get your rejuvenation by substituting some evening cups of coffee, with a quick stroll around the office building
Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, have directly related activities such as these, to fostering more innovative ideas in the workplace.
Just a Short Drive Away
When it comes to our mental health and wellbeing, the drawbacks of becoming more and more metropolitan in our lifestyles seem to outweigh the gains. This being said, we should bear in mind that there are communities around the world, where people grasp onto limited available green spaces. Some have to wait all year, for a couple weeks annual vacation, so they can venture off to immerse themselves in nature.
Meanwhile, right here in Trinidad & Tobago, we have a splendid natural environment, with a wide array of breathtaking features. A lot of these options, are just a short drive away!
Visit https://www.coolblueadventures.com/ for exciting ways to experience some of them!