Why Do We Love Nature?

Some say it’s because landscapes remind us deeply of the lush habitat of the savanna – the favorable environment in which the biggest part of our evolutionary brain development is said to have taken place. There was 2016 research suggesting that just 30 minutes per week is enough to make a huge positive physical and mental difference in our lives:

People who visit parks for 30 minutes or more each week are much less likely to have high blood pressure or poor mental health than those who don’t, according to new research by Australian and UK environmental scientists…. parks offered health benefits including reduced risks of developing heart disease, stress, anxiety, and depression. ‘If everyone visited their local parks for half an hour each week there would be seven percent fewer cases of depression and nine percent fewer cases of high blood pressure’.

It could be argued that our human fascination with nature is hardwired into our psyche, a relic of our ancestral past where green, open spaces signaled safety and abundance. These landscapes, often untouched by the crazy pace of modern civilization, offer a momentary return to simplicity and tranquility. The idea that a mere 30 minutes each week spent in such environments could significantly uplift our spirits and our health is not just intriguing, it’s almost magical, if not essential for our physical and mental health.

What the New Study Found

Now, researchers are finding that a 40-minute walk in nature significantly improves executive control. This includes, “working memory, decision making, problem-solving and coordinating disparate tasks,” things that matter a lot in work and life, as you know.

And no, it wasn’t just the 40 minutes of exercise, because the study controlled for that. Half of the participants walked in a nearby urbanized setting, with a similar elevation to the more natural setting, to make sure that results were not due to the exercise of the walk. Exercise has its benefits, of course, but not as much as when in nature, they found.

Now these University of Utah researchers are looking into which kinds of natural settings are best for optimizing the brain’s executive functioning, and how long the exposure has to be for there to be an effect that makes it worth your time.

Really, how many people can easily find 40 minutes to take a walk? Chances are that often enough in those moments when you most need your brain to be at its sharpest, you are also involved in something that makes it hard to find 40 minutes for a stroll, somewhere green out there.

Therefore, what?

What Else Can Help

What if you don’t happen to have a park nearby? Even if you did have a park nearby, first you’d have to get to the park and then you’d have to get back home or to the office, and that all takes time. Who has that kind of time? You do, we all do because if we can’t get to the park, well then we can just bring the park to us. Plants. Yes, plants help us de-stress too, and the Huffington Post even tells us exactly which plants to get.

This from an earlier post:

But maybe you travel or don’t have the right exposure for plants. Ok then, did you know that “Fireplace For Your Home” offers gorgeous greenery with a running brook, sound and all, which can be accessed on YouTube and Netflix. The funny thing about the brain is that as smart as it is, it can’t always tell the difference between what’s real or imagined.

So, for example, when Harvard psychology professor, Ellen Langer, told hotel maids that their work was physical exercise their health measures improved, relative to the health measures of the hotel maids who thought they were just cleaning rooms. There were similar health benefits for seniors whom Langer instructed to imagine, and live for a period of time as if they had gone back in time and were much younger again.

Use your imagination. Bring to mind a time and place of green. Merge it with your breath. Breathing in through the nose, out through the nose. When the mind wanders bring the mind back to your beautiful green.

Practice, practice, practice, and see what happens… To work on this or something else, would love to hear from you [email protected]



Photo by Freepik

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About the Author: Madelaine Weiss
Madelaine Claire Weiss (LICSW, MBA, BCC) is a Licensed Psychotherapist, a Board Certified Executive-Career-Life Coach, and bestselling author of “Getting to G.R.E.A.T. 5-Step Strategy for Work and Life.” sfas

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