Environmental psychologists have argued that there is a value component added to the human-nature relationship. In general, many studies, like this 2013 “What are the Benefits of Interacting with Nature?” one in the International Journey of Environmental Research and Public Health, have confirmed that interactions with the Best In Nature can deliver a range of psychological well-being, cognitive, physiological, social, tangible and spiritual benefits and that access to green space and natural areas is important for facilitating activities that are beneficial for human well-being.
By staying close to nature, like when you’re enjoying camping in outdoors, like covered in our “Natural Healthy Concepts” article, you feel more grateful and appreciative of what nature has to offer you. One of the important benefits of enjoying camping is seeing the wonders of the world outside automatically fosters within you the urge to be part of it and protect it.
Have you ever noticed nature has some ‘soft fascinations’ that help in restoring attention when we get distracted or mentally tied down, which is called the“Attention Restoration Theory” (ATR), according to Wikipedia. Quoting Wilipedia:
ATR asserts that people can concentrate better after spending time in nature, or even looking at scenes of nature.
According to a 1995 Elsevier Journal of Environmental Psychology “The Restorative Benefits of Nature: Toward An Integrative Framework” study, found directed attention plays an important role in human information processing; its fatigue, in turn, has far-reaching consequences. Attention Restoration Theory provides an analysis of the kinds of experiences that lead to recovery from such fatigue. Natural environments turn out to be particularly rich in the characteristics necessary for restorative experiences.
The soft fascinations are nothing but soothing natural elements such as flowing flowers, or cricket sounds at night and the crackling of a campfire (1) , a gentle breeze, sound of leaves rustling, ocean waves, or gentle sunshine, sound of raindrops hitting vegetation, sound of thunder in the distance, that we all love to be close to, except maybe the thunder.
When we stay close to these soft, pleasant aspects of nature, we do not have to put any effort into attending to it, and we effortlessly immerse ourselves into the experience, allowing us space for mental reflection, determined a 2018 ResearchGate “Attention Restoration Theory: Exploring the Role of Soft Fascination and Mental Bandwidth” study.A simple activity as walking or hiking, according to a 2015 Stanford University study published in the Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences yields measurable mental benefits and may reduce risk of depression.
The study found that participants who went on a 90-min walk through a natural environment reported lower levels of rumination and showed reduced neural activity in an area of the brain linked to risk for mental illness compared with those who walked through an urban environment.
Even any physical activity like exercising or running out in nature is better for mental health than physical activity in other environments (gym, etc.), finding each additional use of a natural environment per week is associated with about a 6 percent lower risk of poor mental health according to a 2013 Elsevier Social Science and Medicine “Is Physical Activity in Natural Environments Better For Mental Health Than Physical Activity in Other Environments?” study.
Even beyond the 5 senses, evidence like a 2017 study from the International Journal of Environmental Residential Public Health study (NIH) is emerging for other non-visual pathways for nature experiences to be effective. These include ingestion or inhalation of phytoncides, negative air ions and microbes. One Korean Journal of Radiology (NIH) 2010 study found that people who were shown pictures of scenic, natural landscapes had heightened activity in areas of the brain associated with recall of happy memories compared to people shown urban landscapes. Famous architect and designer, Frank Lloyd Wright had this to say about nature:
Study Nature, love Nature, stay close to Nature. It will never fail you.
Natural Restful Sleep
As discussed in our previous article “Good Health Naturally“, and according to Wikipedia, “circadian rhythms” refer to the shifts in the body’s biological processes that happen over 24 hours, partly in response to changes in light and darkness.
But, while our ancestors may have gone to bed early and risen with the sun, that’s not true today, said Wright, a professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Many people get little outdoor time during the day and little natural sunlight, then stay up late, eyes trained to artificial light from glowing computer, phone and TV screens.
In a 2013 University of Colorado at Boulder “A Week’s Worth of Camping Synchs Internal Clock to Sunrise and Sunset” study, Wright’s team found that a week of summer camping with no smartphones, was able reset people’s internal clocks to be in rhythm with nature’s.
Melatonin levels started to rise around sunset, and the campers’ “natural biological night” kicked in about two hours earlier. Accordingly, the campers turned in much earlier than their usual midnight bedtime at home. They also woke up earlier, closer to sunrise, with natural sunlight, releasing serotonin, making them more active, just as nature intended. Wright encouraged people to get out in the sun when they can each day, then minimize bright artificial light at night. That’s particularly important, Wright continued,
natural sleep cycles is disrupted when it comes to blue/green light like the glow from your phone or computer screen (after natural darkness).
Artificial blue or green light unnaturally elevates cortisol levels at night, which disrupts sleep and introduces a host of health issues relating to body-fat levels, insulin resistance, and system inflammation, determined a 2012 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition “Sleep Restriction Leads to Increased Activation of Brain Regions Sensitive to Food Stimuli” study. One older 1975 Science America study reviewed by the NIH found that generally light cycles involved in night and day and changing day length appear to be associated with rhythmic changes in mammalian biological functions such as body temperature.
According to a 2014 Physical Therapy study reviewed by the NIH, cortisol is negatively associated with insulin sensitivity. Prolonged stress may perpetuate “cortisol dysfunction”, creating widespread inflammation, and pain. It also contributes to sleep deficit, and a disruption of neuro-regulation of appetite, found a Brigham Health “Using Light-Emitting Devices Before Bed May Impact Sleep” study; and stress-induced eating, particularly snacks, and weight gain, per a 2007 Psychoneuroendocrinology (N)H) study.
Another example of the negative effects of exposure to blue light, particularly at night, is preventing the release of melotonin and restful sleep, is clearly confirmed in a 2011 Neuroloical Endocrinol Letter study reviewed by the NIH. College students were warned about having lower levels of melatonin due to using computers at night, which is why their sleep was being affected. Not only does artificial light affect your sleep but it also affects you in so many other unhealthy ways as well.
For, example, most Americans are deficient in vitamin D, a key function of natural light is the synthesis of vitamin D, according to a 1991 Elsevier Physiology and Behavior “Bright Light Effects on Body Temperature, Alertness, EEG and Behavior” study, and if natural light isn’t available, guess what happens to your vitamin D? There’s even been some research linking prolonged exposure to high-intensity unnatural light, or blue light, with some forms of cancer. One 2008 Chronobiology International “Light at Night Co‐distributes with Incident Breast but not Lung Cancer in the Female Population of Israel” study conducted of a 10-year period, found that a sample group of over 1,670 women exposed to higher intensity light in their sleeping environment had 22 percent higher odds of developing breast cancer than those who slept in total darkness.
The researchers blamed it on hormone disruption caused by melatonin suppression. What’s troubling, in other studies, this has grim implications for workers who do shift work. Studies, like a 2012 Elsevier “Case–Control Study of Shift-Work and Breast Cancer Risk in Danish Surses: Impact of shift Systems” study have shown that nurses who worked rotating shifts at midnight are more at risk for breast cancer compared to nurses with permanent day work.
The lack of melatonin in your body causes oxidative-stress issues as well. Melatonin acts as an antioxidant too, and plays a role in the anti-aging process, determined a 2014 International Journal of Molecular Sciences (NIH) study.
Scientists now understand the fundamental mechanism behind aging because they’re the same markers found in neuro-degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, as confirmed in a 2018 Anatomical Society Aging Cell (NIH) study. According to research there’s even a connection between high-intensity light, the lack of melatonin and cardiovascular disease, per a NIH 2019 “Melatonin: What You Need To Know” study. It appears that the lower level of melatonin increases oxidation and inflammation in the cardiovascular system, as this 2010 Journal of Pineal Research “Melatonin and Circadian Biology in Human Cardiovascular Disease” study concluded and said,
Therefore, melatonin rhythmicity appears to have crucial roles in various cardiovascular functions as an antioxidant, an anti‐inflammatory agent chronobiotic and possibly as an epigenetic regulator.
So that is why spending a night outdoors is a good escape from your mind to wind down, reducing stress, and soak in nature at its finest, found a 2020 Cornell University “Spending Time in Nature Reduces Stress” study. Being in the outdoors has shown tremendous positive effects on physical and mental health. When your body senses that it is getting dark outside, it produces and releases melatonin, the hormone which regulates sleep and wakefulness.
But we all struggle with those nights when we need to watch one more episode or read one more chapter, or just not want to get up in the morning because of feeling depression, as related in a Psychology Today 2016 “Can’t Get Out of Bed” research. The exposure to fluorescent or blue lights, hinders the production of melatonin and the process of falling asleep. The NIH has a in depth “Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep” study on understanding sleep and is worth your time in reading.
So the next time you need to wind down and improve your mental health, consider spending “a night under the stars”, per a 2014 Michigan Medicine “Walking Off Depression and Beating Stress Outdoors? Nature Group Walks Linked to Improved Mental Health” study, to reap the health benefits of sleeping outdoors. Besides, consider what it’s doing for keeping your body-clock regulated. Stanford University, in a 2015 “Stanford Researchers Find Mental Health Prescription: Nature” study, finds nature is your perfect mental health prescription.
For this reason, taking a break from the screens and artificial light because you’re outdoors camping in natural light and darkness, is the key factor that will improve this process and give you a better night’s rest, as covered in our “Natural Healthy Concepts” article. The one priceless takeaway when you venture into nature is having the quality time with yourself which allows you to practice “mindfulness”, and the amazing health benefits associated with it, per a American Psychological Association (APA) 2012 “What Are the Benefits of Mindfulness. Under the Circumstances of Routines, Commitments to Work, Family, and Friends” study. It is almost impossible to find time for yourself these days, and that’s why being mindful is important.
Re-Centering and Being Mindful
Being in nature, or enjoying camping, or even viewing scenes of nature, reduces anger, fear, and stress and increases pleasant, happy feelings. In a 2017 peer-reviewed PLOS|ONE “Beyond Knowing Nature: Contact, Emotion, Compassion, Meaning, and Beauty Are Pathways to Nature Connection” study focused on the affective components of associating with nature. The authors suggested that being close to nature evokes positive emotions. Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical well being, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones like cortisol.
Nature soothes you and allows you to live in the moment practicing “mindfulness”, re centering yourself, your mind is clear and absent of negative, worrisome thoughts and ruminations. In addition, nature is a “healing environment” which helps us cope with pain and heal quicker, as confirmed in a 2012 Elsevier Building and Environment “Healing Environment: A Review of the Impact of Physical Environmental Factors On Users” study. Because we are genetically programmed to find trees, plants, water, and other nature elements engrossing, we are absorbed by nature scenes and distracted from our pain and discomfort, even actually feeling happy and more alive, allowing for healing to occur, as well, according to a University Of Minnesota “How Does Nature Impact Our Wellbeing?” study. Nature can be a “healthy distraction”.
An older 2001 study published in Environment and Behavior reviewed by Sage Journals conducted a study at a 6 low-rise apartment community, using a survey with both verbal and visual material, provided considerable support for the premise that having natural elements or settings in the view from the window contributes substantially to residents’ satisfaction with their neighborhood and with diverse aspects of their sense of well-being.
What people see isn’t the only aspect of the natural environment that has an impact on your health. Gary W. Evans, PhD, a professor of human-environment relations at a 2001 Cornell University “Even Low-Level Office Noise Can Increase Health Risks and Lower Task Motivation For Workers” study, researched the effect of city and urban noise pollution. Evans has found that noisy environments have effects that go beyond hearing damage. In a study of first and second graders, for instance, he found that children attending a school with airplanes flying overhead scored 20 percent lower on word recognition tests. Getting out in the serenity and “soft-fascination” sounds of nature gives you a reprieve from the noisy “hustle and bustle” sounds of modern society.
Benefits seem to apply even in seasonal affective disorder (SAD) individuals, according to a older 1995 American Journal of Psychiatry (NIH) study, which found that bright light had a marked antidepressant effect and several patients were able to maintain the antidepressant response throughout the winter months.
This is nicely demonstrated in another, older 1984, now classic Science (NIH) “View Through a Window May Influence Recovery From Surgery” study, of patients who underwent gallbladder surgery; half had a view of trees and half had a view of a wall. According to the physician who conducted the study, Robert Ulrich, the patients with the view of trees tolerated pain better, appeared to nurses to have fewer negative effects, and spent less time in a hospital. Ulrich’s theory said that humans have a deep-rooted affinity towards nature, which is due to the thousands of years that early humans had spent living amid the wild landscapes. Ulrich said,
We have a kind of biologically prepared disposition to respond favorably to nature because we evolved in nature.
According to Scientific America 2012 “How Hospital Gardens Help Patients Heal” study, hospital gardens turn out to have medical benefits. According to the research, just three to five minutes spent looking at views dominated by trees, flowers or water can begin to reduce anger, anxiety and pain and to induce relaxation, according to various studies of healthy people that measured physiological changes in blood pressure, muscle tension, or heart and brain electrical activity. Quoting the study,
The notion that the fresh breezes, dappled sunlight and fragrant greenery of a garden can be good for what ails us has its roots in ancient tradition and common sense.
It’s no different for modern humans, due to this fact that staying close to nature brings a feeling of positively and happiness in us. Another Ulrich University of Minnesota “What is Happening in Healthcare Settings Today?”study has shown similar results with scenes from just having nature’s live plants in hospital rooms.
Furthermore, time in nature or viewing nature scenes increases our ability to pay attention. Because humans find nature inherently interesting, we can naturally focus on what we are experiencing out in nature. This also provides a respite for our overactive minds, refreshing us for new tasks and new challenges, as covered in a North Carolina State Extension 2020 “Engage Nature for Good Health” research.
One of the most intriguing areas of current research is the impact of nature on general well being. Are you moody, anxious, depressed, having trouble remembering things? According to a 2009 Trends in Cognitive Science (NIH) study, natural light is the modulator of cognitive brain function, and it’s not only visual but non-visual which demonstrate that the wavelength, duration and intensity of light exposure modulate brain responses to non-visual cognitive tasks.
Per a Harvard Medical School 2018 “Sour Mood Getting You Down? Get Back to Nature” study, you can reverse these symptoms by simply taking a walk in the woods! Another 2012 Journal of Effect Disorders study reviewed by the NIH has shown that people suffering from mild to major depressive disorders showed significant mood uplifting when exposed to nature. Not only that, but they also felt more motivated and energized to recover and get back to normalcy.
The Best In Nature undoubtedly is the best healer. Spending time in nature awakens our senses and provides clarity and allows you to completely enjoy the best of camping or some other activity. Many studies, like this University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 1999 “The Power of Trees” study, have proved that people who have a close connection to the landscapes are happier from the inside, and they indulge themselves in positive thinking and have better coping mechanisms than others.
A 2012 “Researchers Find Time in Wild Boosts Creativity, Insight and Problem Solving” study at the University of Kansas found that spending more time outdoors and less time with our electronic devices can increase our problem-solving skills and improve creative abilities. Want an example involving children? Children with Attention Deficit Disorders concentrate better after a walk in the park, which related to better performance, and heightened concentration, according to a 2009 Sage Journal of Attention Disorders “Children With Attention Deficits Concentrate Better After Walk in the Park” study.
A strong human-nature relationship means emotional balance, more focus, solution-oriented thinking, and an overall resilient approach to life. Other studies by Ulrich, Kim, and Cervinka, like a 2014 Frontiers In Psychology reviewed by the NIH, showed that time in nature or scenes of nature are associated with a positive mood and psychological well being, meaningfulness, and vitality.
In her book “Positivity“, Barbara Fredrickson, in a University of Minnesota “Increase Positivity” study cited spending time in nature as one of her five specific tips to help increase positive emotions and said:
The environment can play a big role in triggering or soothing stress, and researchers say the more green in your life, the better you’ll feel.
This experience of connection with nature may be explained by studies that used an MRI to measure brain activity, according to a 2010 Korean Journal of Radiology study reviewed by the NIH, which confirmed the functional neuroanatomy associated with natural and urban scenic views in the human brain. When participants viewed nature scenes, the parts of the brain associated with empathy and love, lit up, but when they viewed urban scenes, the parts of the brain associated with fear and anxiety, were activated.
It appears as though nature inspires feelings that connect us to each other and our environment. A 2020 “Minimum Time Dose in Nature to Positively Impact the Mental Health of College-Aged Students, and How to Measure It: A Scoping Review” study and published in the Frontiers of Psychology, concluded that minimum time dose in nature to positively impact the mental health of college-aged students by defining the minimum amount of time in nature that results in positive impact on mental health and well-being for college-aged students; to describe the types of engagement with nature that elicited the impact; and to describe and explore the most commonly used measure of effect pre-time and post-time in nature.
In an earlier 2015 Frontiers In Psychology “How Might Contact With Nature Promote Human Health? Promising Pechanisms and a possible Central Pathway” study, that pathway is referred to as “enhanced immune functioning” and emerged as one promising candidate for a central pathway between nature and health. There may also be other central contributors to the nature-health link such as deep relaxation, attention restoration and impulse control, sleep, and social ties seem particularly worthy of attention.
The findings here suggest that such “green space oases” should incorporate plants, especially trees, soil, and water (preferably moving), and should be designed to induce feelings of deep relaxation, awe, and vitality. Providing these green oases, especially in areas where health risks are high and landscaping is sparse, might be an inexpensive, powerful public health intervention and address persisting health inequalities.
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences (ACES) team reviewed a 2009 study by psychologists at Oberlin College, who randomly assigned 76 undergraduates to take a ten-minute walk in the woods beside a small river or in an urban setting near buildings and concrete parking lots, and then to spend five minutes taking in the scene. The students who walked in the woods experienced not only more positive emotions, but also demonstrated significantly greater attention capacity and ability to reflect on life’s problems than those in the urban setting.
Staying close to nature and enjoying the Best In Nature, observing all the little and significant elements of it, and appreciating it from the very core, is therapeutic and self-healing, in preventing depression disorders, as confirmed in a 2013 Journal of Affective Disorder (NIH) study. Even by saying and doing nothing, we can learn so much from connecting and just being a part of our natural surroundings.
It gives us the perspective for healthier living, uncomplicated and worry-free, the motivation to carry on, and the energy to keep trying. For there is no bond more primitive and ingrained in us than our love for nature and nature’s care for us. Oh, and by the way, do you think nature is ever concerned? Think about this statement for a moment:
All the trees are losing their leaves, and not one of them is worried
, by Donald Miller.
The Healing Power Of Awe
One of the best things about nature is nature heals, and it heals by creating a sense of awe! The sense of awe isn’t simply one of the positive emotive responses that springs from exposure to nature. Awe is the prime mover, the root from which all desirable emotional starts such as happiness, contentment, giddy ecstasy, amusement, and so on, emerge.
Craig L Anderson’s research published in the Journal “Emotions”, concluded that awe was the only element that predicted whether people would feel less stressed and more “healed.” Further, awe, such as seeing a magnificent waterfall (2), for example, was the only emotion directly associated with nature.
People would find contentment with their job, or gratitude from a stranger’s kind act, or joy at watching a favored sports team win, but only exposure to nature could induce the emotion of “awe”. Said Anderson,
Only awe could predict whether people get better [from PTSD].
Yes, that sense of “awe”, one of the most incredible benefits of experiencing nature, which growing research has shown is very healthy for humans, especially for the mind, which can make you happier, healthier, more humble, and more connected to the people around you. The APA researchers in a 2015 “Awe, the Small Self, and Prosocial Behavior” study describe awe as,
Have you ever stood in the surf’s edge on the ocean and looked at the horizon and as far as you can see in any direction in your peripheral vision, is water! And, if you’re real observant, you’ll even be able see the curvature of the Earth by focusing on the horizon! Now, that’s a awe-inspiring moment if there’s ever been one!
It should not only make you feel more humble, a healthy positive emotion, because you realize you are just a small part of something much greater, according to a 2017 Journal of Personal Social Psychology (NIH); but also make you feel less rushed, less impatient, and more in tuned to savor the “hear and now”, or a true healthy mindfulness, enhancing well being, determined a 2012 Sage Journals “Awe Expands People’s Perception of Time, Alters Decision Making, and Enhances Well-Being” study. One APA 2015 “Positive Affect and Markers of Inflammation: Discrete Positive Emotions Predict Lower Levels of Inflammatory Cytokines” study found positive emotions were the result, which are markers of good health, especially by the awe we feel when touched by the beauty of nature, art, and spirituality, with lower levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines.
Cytokines are proteins that signal the immune system to work harder. Sustained high levels of cytokines are associated with poorer health and such disorders as type-2 diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and even Alzheimer’s disease and clinical depression, found a 2014 Psychology Bulletin study reviewed by the NIH. Research has also shown awe can sharpen our brains and make us think more clearly because we are focusing on the “hear-and-now”.
Stressed-Induced Eating Unhealthy Foods
As many studies have shown, such as this 2014 Minerva Endocrinology study reviewed by the NIH, spending times in nature camping or other activities, reduces stress levels and the release of cortisol and stress-induced eating, or cravings for unhealthy foods such as junk foods and snacks, and allows for more healthy eating, especially if you plan to do some fishing and cook the fresh healthy fish you catch on a campfire.
Being in nature camping or doing any type activity will prevent you from being tempted in eating unhealthy fatty foods, junk foods, fried foods, or processed foods and the like, not only are they really unhealthy for you, but also, because before you know it, you’ll be putting extra pounds on. According to an NIH review of a 2007 Obesity (Silver Springs) study, for example, which followed 42,000 middle-age and older women for eight years, increased consumption of unhealthy fats, trans fats, especially, but also saturated fats-was linked to weight gain.
Nature Promotes Healthy Eating
If you plans things right for your jaunt into nature, you’ll also load your Yetti cooler with fresh lean grass-fed finished beef steaks ad other cuts to grill on a open fire, or free-range chicken, and brown eggs (A); fresh wild-caught salmon steaks (A), incase you don’t catch any fish; fresh organic fruits and veggies, raw nuts and edible flower seeds (A) for snacks, perhaps from your own backyard garden; organic whole grains, natural fermented foods, fresh herbs and spices, and antioxidant drinks like espresso, fruit infused water, (A)and blueberry-Maca smoothies (A), as illustrated in our “What To Eat For Health” article, which you should never be without.
Here’s an interesting and fascinating story we ran across in our research of the role of nature in shaping human behavior, which was mentioned in Marco Polo’s diary, and confirmed in a British Psychological Society “The Roots and Branches of Environmental Psychology” study. It said that in 1272 when Polo was traveling through the different parts of Western Asia, he noted that the people of Kerman were polite, humble, and well-behaved, while the people in Persia, which was in the neighborhood, were cruel, unkind, and threating.
When exploring the reason for this stark behavioral difference, the people said that it was the ‘soil’ that was responsible for it. And as the story goes, when the King ordered soil from Isfahan in Persia and kept it in his banquet hall, his men started to shower each other with curse words and assaulted their folks. Embrace the power of Nature and take care of it!
Staying close to nature adds a sense of value toward the self, others, and toward Mother Nature itself research has shown. This connection builds a strong bond and lets the way for gratitude and appreciation. A Sage Journal 2007 “Connectivity With Nature as a Measure of Environmental Values” study showed that respondents who had higher connectivity with nature and spent more time outdoors were more environmentally responsible, concerned, and happier in their interpersonal relationships.
We hope you enjoyed reading about the Best In Nature benefits which can be gained through simply connecting with it, even if it’s simply a stroll outside. What are your thoughts? And, should you have questions, please leave them below.
(1) Silent Watcher video
(2) Meditation Relax Clips
(A) Follow these links to product reviews and more detailed information, documentation, and to purchase these incredible healthy nutrient-dense foods.