Science shows what we already know: Nature makes us happier.
Science is trying to prove something that we intuitively always knew: nature has positive effects on the human mind; it makes us happier, healthier, and smarter.
Some authors such as Florence William with her book The Nature Fix – why nature makes us Happier, healthier and more creative and David Gessner are illuminating these new findings.
Our brain isn´t a tireless machine but on the contrary it fatigues easily. When we slow down we stop doing things. If still, we find ourselves in nature that makes us feel recharged and our mental performance improves.
In Nature our brain rests
David Strayer, cognitive psychologist, speaks of the effect of the third day in nature. He explains that after we immerse ourselves in nature for a prolonged time our mental space is cleans . He compares it to a windshield. He affirms that when we are in the nature our prefrontal cortex, which is the command center of the brain, begins to rest.
Equally so, it only takes 15 minutes of walking in the forest to feel the effects. The Japanese investigator Yoshifumi Miyazaki proved quantifiable changes in our physiology after 15 minutes in nature; lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, decreased blood pressure and heart rate.
In addition, Stephen Kaplan’s team proved that a 50 minute walk in the park improves attention span and short term memory. Meanwhile the same walk on a city street doesn’t have the same effect.
A therapy that costs nothing
“Imagine a therapy that doesn’t have known side effects. It´s easily available and could improve cognitive function while costing nothing,” wrote the investigators in their article. It exists, they continue, and it’s called “interacting with nature.”
Countless luminaries of history have dedicated hours to nature; caring for it, describing it, living and loving it.
For example, in 1865 Frederick Law Olmest, the landscape architect who designed Central Park in New York was convinced that the great spaces of green had to exist solely for the purpose of enjoying them. In those years he defended the Yosemite Valley from the California state government. “It is a scientific fact that the occasional contemplation of natural scenes of an impressive character. …is favorable for the health and vigor of men and especially for the health and vigor of their intellect.” Olmest didn’t base his words on scientific texts but on his intuition. There wasn’t evidence in those days but now science is starting to show the results.
Scientists and psychologists want to find solutions to real epidemics, such as obesity and depression among others. These problems are associated with too much time inside our houses and in front of screens. Neuroscience, science of the brain, is making great strides in this respect. They are now quantifying what was thought to be divine, instinctive, and mysterious in prior times.
As Strayer says all the results of science until today are consistent with the hypothesis that nature is good for human beings. Aas he affirms: “At the end of the day we go outside not because science says we have to but because of how it makes us feel.”
Words and Photography by Mariana