There are many studies that show the wide range of benefits of spending time in nature.
There has been a large number of studies measuring different physiological reactions as well as verbal responses that show that exposure to nature, even if it is only viewing it can reduce stress. A Japanese study from 2013 where forested and urban areas were used as test sites, and participants were asked to sit and observe the scenery (both forest and urban sites) showed that in the forested areas participants showed higher parasympathetic nervous system activity, lower heart rate, lower blood pressure, less negative emotions and better moods, all signs of stress reduction.
Another study in Japan looked at the effects on the brain of a person looking at plants and found that it had a positive effect that was measurable. People looked at potted plants, a plant with flower, a plant without flower and at a cylinder similar to the pots. The brain’s alpha rhythms were measured. These indicate a wakeful relaxed state. The results showed that when viewing the flowering plant the relaxed alert state was the highest, followed by the plant without flowers and at last the cylindrical pots. In a second study, researchers had people look at either a hedge, a concrete fence or a mix between hedge and concrete fence. The results showed that the green hedge induced the most relaxed states, whereas the concrete fence induced stress.
Even only watching recordings of nature can reduce stress. In a study with 120 participants, they were exposed to view a 10 minute stressful video about accidents and then 1 out of 6 ten minute videos featuring either natural or urban settings. The people who viewed the nature videos reported more positive feelings and had better results in stress indicating measurements, like heart rate, blood pressure, muscle tension, leading researchers to conclude that nature can help you recover more quickly and completely from stressful situations. The ones exposed to urban videos, had not completely recovered from stress after 10 minutes.
Students from the University of Michigan were assigned to take a 50 minute walk, either in a tree lined park or on a busy street. They performed a memory task, where they had to remember and repeat an increasing number of digits, before and after the walk. Performance was significantly better after the walk in the natural environment but not after walking on the street.
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