How Nature Heals

Are you feeling tired? Stressed? Fatigued? Socially exhausted? It may be a matter of your environment, and that includes your home, office, car or that screen that captures your attention each day.

Nature deprivation is a condition caused by a lack of exposure and interaction with nature. Think hours of time spent in front of a TV, computer screen, or smartphone. These mediums are no doubt intoxicating in their nature, providing clever stimuli that capture our attention for long periods of time. This is exacerbated by isolated living conditions in urban environments.

In time, this can lead to depression, decreased immunity, higher risk of death*, a lack of empathy and a lack of altruism.

While the first three relate directly to your own health, the latter two provide a stark suggestion for how you interact with the world: a negative, selfish mentality that can deprive you of healthy relationships with those you care most about.

(*Seriously. A 2011 study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology titled “Screen-based entertainment time, all-cause mortality, and cardiovascular events: Population-based study with ongoing mortality and hospital events follow-up” found that time in front of a screen was associated with a higher risk of death, independent of physical activity.)

Beating Nature Deprivation

The solution: spend more time in nature.

And this isn’t just a rationale that should be applied to justify that once-a-year camping trip or a one time jog through the neighborhood, but spending more time in nature (and pairing that with physical activity), has increasing shown a positive result in evidence-based studies.

Nature Deprivation

In the June 2010 issue of the Journal of Environmental Psychology, several studies suggested that just a short time of exposure to nature on a daily basis was enough to significantly boost vitality, lower stress levels, and "energize" social interactions.

Why? Because humans have a natural connection to the natural world. People show a greater sense of connection with the natural world, and that translates into positive physiological effects, like increased energy, productivity, and resilience to physical illnesses.

And this isn’t just due to the physical activity that is often associated with being outdoors. In the Journal, studies included five different experiments with roughly 600 people involved, all around college level in age. Studies included real and imagined environments of nature, and while participants by and large saw positive effects from emersion in nature and nature like scenarios, one study directly saw an energizing effect by the actual presence of nature.

Richard Ryan, lead author and professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, went as far as to say “Nature is fuel for the soul.”

Spend At Least 20 minutes in Nature Each Day

The simplest way to benefit from nature is to simple enjoy it as much as possible. At a minimum, it’s suggested you spend at least 20 minutes in nature each day. This can easily be accomplished, and when you weigh the benefits, it’s easily justified. Increased productivity and clearer thinking can come directly from a walk, so don’t ever think of it as wasting time – you may actually be saving time in the long run by getting more quality work done faster!