Nature makes us Happier, Healthier and More Creative

Nature makes us Happier, Healthier and More Creative

by Yash Saboo May 16 2018, 1:26 pm Estimated Reading Time: 3 mins, 2 secs

Imagine how easy life would be if a single pill could cure stress, anxiety or even deadly diseases like cancer. Well, guess what? We do have such a pill in the market. Not exactly a pill but this cure-all is an old-fashioned folk remedy: Just take a hike in the woods or a walk in the park. No prescription necessary.

That is also the proposition of Florence Williams’s fascinating ‘The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier and More Creative.’ We suffer from an “epidemic dislocation from the outdoors,” Williams writes, and it’s destructive to our mental and physical health. The therapy is straightforward. “The more nature, the better you feel.”

Source : Text Publishing

We all know that spending time outside, away from devices and social media is good for health. But yet most of us don't do it. We live in a virtual reality – artificial intelligence world wherein we would rather download an app that would transform our rooms into a park with special sound effects of wind, leaves and what not, instead of actually stepping out of our homes.

William's book has a lot to learn from. Studies show that as little as 15 minutes in the woods has been shown to reduce test subjects’ levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Increase nature exposure to 45 minutes and most individuals experience improvements in cognitive performance. There are society-scale benefits as well. Researchers in England have shown that access to green spaces reduces income-related mental health disparities.

It’s all very encouraging, but how exactly does nature have such an effect on people? To answer that question, Williams shadows researchers on three continents who are working on the frontiers of nature neuroscience.

Source : Wikimedia Commons

Maybe it’s the forest smells that turn us on; aerosols present in evergreen forests act as mild sedatives while also stimulating respiration. Perhaps it’s the soundscape since water and especially birdsong have been proven to improve mood and alertness. Nature’s benefits might be due to something as simple as the fact that natural landscapes are, literally, easy on the eyes. Many of nature’s patterns — raindrops hitting a pool of water or the arrangement of leaves — are organized as fractals, and the human retina moves in a fractal pattern while taking in a view. Such congruence creates alpha waves in the brains — the neural resonance of relaxation.

“I think there are a lot of reasons why we are becoming fast disenchanted with technology,” Williams says. “So I’m not surprised that people are seeking an antidote to the feeling that we are overly connected to our digital devices. I think people are desperately looking for authentic experiences.”

You can’t help but look at a toddler instinctively flick his finger across an iPad on a long flight, or watch a whole family bury their faces in their phones while dining out and not wonder if we’ve just ruined our brains beyond a level that even nature can repair. Williams doesn’t think so, and doesn’t think it’s just kids these days who have a problem.

Williams says being in nature “seems to work on a subconscious biological level,” and so not every trip needs to be framed as a mind-clearing and soul-affirming trek. Maybe what we get out of nature is a sense of connection to the larger community of life and science is on its way to prove it right.

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