Nature Health benefits
Psychology Based Nature Health Benefits Research
Attention Restoration Theory (ART)
Can you recall a time when you’ve experienced having a rough day, feeling overworked or stressed, or working extended periods of time on a major project or assignment and needing timeout , and then whilst on a break with your mind still racing getting distracted momentarily by the beauty of nature?
If so this experience aligns with Attention Restoration Theory (ART) which proposes that nature has the capacity to renew our attention levels after exerting mental energy.
Improved performance in attention related tasks, mental fatigue and cognitive performance following periods in nature have been demonstrated in a number of studies over the past few decades, including stress recovery in cancer sufferers, and children and young adults with adhd .
The principle is that there are 4 stages to the ART, from letting go of our internal chatter, source of distraction or woes whilst taking time out, through to letting nature hold our attention without any effort on our behalf and achieving a state of restoration and relaxation, where we have restored attention , more clear minds and can reflect on our priorities, actions and goals.
To achieve this it’s said that we need to be clear of distractions, so next time you’re feeling the pinch, as hard as it might be whilst out in nature try keeping your phones away, take time out for yourself and be present.
What are you doing in the workplace to encourage restorative #nature time?
Does this theory resonate with you?
I’d be keen to hear your thoughts?
E. (2020). What is Kaplan’s Attention Restoration Theory (ART)? PositivePsychology.com .Retrieved from https://positivepsychology.com/attention-restoration-theory/
Stress Reduction Theory (SRT)
Stress Reduction Theory, introduced by Dr Ulrich in 1984 suggests that nature contact can evoke positive emotions for those with stress.
One of Dr Ulrich’s well known studies found that Cholecystectomy patients (Gallbladder surgery) who had a view looking out over nature from their hospital beds vs patients in same hospital rooms with a view of a brick wall…
– Received less pain less meds & less narcotics post op
– Had less negative notes and more positive notes in their records
– Were were discharged sooner
(Ulrich, R.S. 1984 | Science | Volume 224, Issue 4647)
This paved the way for much more related research and is largely responsible for influencing the way that green spaces now feature in patient care settings in hospitals and hospices today.
Nature Research & Green Spaces
How has research on the impact of nature and green spaces to our health and wellbeing influenced recent government and NHS policy?
Public Health England state that “Greener environments are associated with better mental health and wellbeing outcomes including reduced levels of depression, anxiety, and fatigue, and enhanced quality of life for both children and adults.” (Improving access to greenspace: A new review for 2020, Public Health England)
NHS Forest set up training in 2021 to teach healthcare professionals how to use nature to boost their own wellbeing. Over three weeks, three intensive, three-hour sessions enable them to experience the healing power of nature and to gain inspirational techniques they can use on a regular basis. https://nhsforest.org/projects/outdoor-wellbeing-for-healthcare-staff/
The UK Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan states: “Spending time in the natural environment… improves our mental health and feelings of wellbeing. It can reduce stress, fatigue, anxiety and depression.” DEFRA (2018). 25 Year Environment Plan.
NHS Wales and the Biodiversity Duty calls for public authorities to prepare and publish a plan setting out what they propose to do to maintain and enhance biodiversity, and promote resilience.
An open consultation is currently underway in forming a National Framework for Social Prescribing in Wales which calls out the importance and health benefits of time spent in nature. (Oct 22)
Future Generations Commissioner in Wales’ Manifesto for the Future calls on Welsh Government to commit to greening communities by delivering 20% tree canopy cover in every town and city in Wales by 2030, to ensure people can access natural green space within 300m of their home. Whilst Public bodies in Wales need to demonstrate how they are investing in nature
Benefits of feeling of AWE in Nature?
Can spending time in nature help pull people together and foster the kind of connected team spirit that we may have been missing during lockdown?
Research suggests experiences of awe help us be less caught up in ourselves and more open to the needs of others, and are associated with increased generosity towards others as we learn to see things from their perspective, and are more likely to offer support and cooperation.
Dr Paul Piff, Professor of Psychology and Behaviour, suggests that our own concerns seem less significant in the grand scheme of things, and that this is due to the sense of place and awe that we experience in nature.
It’s also proposed that creativity and problem solving can also be boosted as we reset in Awe of nature.
Food for thought eh!? Imagine the benefits to your team by spending time together in nature, away from urban and technological distractions! A deserved and rewarding experience for any team or group of individuals?
Piff, P.K., Dietze, P., Feinberg, M., Stancato, D. M., & Keltner, D. (2015). Awe, the small self, and prosocial behavior. Journal of Personality and Scial Psychology, 108(6),883-889. https://doi.org/10.1037/pspi0000018