Take Two Hikes And Call Me In The Morning

Hiking_Man_MicahAllen_160x150Philosophers and poets have long praised the rejuvenating benefits of nature, but only in the past two decades has nature’s healing potential been examined through the lens of modern science. Scientific research suggests that activities such as gardening, walking by a stream or even gazing out a window at your backyard may have therapeutic benefits.

Among the findings:

  • A group of breast cancer patients who spent half an hour watching birds or strolling in a park three times a week had increased attention span and significant gains in quality of life ratings, compared patients who stayed inside.
  • In a recent nationwide study of more than 400 children with attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD), scientists observed a significant reduction of symptoms among kids who were “treated” to some time outside enjoying nature compared with those who were not.
  • A study of 100 people in a diversity of work settings found that employees with window views of nature had lower levels of job stress and higher reports of general well-being than those without such views.
  • Patients who underwent bronchoscopy experienced less pain after first viewing a nature scene, then listening to sounds of a bubbling brook during the procedure, compared to a group that did not use these interventions.
  • A study of 337 rural children, by Cornell University environmental psychologist Nancy Wells, shows that children with more exposure to nature have reduced stress levels and longer attention spans.

These studies are leading to changes in the health-care industry: Hospitals, for example, are incorporating “healing gardens” into their designs. Nursing homes are installing aquariums and aviaries. Workplaces are adding rooftop gardens and interior plants. And “wilderness therapy” is being offered to cancer patients, emotionally disturbed children and rape survivors, among many others.

Check out NWF’s Wildlife Gardening section and get tips for making a natural oasis outside your home. Then, tweet us your experiences of how nature has rejuvenated you and helped your mental and physical health!

This story was adapted from Beth Baker’s story in National Wildlife magazine. Click here for the complete story.