Some recent scientific reports on the effectiveness of nature on mental health.

"There is now a considerable amount of evidence in support of the beneficial effects that nature can have on an individual's cognitive functioning and health". 

This comment, by M Kuo, author of a recent report published by The University of Chicago's Department of Psychology link echos a plethora of information brought forth by the medical community to point to the beneficial effects of nature. 

The above report was also featured in Sunday's Seattle Times.  

It's a happy problem trying to keep up with these kinds of news reports. Thank you to Susan for forwarding this one, I really appreciate reading and learning what types of studies are conducted and what the results are. 

As reported by AP: 

In Berman’s study, subjects were asked to take a 2.5-mile, 50-minute walk through either a dense, urban environment or an arboretum. Afterward, they were given memory tests to measure their ability to concentrate or focus.

Results showed a noticeable difference in those who had walked through the arboretum; they had a 20 percent improvement in working memory over the other group. As confirmation, another study using photos of urban or nature scenes rather than walks yielded similar results.

However, there are still many questions to answer — for example, how senses other than sight might influence health benefits. Both Hunter and Berman are working to discover the specific features of nature — such as naturalness, complexity, form, openness, access and safety — that create a sense of well-being and improve one’s ability to concentrate.

The Nature Rx 100 recommendation is 7 hours per week of nature time, with a two to three hour weekend hike, this breaks down to about 45 - 50 minutes per day. If any one is interested, I arrived at this not by thinking about nature time, but by following an exercise guideline - the 3,7,15 rule states 3 hours (per week) to maintain, 7 hours to build and 15 hours to reach peak optimal fitness. I've used this to design exercise programs and it actually works uncannily well. 

My suggestion is to get in the habit of just being aware of how many minutes per day or week you are spending in nature. 

And what about the 'quality' of nature? Some curiosities I have are in regards to the 'density' of nature (measured by absence of man-made objects/roads/buildings etc) and the 'extraordinaryness'. In an e-book by the authors of the Chicago study there are references to the exquisiteness of images shown to test subjects, the suggestion being that different kinds of scenes have different effects. 

"In addition to documenting the differential benefits of nature, it is also important to try to understand what is it about nature itself that leads to these benefits. As previously stated, researchers have found beneficial effects simply from viewing pictures of nature. This suggests that there may be low-level visual features within natural environments that may lead to psychological benefits. Kardan et al. (2015) found that color-related and edge-related characteristics of nature interactively contribute to preferring one scene to another (Kardan et al., 2015)   

What specific color and shapes do you enjoy in nature? I know I am drawn to waterfalls, moss covered trees and rocks, hoar frost (which yesterday I saw for the first time this winter).

Fascinating stuff. I find myself grateful that these subjects are being studied and related to each other.

After reading all of these reports, I think its time for a walk!  

PS: Check out the articles and reports page for more studies like this.

john colverComment