on the advantages of living in nature
Source: RealSimple magazine

Source: RealSimple magazine

— 3 months ago
"Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike."
John Muir
— 1 year ago
Is darkness becoming extinct? Award-winning documentary The City Dark premiers on PBS on July 5th. See the trailer here.

Is darkness becoming extinct? Award-winning documentary The City Dark premiers on PBS on July 5th. See the trailer here.

— 2 years ago
"To measure the mental benefits of hiking in the middle of nowhere, Dr. Atchley gave 60 backpackers a standard test of creativity before they hit the trail. She gave the same test to a different group of hikers four days into their journey. The results were surprising: The hikers in the midst of nature showed a nearly 50% increase in performance on the test of creativity, and the effect held across all age groups. “There’s a growing advantage over time to being in nature,” says Dr. Atchley. “We think that it peaks after about three days of really getting away, turning off the cellphone. It’s when you have an extended period of time surrounded by that softly fascinating environment that you start seeing all kinds of positive effects in how your mind works.”"

Wall Street Journal, Mom Was Right: Go Outside

— 2 years ago
"Hunter-gatherers and forager-horticulturalists who live off the land and grow what they need to survive have lower age-related increases in blood pressure and less risks of atherosclerosis, according to two new studies in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension."
— 2 years ago
"The hard edges of rural life that have been pushing people into urban areas for generations have been softened by technology. We have solar power, a gas stove, hot water, a refrigerator, satellite Internet and cellphone service. We work remotely surrounded by the beauty of nature. It is a Jeffersonian ideal."

Craig Lesher, New York Times, Rural Life Without the Hard Edges

— 2 years ago
"Children who grow up close to nature may have fewer allergies because of protective skin bacteria. That finding is a new twist on the hygiene hypothesis, the idea that contact with bacteria early in life is crucial for the development of the human immune system. Skin microbes tied to the diversity of the natural environment seem to teach the body to calm allergic responses, researchers report online the week of May 7 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."

Rural Life May Boost Allergy Resistance, Science News, Devin Powell

— 2 years ago
Exposure to nature reduces anxiety, stress, blood pressure, and pain

A 2004 report on The Role of the Physical Environment in the Hospital of the 21st Century summarizes research on the effect of nature experiences and imagery on health of hospital patients, including  reduced anxiety, stress, blood pressure, and pain.

Excerpt from the full report:

As background relevant to assessing the credibility of nature findings in healthcare environments, it should be mentioned that many studies of populations other than hospital patients have produced strong evidence that even fairly brief encounters with real or simulated nature settings can elicit significant recovery from stress within three minutes to five minutes at most (Parsons & Hartig, 2000; Ulrich, 1999). Investigators have consistently reported that stress-reducing or restorative benefits of simply viewing nature are manifested as a constellation of positive emotional and physiological changes. Stressful or negative emotions such as fear or anger diminish while levels of pleasant feelings increase. Laboratory and clinical studies have shown that viewing nature produces stress recovery quickly evident in physiological changes, for instance, in blood pressure and heart activity (Ulrich, 1991). By comparison, considerable research has demonstrated that looking at built scenes lacking nature (rooms, buildings, parking lots) is significantly less effective in fostering restoration and may worsen stress.

Questionnaire studies have found that bedridden patients assign especially high preference to having a hospital window view of nature (Verderber, 1986). Mounting research is providing convincing evidence that visual exposure to nature improves outcomes such as stress and pain. For example, a study in a Swedish hospital found that heart-surgery patients in ICUs who were assigned a picture with a landscape scene with trees and water reported less anxiety/stress and needed fewer strong doses of pain drugs than a control group assigned no pictures (Ulrich, 1991). Another group of patients assigned an abstract picture, however, had worsened outcomes compared to the control group. Ulrich (1984) found that patients recovering from abdominal surgery recovered faster, had better emotional well-being, and required fewer strong pain medications if they had bedside windows with a nature view (looking out onto trees) than if their windows looked out onto a brick wall.

Recently, strong studies using experimental designs have produced additional convincing evidence that viewing nature reduces patient pain as well as stress. These investigations also support the interpretation that nature serves as a positive distraction (Ulrich, 1991) that reduces stress and diverts patients from focusing on their pain or distress. A randomized prospective investigation found that adult patients undergoing a painful bronchosopy procedure reported less pain if they were assigned to look at a ceiling-mounted nature scene rather than a control condition consisting of a blank ceiling (Diette, Lechtzin, Haponik, Devrotes, & Rubin, 2003). Another controlled experiment that used volunteers in a hospital assessed the effect on pain of viewing a soundless nature videotape in contrast to a static blank screen (Tse, Ng, Chung, & Wong, 2002). Subjects who watched the nature scenes evidenced a higher threshold for detecting pain and had substantially greater pain tolerance. Two studies of female cancer patients have shown that taking a virtual reality nature walk while in bed or a hospital room (through a forest with bird sounds) reduced anxiety and symptomatic distress (Schneider, S. M., Prince-Paul, Allen, Silverman, & Talaba, 2004). Research on patients suffering intense pain because of severe burns found that exposing patients to a videotape of scenic nature (forest, flowers, ocean, waterfalls) during burn dressing changes significantly reduced both anxiety and pain intensity (Miller, Hickman, & Lemasters, 1992).

The possibility that nature can improve outcomes even in patients with late-stage dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, has received some support from a quasi-experimental study that found reduced levels of agitated aggressive behavior associated with a shower bath when recorded nature sounds (birds, babbling brook) and color pictures were present (Whall et al., 1997). A well-controlled study of blood donors in a waiting room found that blood pressure and pulse were lower on days when a wall-mounted television displayed a nature videotape, compared to days with continuous daytime television programs (Ulrich, Simons, & Miles, 2003). More research is needed to identify conditions under which television can either be a stress-reducing positive distraction or a stressor in hospitals.

— 2 years ago
Lysefjord, Norway

Lysefjord, Norway

— 2 years ago
"People who are out in nature do better on tests of working memory and attention than people who are in urban settings. Their mood is better."
David Brooks, summarizing research in The Social Animal
— 2 years ago
APM's On Being interviews Gordon Hempton on Silence →

Gordon Hempton says that silence is an endangered species. He defines real quiet as presence — not an absence of sound, but an absence of noise. The Earth, as he knows it, is a “solar-powered jukebox.” Quiet is a “think tank of the soul.” We take in the world through his ears.

— 2 years ago
"Nature draws us because it is in some way attuned to our feelings, so that it can reflect and intensify those we already feel or else awaken those which are dormant. Nature is like a great keyboard on which our highest sentiments are played out. We turn to it, as we might turn to music, to evoke and strengthen the best in us."
Charles Taylor, philosopher
— 2 years ago