Benefits of connecting with nature
Benefits from eco-therapies, gardening and simply connecting with nature extend into our wellbeing with improvements in physical, emotional, spiritual, creative, cognitive and mental health. Specific benefits for environmental educational use are noted on our Environment Education page.
Improved Creative Reasoning – “Attention Restoration Theory (ART) suggests that exposure to nature can restore prefrontal cortex-mediated executive processes, higher order cognitive functions including selective attention, problem solving, inhibition, and multi-tasking are all heavily utilized in our modern technology-rich society.”
Increased vitality and energy levels and resilience to physical illness “Research has shown that people with a greater sense of vitality don't just have more energy for things they want to do, they are also more resilient to physical illnesses. One of the pathways to health may be to spend more time in natural settings," -Richard Ryan
Sensory stimulation - as many as 54 noted natural senses may be stimulated with natural interactions beneficial for wellbeing. (Michael Cohen)
Nature allows the executive attentional system to replenish. “…four days of immersion in nature, and the corresponding disconnection from multimedia and technology, increases performance on a creativity, problem-solving task by a full 50 percent,” (Atchley et al., 2012)
Shinrin-yoku (Japanese Forest Bathing/Walking) has scientifically-proven benefits including:
-boosted immune system functioning, with an increase in the count of the body's Natural Killer (NK) cells
-Reduced anger, depression and anxiety
-increased energy levels
-improved mood and sleep
Dementia and Alzheimer’s. Reduced levels of agitation in care home residents with dementia who spend time in a garden “... opportunity to relax in a calming setting, but also to remember skills and habits that have brought enjoyment in the past.”
Improved short-term memory. “…people’s performance on the test improved by almost 20% after wandering amongst the trees. By comparison those subjected to a busy street did not improve.”
Greater sense of self-fulfilment and purpose. “Children who spend significant time outdoors could have a stronger sense of self-fulfilment and purpose than those who don't…”These values are incredibly important to human development and well-being" - “… children took greater notice of colour, symmetry and balance in nature as well as displaying greater imagination and curiosity themselves.”
Reduced severity of ADHD. “…who regularly play in outdoor settings with lots of green (grass and trees, for example) have milder ADHD symptoms than those who play indoors or in built outdoor environments.”
Decreased rumination, trigger for anxiety and depression.
Landscape Design for physical health, cognitive performance, psychological well-being, social and spiritual benefits of interacting with nature.
Interactions with nature can positively influence behaviour, academic performance and social skills in children
Enhanced perceptions of quality of life, emotional responses and sense of quality of life by living within urban vegetation.
Gardening helping depression “94 percent of people taking part in a MIND survey commented that green exercise activities had benefited their mental health; and 100 percent of volunteers interviewed during an outdoor conservation project agreed that participation benefited their mental health, boosted self-esteem and improved confidence. Furthermore, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence asserts that for ‘patients with depression… structured and supervised exercise can be an effective intervention that has a clinically significant impact on depressive symptoms.”
Improved air quality and reduced toxins with indoor plants. Top ten plants for removing formaldehyde, benzene, and carbon monoxide from the air
Shelter, housing and living comforts. Psychologists' research explains the mental and physical restoration we get from nature--and has important implications for how we build our homes, work environments and cities.
Absorption of Vitamin D low levels linked to cancers, diabetes, influenza, eczema, rickets, poor bone density, muscular weakness, healthy pregnancy, depression, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, multiple sclerosis, autism, Alzheimer's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma severity and swine flu.
Increased physical strength and exercise
Memory sharing and reflection. Particularly useful for sensory perceptive issues, aged care, dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Escape or distraction from daily routine, emotional or physical pain and limitations.
Reduced stress and increased productivity
Lower levels of anxiety and pain during recovery from surgery
Thermal insulation and acoustic benefits
Heaps more evidence based research HERE
"When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the creator."
- Mahatma Gandhi
Have you ever laid on lush, green grass and watched the clouds roll overhead, perhaps made animal shapes or felt so peaceful in that moment that you sensed you were part of this big beautiful space? Do you ever feel a drive to be in nature; a need to be in the country, bushwalking, camping alongside a river, swimming in the beach, walking amongst majestic trees, pottering in your garden or to visit a garden or park? Have you thought deeper why you are attracted to these natural settings? We are nature so it is innate and feels good on so many levels; often the feelings we experience are indescribable and emotive. Would you like to know how to integrate those sensory experiences you feel and use the wisdom and intuition gained to create harmony and balance in your life?
Eco-psychologist and 1994 Distinguished Citizen, Dr. Michael J. Cohen Ph.D through over 50 years research has developed study courses, programmes, workshops and camps in Applied Eco-psychology. Through the study and programs offered by Project Nature Connect participants understand human sensory deprivation and how by reconnecting with nature we harmoniously function as part of the web of life. Studies and research gathered from participants acknowledge the role nature plays in reducing stress and guiding people with healing, balance and restoration. By connecting with over 50 natural senses, not just the five commonly known senses, the Natural Systems Thinking Process (NSTP) guides us to follow our natural attractions to reconnect with nature. Through following simple instructions to connect with nature, stress is reduced and wellbeing increased. The human place as part of an ecosystem emerges with the wisdom and insights gained as we sense deeper cognitive benefits. Many individuals utilize this program for decreased stress, personal growth and increased wellbeing. Professionals apply methods in counselling, healing work, education and many other creative and environmental occupations.
Western Civilization lifestyles have become increasingly disconnected with nature as we move to life indoors. Cohen states “an average of over 95% of our lives indoors, cloistered from nature. We live over 99% of our adult lives knowing nature through detached words, stories and pictures.” Why are we being pulled away from nature? Why are we being afflicted with distractions, addictions, employment and financial drive, apathy, fear, denial and negative attitudes? Why are illnesses, anxiety, depression and children along with attention disorders on the rise? Why do studies show high rates in feelings of ‘unhappiness’ despite our social and economic standing in western civilizations? Research into these aspects of human behavior, social media and the predictions of catastrophic changes on earth have many individuals and groups shifting the focus to the benefits nature can deliver and awareness of natural ways of living.
We commonly use nature for our survival. Trees and natural materials provide shelter for us, clothing, feed us, provide medicine and fuel. Studies on natures effects on the psychological and molecular levels are also researched and documented by many individuals and organizations. Virginia Lohr, PhD professor of horticulture at Washington State University states: "We have evolved with plants in nature and are closely connected. Perhaps we're more at ease when we're near the things we need to survive." Our survival alone is not paramount, we have a drive for our life to have worth and purpose. The following statements were expressed by participants of Project Nature Connect; "As nature safely teaches us what is 'real' in ourselves, we can gradually replace our 'unreal' fears and anxieties with feelings of in-the-moment joy, radiant good health, fun, laughter, self-balance, and harmony with life.” These statements were following a nature-reconnecting exercise. “With awareness of self and nature connectedness, I realize that we humans are nature. Nature, when we are conscious of its invisible links will shift our consciousness to heal us, balance and teach us. We can then at least make informed conscious decisions.”
Many methods of working with nature are now common-place around the world. The benefits of Horticulture Therapy are a regular practice in hospitals and care facilities and encompass therapeutic gardens and nature-based activities. In Japan, high stress levels and suicide rates lead to psychological and physiological research being developed since 1994 on the effects of ‘Forest Bathing’ People spend time in designated forest areas to receive the researched benefits which include relaxation, reduced blood pressure and increased human immune function.
"One of our greatest fears is to eat the wildness of the world.
Our mothers intuitively understood something essential: the green is poisonous to civilization.
If we eat the wild, it begins to work inside us, altering us, changing us.
Soon, if we eat too much, we will no longer fit the suit that has been made for us.
Our hair will begin to grow long and ragged. Our gait and how we hold our body will change.
A wild light begins to gleam in our eyes. Our words start to sound strange, nonlinear, emotional. Unpractical. Poetic.
Once we have tasted this wildness, we begin to hunger for a food long denied us, and the more we eat of it the more we will awaken.
It is no wonder that we are taught to close off our senses to Nature.
Through these channels, the green paws of Nature enter into us, climb over us, search within us, find all our hiding places,
burst us open, and blind the intellectual eye with hanging tendrils of green.
The terror is an illusion, of course. For most of our million years on this planet human beings have daily eaten the wild.
It's just that the linear mind knows what will happen if you eat it now." -Steven Buhner