The Power of Nature to Human Health.

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  3. A Doctor Explains How Nature Can Save Your Health - mindbodygreen

This has led to a reconsideration of the interdependence between people, their health, and their physical and social environments Kickbusch, a. For the purposes of this paper, nature is defined as an organic environment where the majority of ecosystem processes are present e. This includes the spectrum of habitats from wilderness areas to farms and gardens. Nature also refers to any single element of the natural environment such as plants, animals, soil, water or air , and includes domestic and companion animals as well as cultivated pot plants.

Nature can also refer collectively to the geological, evolutionary, biophysical and biochemical processes that have occurred throughout time to create the Earth as it is today. Parks are public natural environments, spaces reserved for their natural or cultural qualities, usually owned, managed and administered by public institutions. Parks are utilized for a range of purposes, including for conservation, recreation and education.

In urban settings, parks are seen to provide the most ready access to nature for many individuals. This paper focuses on the benefits of contact with nature in park environments for urban-dwelling individuals, and explores the potential of contact with nature for the promotion of health for whole populations. The Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion identified the importance of environments supportive of health, stating that the inextricable links between people and their environment are the basis for a socio-ecological approach to health World Health Organization, The Charter advocates for protection of natural and built environments, and conservation of natural resources as essential in any health promotion strategy.

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The central theme was promotion of health by maximizing the health values of everyday settings. Everyday settings include, for example, where people learn, live, work, play, etc. World Health Organization, Studies in disciplines of ecology, biology, psychology and psychiatry have attempted to empirically examine the human relationship with the natural world, some concluding that as well as being totally dependent on nature for material needs food, water, shelter, etc. Yet how dependent humans are on nature for psychological and well-being needs, and what benefits can be gained from interacting with nature are just beginning to be investigated.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare identifies seven dimensions within holistic health and well-being, including: Whilst a growing body of evidence has demonstrated the importance of social relationships and social capital for health, the relationship between environmental health and human health remains little understood. As Brown states, sustainable ecosystems in these dimensions of human health need greater attention and exploration, as well as inclusion and emphasis in the knowledge base of public health Brown, When parks were first designed in the nineteenth century, city officials had a strong belief in the possible health advantages that would result from open space Hamilton-Smith and Mercer, ; Rohde and Kendle, These assumptions were used as justification for providing parks and other natural areas in cities, and preserving wilderness areas outside of cities for public use Parsons, ; Ulrich, Contact with nature in an urban park environment may be experienced via various means, including viewing natural scenes, being in natural settings, encountering plants and animals, participating in recreational activities, undertaking environmental conservation work, and participating in nature-based therapy programmes, amongst others.

Also provided is a summary of current knowledge based on current anecdotal, theoretical and empirical evidence.

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Only those human relationships with animals and plants where no economic benefit is to be gained from the relationship are included. The healing effects of a natural view are increasingly being understood in stressful environments such as hospitals, nursing homes, remote military sites, space ships and space stations Lewis, In these environments particularly, as well as for people who work in windowless offices, studies show that seeing nature is important to people and is an effective means of relieving stress and improving well-being Kaplan, a ; Lewis, ; Leather et al.

A study examining recovery rates of patients who underwent gall bladder surgery found that those with a natural view recovered faster, spent less time in hospital, had better evaluation from nurses, required fewer painkillers and had less postoperative complications compared with those that viewed an urban scene Ulrich, Similarly, Ulrich and colleagues studied the effects of different natural and urban scenes on subjects who had just watched a stressful film horror genre Ulrich et al.

Measuring a whole array of physiological measures [including heart rate, skin conductance, muscle tension and pulse transit time a non-invasive measure that correlates with systolic blood pressure ] they found that recovery was faster and more complete when subjects were exposed to natural rather than urban scenes Ulrich et al. The physiological data measured by this study suggests that natural settings elicit a response that includes a component of the parasympathetic nervous system associated with the restoration of physical energy Ulrich et al.

Research conducted in prison environments suggests that cell window views of nature are associated with a lower frequency of stress symptoms in inmates, including digestive illnesses and headaches, and with fewer sick calls overall by prisoners Moore, Tennessen and Cimprich gave university students a test and compared scores of students who had natural views to those that had did not Tennessen and Cimprich, They found that those with a view of nature scored better on the test than those with non-natural views.

Research suggests access to nature in the workplace is related to lower levels of perceived job stress and higher levels of job satisfaction Kaplan and Kaplan, Workers with a view of trees and flowers felt that their jobs were less stressful and they were more satisfied with their jobs than others who could only see built environments from their window.

In addition, employees with views of nature reported fewer illnesses and headaches Kaplan and Kaplan, A similar study found that a view of natural elements trees and other vegetation buffered the negative impact of job stress on intention to quit Leather et al. Driving is known to be a stressful activity, and causes several physiological changes in the body, including: Findings demonstrated that participants who viewed nature-dominated drives experienced quicker recovery from stress and greater immunization to subsequent stress than participants who viewed artifact-dominated drives Parsons et al.

Ulrich examined the effects of viewing nature on psychological state, particularly on mood affect, and found that participants who viewed slides of unspectacular scenes of nature had an increase in positive mood affect, while those who viewed scenes of urban areas experienced a decline in positive mood affect Ulrich, ; Ulrich, ; cited in Rohde and Kendle, In this and a later study, Ulrich concluded that scenes of nature, particularly those depicting water, had a beneficial influence on the psychological state of participants Ulrich, ; cited in Rohde and Kendle, Evidence presented here has demonstrated that just by viewing nature many aspects of human health and development can be markedly improved.

Evidence also exists for the therapeutic benefits to be gained from being in nature.


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Furnass found an experience of nature can help strengthen the activities of the right hemisphere of the brain, and restore harmony to the functions of the brain as a whole Furnass, According to theirs and other studies, restorative environments require four elements: Parks are ideal for restorative experiences due to their ability to satisfy the four elements described above Kaplan and Kaplan, ; Kaplan and Kaplan, ; Kaplan, a ; Kaplan b ; Kaplan For example, when comparing a walk in a natural setting, a walk in an urban setting, and relaxing in a comfortable chair, Hartig et al.

Whilst outside the emphasis of this paper, the community benefits of social contact within nature in parks and gardens is worthy of examination. Community gardens for example provide opportunities for socializing with and learning from fellow gardeners and residents that may normally be unavailable.

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This aids community cohesion by dissolving prejudices about race, and economic or educational status Lewis, ; Lewis, At an annual gardening competition in a public housing area of New York, research found an increase in community cohesion, a reduction in graffiti and violence, and an increase in positive attitudes about themselves and their neighbourhood for residents, resulting in personal and neighbourhood transformation Lewis, ; Lewis, ; Lewis Wong examined the benefits of contact with nature for migrants Wong, ; cited in Rohde and Kendle, It has been stated that the major determinants of health may have little to do with the health care system Hancock, and that public health needs to focus on the environmental and social aspects of health Chu and Simpson, Public owned natural spaces are an ideal resource to support these and other aspects of human health and well-being.

Empirical, theoretical and anecdotal evidence demonstrates contact with nature positively impacts blood pressure, cholesterol, outlook on life and stress-reduction Moore, ; Kaplan and Kaplan, ; Hartig et al. These outcomes have particular relevance in areas of mental health and cardiovascular disease, categories that are set to be the two biggest contributors to disease worldwide by the year Murray and Lopez, Table 1 presents a summary of knowledge based on current anecdotal, theoretical and empirical evidence.

A summary of evidence supporting the assertion that contact with nature promotes health and well-being. As our understanding of the natural environment has developed, and the massive destruction human activities can have on natural systems has been observed, a more enlightened view has emerged.

Prescribing Nature for Health - Nooshin Razani - TEDxNashville

This view recognizes that plants and animals including humans do not exist as independent entities as was once thought, but instead are part of complex and interconnected ecosystems on which they are entirely dependent, and fundamentally a part of Driver et al. As Suzuki states, the ecosystem is the fundamental capital on which all life is dependent Suzuki, It is clear that nature and natural environments relate to human health and well-being.

To seek human health and sustainability without considering the importance of environmental sustainability is to invite potentially devastating consequences for the health and well-being of whole populations. What is needed is a focus on social equity, social investment and social innovation in health and environment policy Kickbusch, b. Natural environments are an ideal setting for the integration of environment, society and health by promoting a socio-ecological approach to human health and well-being based on human contact with nature.

Public health has a key role to play in environmental conservation, and environment administration has a key role to play in human health and well-being. On this basis, potential exists for parks and natural reserves to gain an expanded role, scope and influence in urban-based societies. A collaborative socio-ecological approach between health and environmental management sectors is required to ensure that contact with nature is integral to sustainable development strategies for local and global urban communities.

A Doctor Explains How Nature Can Save Your Health - mindbodygreen

As Keating and Hertzman state, high exposure to economic and social inequality is a powerful determinant of health and well-being in populations Keating and Hertzman, ; cited in Commonwealth Department of Health and Aged Care and AIHW, With further investigation, perhaps ecological inequality, or a lack of opportunity to experience contact with nature may come to be recognized as a third powerful determinant of health and well-being in populations.

In such a case, along with access to primary health care, accessibility to nature would be seen as a social justice issue. According to these criteria, the health benefits of contact with nature, in particular publicly-owned nature, which would be regarded as a national health resource, should be thoroughly investigated.

Although most people are aware of the health benefits of sport and recreation, the health and well-being benefits arising from contact with nature are little understood. Further empirical research is required to remedy gaps in current knowledge, to further knowledge in this area, to facilitate decision-making and policy formulation, and to foster interdisciplinary approaches. Findings summarized in this paper warrant a repositioning of natural spaces in the minds of both the community and government. We will try and respond to your request as soon as reasonably practical.

When you receive the information, if you think any of it is wrong or out of date, you can ask us to change or delete it for you. Her latest book is Steelies and Other Endangered Species: Stories on Water She lives in the San Francisco Bay area. Brought to you by curio. Edited by Pam Weintraub. She ran all the rapids without flipping, then went home and got into competitive road bicycling. Passengers made the trek to our rafts at Lees Ferry in Arizona, escaping deadlines, responsibilities and overflowing voice- and back then paper-filled inboxes at home. In a matter of days, they forgot about life above the rim while they plunged through legendary whitewater and hiked to hidden grottoes and waterfalls.

They get or quit jobs, marry or divorce, become river guides themselves. With its soul-stirring sunsets, hypnotic rock walls, and endlessly flowing river, the Canyon provides the backdrop for restoration. R iver guides might know that nature is transformative for the human body and psyche; but the mechanism behind such profound change is less universally agreed upon and understood.

The tradition was already ages-old in Japan, but naming it went hand in hand with making recommendations for best practices: The oils, volatile compounds exuded by conifers and some other plants, reduce blood pressure and boost immune function, among other benefits.


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In recent years, a host of other mechanisms have come to light — in fact, there are up to 21 possible pathways to improved health, according to a review paper in Frontiers in Psychology from scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Among the elements that have been identified, of particular note are bright lights and negative air ions oxygen atoms charged with an extra electron , known to ease depression; simple views of nature, which enhance autonomic control of heart rate and blood pressure; and even the sounds of nature, which help us to recover from heightened stress.

Blood tests revealed a host of protective physiological factors released at a higher level after forest, but not urban, walks. Studies showed that just three days and two nights in a wooded place increase the immune system functions that boost feelings of wellbeing for up to seven days.

The same amount of time in a built environment has no such effect. Human response includes increased awe, greater relaxation, restored attention, and boosted vitality. Health outcomes on the receiving end of the pathway are astounding: We know less about response to tropical environments or desert environments.

Private river permits are managed by resource agencies through highly competitive web-based lotteries.

Similarly shinrin-yoku, once known only as such in Japan, is growing in popularity in the West. Trainings for certified guides, taught all over the world, fill well in advance, despite sometimes-steep certification and membership fees. W hat drives our search for nature immersion? Susan Karle, a California-based certified forest therapy guide and long-time licensed marriage and family therapist, says: Karle might invite them to find stones to hold their worries for the day, then to toss them into a nearby creek.

One of her clients had suffered great trauma following a death in the family, leading to a crushing sense of isolation and depression. Being in nature with a trusted group helped speed her process so she graduated from therapy in less than a year. When she said she felt she was done, I said: Being in nature with a variety of species can help maintain a healthy microbiome of essential skin and gut bacteria.