"Nature itself is the best physician." - Hippocrates
It is well known that nature benefits our well-being, health, and relationships. As humans, it has long been a part of our history - many cultures throughout the years have looked to nature for healing and personal growth.
Now, a large body of research is clearly demonstrating the positive effects that nature has on a humans social, psychological, and emotional life. Hundreds of studies have shown that being in nature, living near nature, and even viewing nature in paintings and videos can have positive impacts on our brains, bodies, emotions, thoughts, and social interactions. Viewing nature seems to be inherently rewarding, producing a cascade of positive emotions and calming our nervous systems.
These in turn help us to cultivate greater openness, creativity, connection, generosity, and resilience. In other words, science suggests we may seek out nature not only for our physical survival, but because it’s good for our social and personal well-being.
- Several studies have looked at how viewing awe-inspiring nature imagery in photos and videos (i.e., Planet Earth documentaries) effects our emotions and behaviour. Even briefly watching a nature video is a powerful way to induce the feeling of awe, wonder, gratitude, and reverence —all emotions shown to lead to increased well-being and physical health.
- Research has shown the positive impact of living near green spaces. Effects on residents include reductions in ADHD symptoms, greater calm, stronger sense of connection to neighbours, more civility, and less violence in their neighborhoods. Those living near green spaces or viewing it are also shown to report decreased stress and cortisol levels.
- Being out in nature can help shift our focus from a sense of self to a more connected view of the world by adopting the perspective of being a part of something larger. It can lower levels of a biomarker (IL-6) that can lead to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, depression, and autoimmune disease. In northern Ontario, we have many opportunities to be surrounded by nature and take in the benefits it has to offer. Check out these great local spots for your next outdoor adventure: Kivi Park, Killarney National Park, Laurentian Conservation Area, or the many trails and sights that Manitoulin Island has to offer.
Take a moment each day to walk in nature or to look at awe-inspiring nature imagery to help improve your overall well-being.