Nature Therapy: Better Living with Plants
I know that I am not alone when I say this: I love the outdoors. I don't just mean the concept of leaving our homes and offices, but rather being truly immersed in the grand beauty of nature.
Take the picture above - while walking amongst the massive redwoods of the Muir Woods National Park, I find myself swept away by emotions of wonder and happiness. My senses feel heightened as I am enveloped in the damp of the forest, taking in the heady scents of earth and greenery. It is almost impossible to dismiss the feeling of being connected with my surroundings.
And yet... while my body feels as though it is slowing down to savor the senses and feel this connection, I also feel my mind whirring away at high speed. Ideas and connections make their way to the forefront of my mind - the surroundings feel like they inspire brilliance.
This is Our Brain on Nature!
As it turns out, this inspiration via nature is not just in my head. There have been many university studies that explored the effects of plant-life on humans, and the outcomes of pretty interesting:
- Students in Washington State University study showed 12% faster reaction times on computer tasks, as well as a marked lowering in blood pressure when the computer lab was decorated with plant-life. (Lohr, 2010)
- A study of surgery patients with a view of trees were ready to be discharged a full 24 hours before similar patients who had a view of a neighboring building. (Ulrich, 1984)
- A Texas A&M study tested the stress recovery time of individuals, and found that subjects who were exposed to natural environments saw a faster decrease in heart rate, muscle tension, skin conductance, and blood pressure over subjects exposed to a plain wall. (Ulrich, 1991)
- A study by Zheijang University noted that people can perceive benefits from plant-life that do not reflect reality. For example, individuals in a perceived a greater sense of noise reduction (leading to lower levels of stress) when in natural surroundings - a noise reduction that could not be measured in decibels!
Human Instinct Matches the Science
Even without such strong correlations between human physical and physiological health show by institutions like those above, I think many of us instinctively see the intrinsic value of nature. We use plants and flowers to welcome people to new homes, congratulate them on successes, and to show empathy when those we love are lost. However, with solid evidence that shows us just how much impact plants can have on us on a daily basis, we may be more likely to actively seek a connection with nature.
Personally, I made to changes to my work surroundings after researching the subject. My desk used to face the wall, but I turned it around so that I can easily look out the window, and I placed a potted plant nearby. After a few days, I thought I felt a positive change; my writing seemed to flow more smoothly, and I generally felt more positive about the work I was producing. And yet it was such a simple fix!
So what about all of you? Do you use plants and spend time in nature to make yourself feel better? And if so, how do you do it? Do you have a tendency to use your home and yard, visit public parks, or keep a plant on your desk at work? What are your tricks?