The benefits of taking a break from city life and heading back to nature are apparent to many people. This is why people plan camping trips and venture off on hikes in nearby parks or reserves. If a coastline is nearby, the beach is a popular option to get a nature fix. City life can wreak havoc on the body, both physically and mentally. The pollution, noise, and cramped lifestyle all cause overstimulation after a while. Your mind and body often need time to rest without the high concentration of people and machinery. It may not be necessary, however, to make a great escape to the country to reap the benefits that nature has to offer. New studies suggest that even a little bit of exposure to the natural elements can make a positive change to your health and state of mind.
The sounds of nature often have an immediate calming effect on many people. This is why some people pay a lot of money for a noise machine that plays waves or rainforest sounds. It did not take long to realize the effects of nature sounds from the participants of the study. Even in the city, people have access to chirping birds. One surprising result was that the sound of water did not have a big impact on the mental state. Sources of water in the city, however, may not qualify as nature in many cases. These may include fountains or other artistic water features.
People in the city were able to come in contact with trees, grass, and the sky. Most reported a higher state of well-being when in the same area with nature items. They could also report looking up at the sky. A short encounter with nature often had lasting effects in the study. People were asked how they were feeling about 25 minutes after exposure to nature. The positive feelings often lasted past this point. Questions continued past the two-hour mark, with positive results still reported.
People were asked to report if they felt a connection with nature as they ventured out in their city. When they felt that this had been accomplished, the results were even better. The results of making a connection to nature meant that individuals still felt they were in a better mental state over four hours after the exposure. The results were even more impactful on those with a predisposition to mental complications. Limitations were also noticed in looking at the original state of mind.
An app for mobile phones was created by researchers to track people during their daily routine. They were randomly asked questions throughout the day about their emotional state or how they were feeling. They were asked about their location at the same time. They were specifically asked whether they were indoors or outside. Outside may not be in the vicinity of trees other forms of nature, however. The app also required this information. Researchers wanted to know when participating individuals could see or hear natural elements. This could be hearing birds, looking at tree, or even a patch of grass. Scientists recorded the answers of many individuals using the app.
Over 100 people were studied, with over 3,000 situational considerations. Mental state and personality were also taken into consideration, especially trait impulsivity. This is a state where people tend to act without thinking about consequences as much as the average person. This trait is linked to higher incidences of certain mental disorders, such as bipolar disorder, addiction, and ADHD. Those that suffered from mental illness or complications were found to go outside and experience nature less due to “not feeling well.” Ironically, these are the people that benefit the most from the exposure to nature.
City life does not have to inhibit the positive effects of nature. You do not have to plan an elaborate getaway to increase your mental health. This study helps to show that even city dwellers can have a little nature experience with lasting effects. So, head out for a walk in a neighborhood park, plant a tree in the yard, or simply look up at the sky to help your mental status.