Nature and Human Health

I recently attended a lecture entitled Connecting With Nature in the Kawarthas: How Nature Improves Our Health, Happiness and Environmental Sustainability. 

Kawartha Land Trust (KLT) and Trent University have partnered for a series of talks called Sense of Place. The premise is that there are many ways to connect to nature and the lectures aim to explore some factors in forming that connectedness focusing on the Kawartha experience.

The first lecture was given by Dr Lisa Nisbet, PhD, Assisstant Professor of Psychology at Trent U.  

I took detailed notes and have summarized below. I will provide a link to the talk when it is available as well. 

For decades now, researchers have gathered data on the health benefits of nature. The science is clear. Nature makes us happier, healthier, more confident and reduces mortality, violence and depression. Perhaps one of the most important findings is that being connected to nature fosters environmental stewardship. 

While we can quantify some of the reasons that nature benefits us, there are healing components to nature that we cannot identify yet. 

E.O. Wilson's Biophilia Hypothesis attempts to describe the reason that we humans are attracted to nature. The reasoning is that there is an, "instinctive bond between humans and living systems." 

Although, the data is relatively new, the benefits of spending time in nature have been known for a long time. The Japanese term Shinkin Yoku translates into "taking in the forest air" a practice known as "forest bathing." 

Research shows that even a 15 minute walk after work or a busy day can increase happiness. Some studies have shown that time in nature can have a therapeutic effect in children with ADHD equal to that of ADHD medications (without the side effects). Part of the healing power of nature is explained by the theory that our brains are able to softly or effortlessly focus on nature and this reduces stress. The attention that is required to enjoy nature is different than that of watching tv, although that may also seem effortless. 

Dr Nisbet concluded by talking about the gross underappreciation of nature's healing aspects. This can be remedied by educating people on the health benefits of nature connectedness rather than using guilt tactics. 

The David Suzuki Foundation currently has a nature challenge and the aim is for us to spend 30 mins a day for 30 days in some sort of green space. I am trying to incorporate time outside in green space, as a preventive measure for stress and a way to connect. 

Daily nature exposure for children has been shown to foster a healthy nature connectedness that leads to greater stewardship. This may be the single most important thing we can do to prepare the next generations for the environmental issues they will face.