For all of human existence the concept of nature as a Maternal figure has been a comforting thought. Mother Nature, Gaia, Terra, Mother Earth all are names we’ve given to nature, something that humans forget we are a part of. Our contact with nature is very metaphorical to that of children with their mother. We get our food from nature, our shelter, we learn how to cultivate the skills needed to survive, but the concept is more easily noticed in the past than in modern times.
Many Studies have shown that contact with Nature can improve not only your mood, but your mental and physical health as well. Roger Ulrich, PhD and the director of the Center for Health Systems and Design at Texas A&M has determined that patients who see nature outside of a hospital, healed faster and has less complications and needed fewer pain medications than patients in traditional hospital settings. Ulrich quotes studies from a Swedish hospital where heart surgery patients could reduce their anxiety and need for medication by simple looking at pictures of trees and water landscapes. Based on these studies Dr. Ulrich poised a theory that to soothe patients, facilities and families should expose them to nature-related art as well as aquariums and have plants and gardens set up in areas for patients to relax and heal.
Other theories also say that our contact with nature has other effects. The Psychoevolutionary Theory (PET) and the Attention Restoration Theory (Art) are used to explain how our contact with nature reduces stress, improve mood, and increases cognitive function.
The PET theory states that humans are evolutionarily programmed to react to nature as our ancestors did. Our perceptions allowed our ancestors to enjoy the beauty around them as they gathered the resources necessary to survival. These positive built-in responses can explain how our contact with nature can reduces stress and improve someone’s mood.
The ART theory says that a natural environment will reset and relax your directed attention. The continuous attention humans must maintain in modern society can over tax your brain and leave it fatigued. Our contact with nature allows for our subconscious to become more active, allowing our focus to wain and lets the brain relax and to recharge. This theory explains how nature can increase your cognitive functions.
The Study of Ecopsycology is the understanding how to interact with nature without trying to assert dominance over it. Ecopsychology has its roots in many cultures such as shamanism, paganism and indigenous cultures throughout the world such as the tribes of Native Americans and the nomadic Mongolian people. While each culture is vastly different they all felt strong connections due to their contact with nature. The belief that you can be at one with nature and still have some control over it are key principles that can help with the inevitable connection with nature and humans. This can be done by working on sustainable energy technologies, new eco-friendly farming practices and creative use of architecture that can incorporate natural surroundings into designs to less the impact on landscape. All these are just small steps that can be taken that will increase humans connection and contact with nature.