In ages past before the industrial revolution humans were more at one with nature. This doesn’t mean that things were easier in any way, they just relied on their contact with nature more. Hunting, fishing, and farming were the staples of everyday life for billions of people for thousands of years. The industrial revolution just made it easier to manufacture and to farm, allowing production to increase with fewer people. Those workers could seek and explore new environments and opportunities; they become artists, poets, bankers, lawyers and workers in all the other new jobs fields that were created as the result. This helped shape the world as it is today, where humans live in huge cities as far removed from nature as one can really get. This lack of contact with nature is felt, and we can see the effect of nature on humans when they do interact with it.
The Healing Effects of Nature on Humans
According to environmental psychology studies done, patients heal quicker when they have a view of trees instead of bricks. Additional studies have focused on the effects of nature and how it is shown to reduce stress, improve mood and increase brain performance. There are 2 psychological theories on why this is; the Psychoevolutionary Theory (PET) and the Attention Restoration Theory (Art)
The PET theory stats that humans are evolutionarily programmed to react to nature as our ancestors did. Nature being the first-place humans learned to survive and thrive, our adaptive perceptions caused our ancestors to enjoy the beauty around them as they gathered the resources necessary to survive. These positive built in responses can explain how the effects of 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 conscious attention will make you use your brain more, and the extended use of this kind of attention is used daily in the human-made world full of social and professional commitments, deadlines, and other hectic activities. The effect of nature on humans offers an “undirected attention” to take over. This allows our subconscious to become more active allowing nature to recharge your mental battery. This theory explains how nature can increase your cognitive functions.
Are the Answers in a Natural High or Maybe Bacteria?
The two theories work in tandem to explain all the helpful effect of nature on humans, but there are more than just these theories thought to explain these benefits.
Research has concluded that naturally occurring entheogens, hallucinogenic substances, found in plants around the world help improve the mental state of those who used them. This is caused because many of them work with the serotonin system to in increase the sense of oneness and connection with the world and things around them.
Further studies have found that exposure to a bacterium called Mycobacterium vaccae causes a high resistance to stress and increases cognitive function in mice, which means it would likely work similarly in humans. This bacterium is commonly found in soil and works with the serotonin system as well to improve moods and fight depression. Though a picture alone will improve one’s mood somewhat the exposure to natural environments has a greater impact of a person wellbeing.
Lastly meditation done alone or in conjunction in nature pairs perfectly to the calming effects nature has on humans. Meditation can lower one’s breathing and heart rate, relieve stress and in some causes bring about a sense of euphoria and wellbeing.
All these theories and studies have shown that nature’s impact on the human mind and body is well established, profound and will make you function better. So, take a walk in a park, a hike in the woods, or a drive in the countryside, and what better effect of nature on humans than they will make you feel and function better do you really need?