With the hectic lives that we lead in modern society, it is commonly known that taking the time to 'unplug' periodically and immerse oneself in nature is a proven way to destress, clear the mind, and increase positivity.
Studies show that simply viewing beautiful calming pictures in your living space has mental benefits and a natural calming effect on the brain, helping us to relax while creating a soothing atmosphere that promotes happiness.
To understand why nature has such a profound impact on our mental well being, looking to our past reveals valuable insight as to why humans have such a strong attraction to nature.
Our Ancient Ancestors
The study of natural history reveals that paleolithic humans steadily evolved over millions of years as hunter-gatherers, grouped in small, tribal societies. They refined harmonious relationships with their environment, gathering plants, fishing, and hunting wild animals.
Anatomically, modern humans are much the same as our ancient ancestors. Our bodies remain designed to move with endurance, speed, strength, and precision of movement over the landscape, much as we were before towns, farming and domestication of animals began to develop 5,000-10,000 years ago.
Roger Ulrich, Ph.D., one of the world's most influential evidence-based healthcare researchers, said that humans have a deep-rooted affinity towards nature, which is due to the thousands of years that early humans had spent living amid the wild landscapes.
Because of this, according to Ulrich, staying close to nature brings a feeling of positivity and happiness in us. But for many of us in modern society, the picture has become entirely different.
The Stresses Of Modern Society
In today's hectic world, many of us spend a large amount of time each day staring at computer screens, watching television or scrolling through our smartphones. Our lifestyles have become largely sedentary, with an ever-growing disconnect between a healthy balance of daily life and connecting with nature.
Furthermore, Ulrich's Psychoevolutionary Theory claims that living in a modern human-made environment invites disorders like stress, depression, obesity, and cardiac diseases, and is a challenge to our overall well-being. These factors become such a constant in our daily lives that we may not even realize how stressed we are.
The fact that cities are associated with work, noise and chaos perfectly reflect the evidence that natural landscapes induce a calmness and relaxation response because they have positive correlations with pleasant experiences.
The Magic of Nature
Nature simply represents an escape from the noise and crowding in manufactured environments. It should be no surprise to find that exposure to the outdoors or simply viewing a beautiful landscape or nature photograph has a natural calming effect on the brain, which helps to reduce stress and increase positivity. Gazing at a soothing nature scene promotes relaxation while slowing areas of the brain involved in anxiety.
The relatively new science of color psychology reveals how different colors have even been found to affect our moods and feelings. Longer wavelength colors, like the red and orange of a sunset, are arousing whereas shorter wavelengths, like the greens and blues of forests and lakes, are calming.
Modern scientific evidence also shows that people who are admitted to hospitals who have art in their environment heal faster. And certain types of art, such as landscape and nature photography prints, can reduce pain, anxiety, and stress.
White, sterile walls are predominant in a traditional hospital setting, where pain, fear, and loneliness are prevalent. The mood changes when beautiful nature photographs are placed on the walls, providing color, comfort, and hope to patients, caregivers, and loved ones.
When a nature scene can play a key role in creating a healing environment, it is no longer just a piece of art; it is spinning a positive influence on a person's well-being.
Today, we understand that exposure to natural scenery not only makes us feel better emotionally, but the effect on our well-being is profound. As more people than ever before live in cities or large towns across the globe, it is understandable that many of us lack the frequent connection with nature that helps balance our daily lives.
It makes sense that the simple act of placing calming pictures on our walls is a natural and organic way to decorate our homes, reducing stress and improving our overall well-being.
The undeniable truth is that no matter our age or cultural background, there is no bond more primitive and rooted in humans than our love for landscapes and nature. And never a better time for a walk in the woods.