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Why do we need nature to feel sane ?

Updated: Aug 24, 2019

Iva Vukusic - Clinical Psychologist | LifeWorks



It is no secret that the bustling urban environment and the speed of life in the digital era can lead to mental fatigue. We are constantly bombed with stimuli that drain our minds. The stress we experience is just an attempt of our body and mind to adapt to such environment. Although urban dwellers may think they have habituated themselves to the factor that cause stress, they may still be having stress-related reactions in their bodies and brains about which they are unaware

"We are still hunters and gatherers; biologically we have not changed much "

During human existence, human biology has embedded itself in the natural environment. Those who could find water, find plants, hunt animals, and identify safe habitats have had the benefits of survival. The nature was (and still is) crucial to human survival. We, as human beings, have an innate love for the natural world, resulting at least in part from our genetic make-up and evolutionary history. Our bodies and our nervous systems need nature to tune ourselves.


What happens to our cognitive abilities, emotional

stress and mental health if we are deprived of

experience in nature?


Modernization, development and environmental degradation have been tied conclusively to an increase in feelings of isolation and depression. Contemporary urban environments often increase frustration and aggression which can be attributed to the particularly high traffic presence. Certain features of technology-oriented lifestyle, such as over-stimulation with digital content, lead to the inability to focus and diminish the capacity of attention.


Directed attention requires the use of cognitive control. In order to do this, an individual must inhibit or suppress the urge to pay attention to distractions. After prolonged use, this capability can become fatigued, and this fatigue may lead to increase of irritability.


Nature has been shown to stimulate and accelerate the recovery from stress and contribute to "immunity" in future stressful situations. Exposure to the real or reproduced natural environment can calm physical agitation (high heart rate and high blood pressure) caused by the autonomic nervous system during times of stress.


Healing power of nature lies in an unconscious response to natural elements that can occur without recognition and most noticeably in individuals who have been more stressed. Interaction with natural environments employs involuntary faculties, thus allowing the neural mechanisms underlying directed attention a chance to rest and replenish, which in turn can benefit performance on other tasks, delay of gratification and perhaps even levels of depression.


"Definition of what nature is, is personally and culturally defined."

Healing power of nature lies in an unconscious response to natural elements that can occur without recognition and most noticeably in individuals who have been more stressed. Interaction with natural environments employs involuntary faculties, thus allowing the neural mechanisms underlying directed attention a chance to rest and replenish, which in turn can benefit performance on other tasks, delay of gratification and perhaps even levels of depression.


Although the wonders of technology and the urban environment provide us with all the conditions for a contented life, at times we simply must escape from the hustle and bustle to the nature's embrace. Leaving the noise and madness of a big city has a beneficial effect on your mental health from time to time but is not always a legitimate option.


Look for natural options on the smaller scale. Even shots of the natural environment can counteract stress responses. Sitting in a room overlooking more natural scenery results in a faster drop in blood pressure than sitting in a room without looking out. Walking in the natural environment encourages greater stress reduction than walking in the urban environment.

Consider where in your community you can find spots that match named criteria and surrender yourself to that critical type of rest.

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