“Spending just 2 hours a week in green spaces, such as parks, woodlands, and fields, has been linked with people feeling healthier and happier”
Getting Back to Nature
“We are stardust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves
Back to the garden”
– Joni Mitchell, Woodstock
The health benefits of Nature have been known for a long time, and are well-documented. Recently, a British study quantified the amount of time needed in Nature to get the benefits of it. Published in the journal, Natural England, in 2014, the results of the Monitor of Natural Environment (MENE) survey in England sought to capture other ways of engaging with the natural environment, such as time spent in the garden, as well as pro-environmental behaviours, such as recycling. Researchers surveyed 20,000 people on their Nature activities over the previous week, plus their health and wellbeing. The results showed that all those (100%) who spent more than 2 hours in Nature per week had consistently higher health and wellbeing levels. Mathew White at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom said that the 2 hours could be spread over the week and does not have to be a single dose to reap the benefits. The results showed that the average person spent 94 minutes a week exposed to at the natural environments, so it wouldn’t take much more effort to increase the time to 2 hours (120 minutes) per week.
The researchers indicated that 2 hours a week appeared to be the most beneficial and that more than 2 hours a week did not appear to increase the benefits. The benefits of 2 hours per week seemed to apply to everyone, regardless of age, gender, long-term illness, or disability. White said, ‘You don’t have to be running around the park, just sitting on a bench in Nature will do.’ Initial findings from a 2022 European study also show that 2 hours is the ‘magic number’ for all people living in Europe.
Previous studies on the positive effects of Nature on specific psychological conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and mood disorder, found that Nature improves sleep and reduces stress, increases happiness, reduces negative emotions, promotes positive social interactions and helps generate a sense of a meaningful life, says New Scientist magazine in March 2021. Being in green environments boosts various aspects of thinking, including attention, memory, and creativity in people with and without depression, maintains Marc Berman at the University of Chicago in America.
A 2019 joint psychology study by 19 experts from 7 countries, published in June 2019 in Sports, identified and assessed about 20 Nature-based activities and interventions that proved to be beneficial to health and wellbeing. These nature-based activities and interventions included:
- Viewing or visiting a garden in a hospital or residential care home (‘healing gardens’)
- Nature within rooms in healing environments
- Indoor plants in workplaces or shopping centres
- Increased or improved public urban parks and gardens
- walking paths or bike paths, or other shared-use paths/trails
- Streetscape enhancement, such as green corridors along streets
- Access to community garden allotments
- Greening childcare or school grounds
- Outdoor gym equipment
- Accessible natural environments
- Green prescriptions – i.e. doctors and medical practitioners prescribing outdoor activities for clients (usually walking)
- Wilderness therapy – structured nature-based activities for ‘at-risk’ groups to recuperate and recover
- Green gyms or environmental volunteering – i.e. active work outdoors often with a focus on conservation outcomes
- Outdoor exercise groups.
Other Nature-based activities identified, but not assessed in the study, could include farming and horticultural retreats; residential retreats; forest bathing (spending time in forest settings for breathing and meditative techniques); nature play for children; children’s kitchen gardens; outdoor education schemes; and blue gyms (water or shore-line exercise activities).
A key finding of the study was that one intervention could have multiple benefits with implications not only for individuals, but also for population health.
People do not have to be IN Nature to get the benefits of Nature. Studies have found that simply looking at pictures, photographs, videos, films, documentaries, and clips of Nature can emulate some of the benefits that Nature has. Listening to birdsong, running streams, the ocean washing against the shore – it is all beneficial. The healing powers of Nature can include increasing positivity, breathing deeply, taking your mind off worries.
Animals, large or small or microscopic, living in Nature, may be dangerous, toxic, and aggressive. Landscapes can be rugged, water can be scarce, people can get lost. Please be careful in Nature by letting people know where you are going and providing an estimated time of return. Take food and appropriate clothing and footwear.
Nature therapy and activities do not necessarily address core issues. As Alberto Villoldo says in Shaman, Healer, Sage (2000), ‘Walking in the forest will not cure chronic fatigue syndrome, which is a complex medical condition. Yet sufferers of CFS can find connecting to nature a part of their healing journey.’
“Take a quiet walk with Mother Nature. It will nurture your mind, body, and soul.” – A.D. Williams
“I firmly believe that Nature brings solace in all troubles.” – Anne Frank
DISCLAIMER: This website’s author does not dispense medical advice or prescribe the use of any technique as a form of treatment for physical, emotional, or medical problems without the advice of a physician or psychologist, either directly or indirectly. Therefore, information provided here is not intended to replace readers’ existing or other medical, psychological, financial, or legal advice. The author’s intent is to offer general information to help readers in their quest for emotional, physical, and spiritual wellbeing, guidance towards self-empowerment, and/or for entertainment purposes only. Rainy Day Healing and Martina Nicolls shall not be held accountable for any loss which may arise from any readers’ reliance and implementation of any information provided. For information on courses and personal consultations, see TERMS AND CONDITIONS.