Eye-Opening Ways Nature’s Sounds, Smells, and Sights Can Heal You

Photo by James Ahlberg

Most people enjoy getting out to enjoy nature’s sounds, smells, and sights. But did you know science says being in nature changes our mood and health? How lovely, and it is free! With no side effects.

I became a Master Gardener last year, and my garden has always been a source of enjoyment. So, if I feel stressed, there are a few ways I know to calm myself. One is working in my garden. Florence Williams’s book The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative provided insight on why that happens.

The Impact of Nature

Most people say they feel better after time spent outdoors. Now there is research that supports this as more than just a subjective feeling. This is a summary of what you can get by spending time in nature:

  • stress reduction
  • better mood
  • increased ability to concentrate
  • post-traumatic stress disorder relief
  • fewer illnesses
  • enhanced immunity
  • better energy
  • better sleep
  • lower blood pressure
  • less inflammation
  • increased longevity
  • better recovery from surgery or illness
  • better athletic performance

That is a spectacular list, right?

Browse the interesting research that supports these effects. A couple of my favorites: track and field athletes perform better at green venues. Also, hospital patients with a greenery view recover faster than those with a window onto a parking lot.

Exposure to nature calms us, lowering our blood pressure and other measures of reduced stress, such as cortisol levels. And obviously, moving around, particularly with others, enhances our health.

The empirical evidence of this is overwhelming: exposure to nature lowers our blood pressure, lowers stress and alters mood in positive ways, enhances cognitive functioning, and in many ways makes us happy. Exposure to nature is one of the key foundations of a meaningful life. — The Nature of Cities

Why Does Nature Work?

The evidence is clear that being in nature improves our psychological and physical health. But why?

Nature’s Sounds

Another benefit that nature provides is exposure to sound. Instead of the anxiety-producing sounds of city life, we can find the relaxing sounds of the wind brushing through trees, water burbling over rocks, and chirping birds.

Research shows that these sounds can impact our well-being by lessening pain and lowering stress.

Nature’s Smells

In Japan, people go into nature and ‘bathe.’ Besides being a lovely experience, research shows that breathing in phytoncides from trees and aroma from flowers and herbs relaxes us. And doing this can also increase the cells in our body that fight cancer.

Nature’s Sights

Some research shows that the beauty of nature increases relaxation. One theory is that we have an instinctual need to see nature’s patterns — particularly fractals. Fractals show a similar repeating pattern as they grow larger, like in Romanesco broccoli or tree branches.

We react positively to these patterns in nature rather than environments created by humans.

And, when you visit a particularly gorgeous place, you feel a sense of awe and wonder. In fact, the awe you feel has positive effects on the body.

The Nature Prescription

This research on nature’s positive impact has led to a prescription for time in nature: the nature pyramid.

Daily

Get outside daily, at or near your home. Take a walk, open windows for fresh air, and exposure yourself to beauty, air, sunshine, and sound.

Weekly

Spend one hour per week in local parks.

Monthly

Spend one weekend per month in a more remote setting, such as a national park.

Yearly

Every year or two, try a more intense nature setting over a several-day period.

Since there is no research showing an exact number of hours needed for an ideal nature prescription, these are guidelines.

If you need a more structured approach for the nature prescription, check out the programs offered in the U.S. by Parkrx or the SHIFT Rx Challenge.

Nature For Those Who Can’t Get Out

Nature’s Sounds, Smells, and Sights in Cities

Most people in the United States live in an urban environment. So how can they fulfill their nature prescription?

Making cities greener is hot right now. Check out these amazing examples in cities across the world:

Stuck Indoors?

What if you don’t have the time or money to pursue the nature prescription?

Try essential oils.

Get a tree-based essential oil like pine, fir, or juniper. Put a drop in your hands and rub them together and breathe in the scent.

You get the same impact of breathing these compounds in a natural setting. Minus the other beautiful aspects of the wild, of course. The benefits can last up to a month!

Look out the window.

If you spend a lot of time indoors, try to be near a window that looks out on some form of nature. Simply looking out the window can be beneficial.

Get a birdsong app.

Listen to birdsong for at least 5 minutes per day for a better mood and mental state.

Preserving Nature’s Sounds, Smells, and Sights

It is lovely to consider the impact of nature on your mental and physical health, which makes protecting our planet paramount.

In my book, What’s On Your Sign? How to focus your passion and change the world, I recommend focusing your passion. Perhaps environmental activism isn’t the cause closest to your heart. However, you can still support nature and our planet in easy ways.

  • Encourage others to follow the nature prescription. Especially kids and elders. Take teens outside for a digital break.
  • Advocate for green spaces in your community. Particularly if you live in an urban environment, green spaces are critical.
  • Donate to nonprofits working on green spaces and to botanical gardens.
  • Become a Master Gardener and help others create green spaces.

Your Nature Fix

You don’t need your doctor to give you a prescription to make you healthier: get out in nature. Rather than putting off excursions to parks, or trips into the wilderness, make them a priority.

Getting your nature fix is pretty straightforward, as Florence Williams says,

Distilling what I learned, I came up with a kind of ultrasimple coda: Go outside, often, sometimes in wild places. Bring friends or not. Breathe. Frances Williams

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This post appeared originally at Life At The Intersection.

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Terri Lyon

Terri Lyon

The Activist For Activists. Author. Teacher. Psychologist. Animal Lover.