Nature’s magic is largely underestimated, whether to recharge or to revive yourself, nature has all the answers.
We live in a fast-paced world with many stresses and stressors, and now in a pandemic, even more so. What we did give more attention to during stricter lockdowns when most people were confined to their homes, was gardening, in a pot on a patio, in a garden or in a vegetable patch for those lucky enough to have one. Nature’s magic is largely underestimated, whether to recharge or to revive yourself, nature has all the answers.
Being in nature for brief periods – or even simply having nature in view – can reduce the stress hormone cascade and improve immune defense. It has been proven conclusively that views of, and even better, being in nature leads to a more rapid and complete recovery from stress. Nature has a sort of ‘valium effect’ which lowers the levels of the stress hormone cortisol as well as lowering blood pressure and pulse rates and fostering positive thoughts.
Being in nature also increases heart rate variability, which is a good thing because it means the circulatory system can respond well to stress and can detect a dominance of the calming branch of the nervous system: the parasympathetic nervous system. Even the presence of plants in a room can enhance recovery from stress thus it is an excellent idea to surround your work station with plants or if this is not possible, at least put a plant in direct view of your work station.
Exposure to nature also fulfills an important role to focus attention. In short, there are two major forms of attention i.e. that which requires sustained effort (voluntary attention such as raising your hand in purposeful agreement to some task) and an effortless process (involuntary attention which simply happens) because of interest or excitement. Natural environments are mostly interesting and stimulate experiences of involuntary attention without requiring the expenditure of energy in the brain that would otherwise cause cognitive fatigue and has the ability to promote a sense of cognitive clarity. This type of mental focus in nature has attributed to positive human behaviour for millions of years without nature necessarily being acknowledged for its share in it.
In essence, we can attain such a nature-based mental focus by closing our eyes and visualising nature or looking out of a window to a view of nature. Even better would be to develop the daily ritual of sitting down for a while or taking a walk in a green area in between important tasks that require sustained voluntary attention to break down ‘directed attention and mental fatigue’ given that the latter diminishes our ability to ignore irrelevant information and magnifies unimportant issues which again contributes to stress. In this sense nature acts as a low-cost brain booster.
In conclusion then nature is an excellent stress reliever and assists with cognitive restoration which is an important factor in keeping stress at bay while ‘staying ahead of the pack’. Being in nature or even viewing scenes of it reduces anger, fear, anxiety and stress and increases good feelings and reduces the production of stress hormones. Encourage each other to spend more time in nature, and outdoors per se, it is good for us!
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