Well-being from nature: An exercise for observing nature - Exercise 3.

Look at the nature around you. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell? Touch the trunks of trees and the leaves of plants with your hands – but be careful not to damage anything. Take off your shoes and experience how the ground feels under your feet. Focus on one sense at a time and move calmly from one perception to another. Don’t try to change your perceptions, just accept them as they are as they come to you. Just 15 minutes of being in nature can help achieve various benefits for your health and well-being – so continue the exercise for about 15 minutes and enjoy the positive effects of nature.



Studies show that nature has a range of effects on your health and well-being. The good effects of nature can be seen in, among other areas, psychological and social well-being, physical health and cognitive performance.1 In addition to direct well-being effects, nature can also affect your health indirectly, because it can encourage people to be physically active.2

Here you can read more about the well-being effects of being in nature. Get to know a few theories that attempt to explain how nature affects our well-being affects.

There are various environmental psychological theories that explain the effects of nature on well-being.3 The prevailing theories are stress reduction theory and attention restoration theory.3 According to stress reduction theory, physical and psychological stress is reduced in a natural environment, because in nature people are close to the factors that influenced the survival of our ancestors during our evolutionary history.4 According to the theory, humans have an innate evolutionary tendency to experience the natural environment as restorative. According to attention restoration theory, nature promotes the recovery of attentiveness.5 A person’s attentiveness is strained by various tasks that require concentration, such as studying. Restoration theory suggests that the restorative effect of nature is explained by a phenomenon called fascination, which means that the interesting elements of the natural environment automatically and effortlessly attract a person’s attention, and the directed attention can then be restored.5 Fascination can happen, for example, when you look at a beautiful sunset or hear branches rustling in the wind on a hike in the forest. Perhaps you yourself, after a hard day at work or school, have ended up close to nature and noticed the refreshing effect it has. This effect occurs because, in nature, your brain has been able to recover after a hard day.

Research suggests that even a short stay in nature can improve an individual’s emotional well-being.6 Being in nature has been found to improve mood, for example through an increase in positive emotions and a decrease in negative emotions.7 In addition, nature has been found to promote the recovery of attentiveness, which enhances various information processing functions, such as perception, thinking and memory.8,9 That’s why being in nature, for example during a break between classes or at lunch, is a good way to help you cope during the school day or while at work!

Perhaps you have been on a hike in the forest, where you get exercise almost unnoticed while admiring the scenery and eating snacks. One of the most important health effects of nature is increased exercise: even as a child, nature offers an excellent opportunity to practice various basic motor skills.10 Nature provides an environment for movement, and the experiences it offers, such as beautiful landscapes, can also attract people to move in it.11

Along with encouraging movement, the health benefits of nature have been linked to recovery from stress and positive environmental factors such as better air quality and less exposure to noise.11 Being in nature has also been found to expose humans to microbes important for immune defense, and it has been suggested that a versatile connection to nature can support the immune system.12 In individual studies, being in nature has even been found to lower the heart rate, blood pressure and amount of stress hormones in the body.13,14 If you are feeling stress in your life at the moment, maybe you have noticed that while exercising the stress decreased for a while.

Nature can also affect people’s social well-being. Research has shown that green areas, such as urban community gardens, can provide opportunities for building social relationships and creating social cohesion between people.15 According to some studies, there is even less crime and violence in neighborhoods with lots of green areas.16 Have you ever noticed that when you walk in nature, you can meet exceptionally happy people? Everyone can do their part to promote the social well-being of nature, so remember to greet those people you come across while out in nature!

Positive experiences in the natural environment can also promote people’s ecological behavior.17 When moving in nature, it is important to respect your surroundings. Let nature’s plants and animals grow in peace, and do not leave any garbage behind.

Research says that being in nature for just 15 minutes can help you achieve a wide range of well-being and health effects.18 So go out and enjoy nature alone, with a friend or family member or a pet! Use the exercise from the beginning of this text to help you focus on observing nature and get a relaxing moment in your everyday life. Alternatively, go for a jog or set out on a hike with snacks. Nature lets you enjoy its benefits in many ways – how you enjoy those benefits is up to you!


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