Five ways nature improves your wellbeing
We have all heard it—spending time in nature can improve your health.
Western science is finally catching up with what Māori and many other knowledge systems have always known. People are part of nature, and being separated from it affects our health.
Zealandia researchers have had leading roles in new discoveries about how nature improves our health.
Here are five ways through which reconnecting with nature can improve your wellbeing.
Better blood pressure, lower stress
Spending time in nature is a simple yet effective antidote to reduce your stress levels and mental fatigue, and can even lower your blood pressure. Some studies suggest as little as 10 minutes is enough to have an immediate positive effect on stress and blood pressure, and over a long period of time two hours a week is enough to have a significant effect on your overall health and psychological wellbeing. Recent research out of Zealandia shows you get even more benefits if you get involved in nature-based volunteering, as this adds a sense of connection to your community.
Enhancing your memory
In fact, even a glimpse of nature outside the window can reduce your mental fatigue and even improve productivity. Research has shown that your memory can improve after looking at pictures of nature, and students with a view of nature from their school rooms achieve better exam results.
One theory is this happens because you get some relief from ‘directed attention’, where you are constantly tackling emails or scrolling the socials. Nature provides an inherent fascination that can help you recover from the stress of modern living.
Improving your natural microbiome
Many of us reach for the probiotic drinks when we are feeling rough. But we now know that your environment has an incredible effect on your own personal microbiome. While many aspects of the urban environment such as pollution can have a negative effect on the bacteria that support our health, nature can help boost it. For example, children who grow up surrounded by green spaces and more diverse plant communities tend to have a healthier immune system, and tend to suffer less from allergies. Another reason to spend time in biologically diverse places like Zealandia.
Helping you heal faster
One of the studies that helped kick off the research into nature and wellbeing showed hospital patients who have a view of nature from their window heal faster and are discharged earlier than those with a view of a wall. There is even evidence just pictures of nature can reduce pain. This highlights that getting into nature—or even looking at it—should be part of how we care for ourselves as we recover from any illness. It also shows that incorporating nature into our healing spaces would be a big step forward for our health system.
Creating a healthier living environment
Having a nature-rich city affects the very air we breathe—trees and shrubs directly filter the pollutants out of the air. Plants also provide many other services in cities, from improving the flow and quality of water, to regulating how heat is absorbed and reflected. These are just a couple of examples of the services that nature provides for people; there are few tools in the toolbox that improve our cities in so many different ways.
Photo by Johnny Hendrikus.