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It ’ s probably no surprise that nature is beneficial to our mental health.
From hitting the beach,
to taking a long stroll through the park, multiple studies have shown
that there ’ s something about nature that helps us feel happier,
more focused, or just generally better.
But why that happens is trickier to figureout.
From what psychologists can tell, though,
it ’ s not just about getting in some sunshine
and Vitamin D. Instead,
it might have to do with our sense of belonging.
The idea that nature is healing isn ’ t a new one,
and exposure to natural environments
has been an important part of mental health treatments for a long time.
As early as the Middle Ages,
monasteries for those with mental illnesses created so-called
And in the 1800s,
people designing mental hospitals would try and make sure their buildings
were surrounded by acres of natural land.
So far, modern research really supports thisidea, too.
Studies have shown that being exposed to nature —
whether it ’ s a wilderness preserve or
a tree-lined city street — can improve wellbeing
in a bunch of ways, both in those with and
without clinical conditions.
For example, a 2011 meta-analysis looked
at studies involving a total of almost 850 participants
— mostly students.
It found that exercising
in a natural environment resulted in higher feelings of revitalization
than doing the same exercise indoors.
And another study from 2012 found that walking
through nature for 50 minutes provided a mood
boost and other cognitive benefits for twentyparticipants with depression.
There ’ s also evidence to suggest that those with schizophrenia, ADHD,
and a whole host
of other illnesses experience similar benefits from just taking in a little scenery.
So far, there are several factors that have been floated
around as possible explanations for this.
首先 大自然让我们释放压力 缓解注意力疲劳
One is that nature allows us to recover from stress and attention fatigue.
This is the idea that urban environments have
too many things competing for our attention.
Other studies suggest that nature offers exercise opportunities,
facilitation of social interaction
and development, and opportunities for personaldevelopment in general.
But a lot of these factors haven ’ t been investigated in rigorous depth.
They also don ’ t really explain the mechanisms
of how we gain psychological benefits just
from existing in nature, rather than running around in nature,
chilling with friends with
In fact, most research
on the subject seems to describe the mechanisms as ‘ elusive ’.
Which is psychologist speak for, “We dunno.
We ’ re workin ’ on it. ” Still,
that doesn ’ t mean we don ’
t have a hypotheses or two.
Some researchers argue that these positive effects,
at least in part, come about because
of an increased sense of connectedness tothe natural world.
2009年 环境和行为 一书中
One significant experiment about this was published
in 2009 in Environment and Behavior,
and it looked at the effect of exposure to nature
on mood and problem solving.
In this study, 76 students were asked to complete questionnaires
on mood, along with the Connectedness
with Nature Scale – or CNS – which
measures pretty much what the name implies.
It asks participants to rate how they feel
about some vaguely hippy-ish stuff, like ‘ Right
now I’m feeling a sense of oneness withthe natural world’.
Or ‘ I ’ m feeling
like the natural world is a community to which I belong ’.
After rating 13 of those peace and love statements,
the students were split into two groups, and
bundled onto buses for a field trip.
They took a 20-minute drive to either a
nature reserve or a downtown parking lot. Then,
they spent around 15 minutes silently walking, sitting,
and taking in the scenery
before filling out those questionnaires again.
The results showed
that participants who went to the nature reserve reported significantly
more of a mood boost from their trip.
Their feelings of being connected to nature were also higher
than those who took a stroll
in the parking lot. Now,
this in itself isn’t massively surprising.
You can imagine it ’ s probably hard to feel
at one with the universe standing on a stretch
What was more interesting is
that the CNS survey results seemed to mediate the effects
of the environment.
More specifically, when people reported that they felt part
of nature, their mood boost
tended to be bigger.
So it wasn ’ t just about seeing nature;
it was about feeling like they are part of it.
The scientists behind this experiment argue
that it ’ s that sense of connectedness that
causes all those positive benefits.
And they cite something called the biophilia hypothesis as a possible mechanism for this.
The hypothesis theorizes that since, evolutionarily speaking,
we ’ re used living in natural environments,
we all have some innate urge to seek out nature.
The researchers suggest that we need to see ourselves
as part of it, belonging to the
same group as the various plant and wildlife species we share our planet with.
It can be hard to prove evolutionary hypotheses like this,
especially when they ’ re as abstract
as this one.
But the concept that we need to belong
to groups to stay mentally healthy is one of
the main principles of social psychology research.
In fact, it ’ s such an important concept
that having a sense of belonging with other
people is seen as a core human need in somemodels.
Not having this sense of belonging can lead to things
like lowered immune response, and
poorer sleep quality. And,
those are exactly the kind of functions researchers have seen improve
when we’re exposed to natural environments.
So it ’ s not that huge of a stretch to think
that maybe that need to feel like we belong
extends beyond human interactions,
to seeing ourselves as part of the wider ecosystem on
It ’ s a plausible idea,
and the results of this study certainly support it.
But like with a lot of other big ideas,
it would help to have more research to be sure.
If nothing else, though,
studies do suggest that time in nature is really good for you.
So even if we don ’ t totally know why,
it ’ s probably worth visiting your local park sometime.
Your brain — and your mood — will thankyou.
Thanks for watching this episode of SciShowPsych!
If you enjoy hanging out in nature and want to learn more about it,
you can check out
one of our new sister channels, Nature League!
In it, SciShow Psych ’ s very
Brit Garner 会介绍所有与自然相关的知识
own Brit Garner explores all things wild — and takes you
on some field trips as a bonus.
你可以在YouTube或 nature League上找到
You can find it at youtube.com/natureleague.
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