When assessing our health, it is easy to focus on the quality of our diet and exercise as primary measures. This concentration on perfecting both food and fitness can often allow one to neglect other important factors that influence our health. Research supports that our relationship with nature is a fundamental component of maintaining good health. There is an important relationship between us and nature. Many studies have demonstrated the positive health benefits of both physical and visual exposure to nature, with benefits shown for a diverse range of diagnoses spanning from depression to obesity. From a human evolution perspective, our ancestors selected habitats with criteria for a survival advantage, such as living near water and an abundance of food avail-ability. The ability to identify relaxing and restorative natural settings also allowed for the opportunity of recovery from stress and fatigue.
We evolved outdoors and amongst nature and have since broken our strong connection with the natural environment. Much like our diet, our physical environment has changed drastically in a relatively short period of time. Although modern day living is more comfortable and convenient, there are tradeoffs and consequences. For working adults, students and children, our relationship with nature has been over-run by our relationship with technology and responsibilities. A recent study reports that children aged 8 to 18 averaged more than 7.5 hours daily in front of a screen, the results were even worse for adults. As a society we have developed a “nature deficit disorder” which is a diminished ability to find connection with the environment that surrounds us. Many studies have linked screen time to various health problems such as attention deficit disorder, depression, chronic disease such as cardiovascular and diabetes, hyperactivity, anxiety, depression, impaired social skills, sleep disorders and obesity.
Research has shown how important our connection to nature and the natural world is to our health, performance and community.
- Exercising in green environments produce a 50% greater benefit in mood and brain stress levels compared to equivalent indoor activity.
- Sounds of the ocean have been shown to alter brain waves help-ing to achieve a calm and relaxed state.
- Seawater contains many minerals which have been found to reduce infection, promote pain relief, and benefit conditions such as arthritis, psoriasis and depression.
- Sunshine is our main source of Vitamin D which plays a major role in bone health and immune function.
- Exposure to nature has been used as therapy for stress or mental fatigue, faster recovery from illness, and overall improvement in mental health. Increased performance
- After spending an hour outdoors interacting with nature, a study found that attention spans and memory performance improved by 20%.
- Workplaces designed with nature in mind result in employees who are more productive and use less sick time. Improved community
- Whether it is talking story in the surf lineup, catching up with old friends at a paddling regatta or volunteering at a beach clean-up, natural environments lead people to nurture closer relationships with community.
Our relationship with nature is a vital component of our health which is often neglected due to the concerns of modern life. In order to more fully address our health and wellness as humans, we must recognize the importance of our environment and get higher doses of Vitamin N.