The beauty of nature reconfigured our brains and bodies

09 Apr

 nature reconfigured our brains and bodiesA story about a study aimed at understanding how the natural environment will refocus our attention, reduces stress and speeds recovery

A small town with a local suburban hospital. Patients are placed in the hospital wards, facing a small courtyard. In the early 1980s, a scientist visited the hospital to collect information on patients who underwent a gall bladder operation in the period from 1972 to 1981.

Gall bladder operation is common, and there are no complications, it generally does not. However, most patients in the 1970s, takes a week or even two on the post-operative recovery, and only after that they can return home. Some of the amendment took longer than the others.
The scientist had an idea: maybe the discrepancy in the timing of recovery due to a subtle difference between the chambers of the hospital? Part of the hospital rooms have views of the brick wall, and the other that a little further down the hall, located directly in front of a small group of deciduous trees. Except for the view from the windows, in the rest of the House were identical.

When the scientist looked medical records of patients post-operative recovery, he was struck by the fact that patients with views of the Houses of the trees felt a lot better than people of the houses, overlooking a brick wall. On average last discharged from the hospital a day later. In addition, they were much more depressed and felt more pain. Average nurse recorded four complaints from each such patient. These recordings have such comments, “in need of comfort” and “upset and crying.” On the patient side of the chambers with a view of trees, from them for the entire recovery period received no more than one complaint. Along with this, only a very small proportion of patients with a view of the Houses of the trees require more than one dose of a strong pain medication in the middle of their stay. For patients facing the wall, they needed two or three doses. Except for the view from the windows, patients were similar, and they were completely identical treatment in the hospital. Each patient was out of the room with a view of the trees were selected for comparison of similar age, sex, weight, smoking status, or non-smokers from the House with a view of a wall. For the attending physicians and nurses was set carefully monitored. Given that all these factors are controlled, the only explanation for why patients with views of the Houses of the trees got better quickly, was that they were lucky to take a room with a view of nature.

These surprising results to the fact that the effect is very significant. It far exceeds the effects of many other target effects during treatment. By some measures, patients with views of nature felt four times better than those who looked at the wall. Convincing results usually cause a wave of skepticism, but many studies have shown similar effects. In one of the two psychologists concerned with the relationship of man and the environment, studied 337 pairs of parents living with their children in five rural areas in the vicinity ofNew York. They defined “close to nature” of the house of every family, assigning points for views of the nature of the window, assessed the presence of plants in the house and lawn in the backyard. Some of these children had very little stress in the process of growing up, rarely fight and gets punished at school. However, others were cocky, and they were hard to get along with their parents. When the researchers measured the levels of happiness and well-being of students in the school, they noticed that those who face adversity, were depressed, they had a low self-esteem. The exceptions were the students who lived closer to the natural environment. The presence of nature supposedly protected them from the stress experienced by other children, who lived mainly in the artificial environment.

In another more specific study, researchers found out of a hundred pairs of parents as their children suffering from disorders related to attention deficit disorder, which manifests itself in the various games. Children with the disorder are often overly excited and scattered. However, parents reported that physically active outdoors, such as fishing or football, their children in a more calm and centered state. However, this does not mean that children are spending more time on the street, were happier, more actively engage in dialogue with other children or have been vigorously. In essence, those who stayed at home in a room with a view of nature, were calmer children playing in the street in an artificial environment, devoid of grass and trees.

So what makes the natural environment from any other? Why, for example, a quiet street scene may not have the same impact as a peaceful natural landscape? In architecture has its own beauty, and some people prefer the natural urban environment. So why is the nature itself has such a powerful restorative effect? The answer lies in the fact that the environment has a unique set of features that distinguish it from man’s creation of objects. Just before the beginning of the 20th century, one of the first prominent founders of modern psychology, William James (William James) explained that human attention is manifested in two different forms. First – it directed attention, allowing us to focus on performing complex tasks such as driving a car or a letter. Reading the book also requires focused attention, and you may feel that you start to lose concentration when tired or when you read a few hours without a break. The second form of attention is involuntary attention, which comes to a person naturally and requires no mental effort. As James wrote, “unfamiliar things, moving things, wild animals, bright colors, beautiful things, words, strokes, blood, etc. etc. “- all unwittingly attracts our attention.

Nature restores mental activity in the same way as water and food rejuvenate the body. Affairs of everyday life, such as maneuvering in traffic, production decisions and value judgments, as well as communication with strangers, are tiring. All that we have takes manmade environment, returns us to nature. You can say that in this statement lies a kind of mysticism, not backed up by science, but the essence of the matter lies in the notion that psychologists call the theory of recovery of attention or TIA. According to this theory, the urban environment tiring, because it forces us to direct attention to specific tasks (for example, to avoid collision in the traffic). It draws our attention to the growing pace, as if speaking to us: “Look here!” And then say, “Now look over there!”. All these demands are exhausting us, and in the natural environment with them face to occur. Forests, streams, rivers, lakes and oceans – they all require us to a very small, even though they lure, capture us and attracts attention. The difference between the natural and urban landscape is how they manage our attention. While artificial landscapes has been pushing us to the suspense, the natural landscape provides us with an opportunity to reflect as much or as little as we ourselves would like, and allows you to replenish depleted resources of mental activity.

Healers in Japan and Germany have been arguing about the benefits of natural therapies, in recognition of the fact that humanity is 99.99% of the time of its existence, has lived in the natural environment. The Japanese version of a natural therapy – a “shinrin-yoku” or “bathing in the forest” that requires the people practicing her long walks in wooded areas with trees inhaling aromas that complement the forest atmosphere. German therapy “Kneipp” also requires the passing of her patients, or exercising in the forest areas. These types of alternative therapy is not a useless fad cultures of these peoples. The researchers found that undergoing this therapy to patients, it brings many benefits. Among other things, compared with people walking in urban areas, have practiced “Shirin-yoku” patients had a lower pressure, less rapid pulse and lower cortisol levels, indicating lack of stress. Observing natural views people feel not only happier and more comfortable – this therapy is extremely useful for those building blocks of which their psychological health.

The natural environment provides comfort and good mood. This is partly due to the fact that in such an environment people experience less stress. The possibility of such an environment in a stressful situation, it is small compared with the trials and tribulations that most of us experience in the built environment. These include conflicts at work, traffic jams and roaring children on board international flights. By stimulating a certain way, people can overcome these situations, but we can not use such a scenario, when faced with a powerful source of stress that takes us from a state to a state of comfort evstressa (positive stress), and shall communicate sometimes to a dangerous state of distress (severe disturbance) .

Some interesting places, including actively visited objects of the natural environment, bring a benefit that psychologists now believe possible on this basis to offer a cheap and effective way to reduce the impact of some cancers. One team of researchers found that those women who have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer early stage, much better job of relating to the thought process, if they were immersed in the natural environment for two hours every week for about two months. Such treatment is started from the time of diagnosis, and women continued after surgery in the recovery period. Like many frustrated patients who begin to fight life-threatening diseases, women struggled to perform mental activities related to the problem immediately after diagnosis. Condition of those who spent time in the natural environment is constantly improving, and they re-gain the ability to pay attention to the solution of various pressing problems related to mental activity. At the same time, patients who did not take the course of recovery in the natural environment, it is very difficult to solve similar problems in the study.

Obviously, the focus is not cure, but patients with more acute mental perception of such treatment are more tangible effect, they carefully adhere to treatment, and in the process of healing behave more prudently. Of course, nature is not a cure, but this treatment is an inexpensive and effective way to reduce the impact of disease and the muting effect of daily stress.

Adam Olter is an assistant professor of marketing and psychology School of Business. Stern NYU. His book ¬ęDrunk Tank Pink: And Other Unexpected Forces That Shape How We Think, Feel, and Behave was published in March 2013.

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Posted by on April 9, 2013 in Human, Nature


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