Being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, has been proven to reduce anger, fear, and stress and also increases pleasant feelings. Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical well-being by reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones. According to some scientists, it may even reduce mortality.
Nature helps us cope with pain. Because we are genetically programmed to find trees, plants, water, and other nature elements engrossing, we are absorbed by nature scenes and distracted from our pain and discomfort. Is it any wonder that healthcare facilities are typically adorned with portraits of beautiful landscapes of nature? Take a look around the next time you find yourself at the doctor’s office.
One of the most intriguing areas of current research is the impact of nature on general well-being. Outcomes of some studies have revealed that moods improved after spending time outside. Some individuals share that after spending time in nature, their mood changed from depressed, stressed, and anxious to more calm and balanced. Other studies have shown that time in nature or scenes of nature are associated with a positive mood, and psychological wellbeing, meaningfulness, and vitality.
Further research has shown that spending time in nature or viewing nature scenes increases our ability to pay attention. Because humans find nature inherently interesting, we can naturally focus on what we are experiencing in the moment out in nature. This “mindfulness” relaxation provides a respite for our overactive minds, refreshing us for new tasks.
Some gardens are called “healing gardens” and are incorporated in hospital settings to improve health outcomes. It is becoming more and more evident that including various forms of nature plays a positive role in improving overall wellness!
The term “healing gardens” is most often applied to green spaces in hospitals, and other healthcare facilities. These “healing gardens” specifically aim to improve health outcomes at those places. These gardens provide a place of refuge and promote healing in patients, families, and staff. While any environment has potential to promote healing, gardens are particularly able to do so because we as humans are hard-wired to find nature engrossing and soothing. Garden counseling is using these same theories and applying this healing for our every-day stresses and mental health.
According to two leaders in this field, Clare Cooper Marcus and Marni Barnes, healing comes because the gardens promote:
- Relief from symptoms
- Stress reduction
- Improvement in overall sense of well-being and hopefulness
Regardless of age or culture, we find nature to be restorative. In one study, researchers Marcus and Barnes found that more than two-thirds of people choose a natural setting to visit when feeling stressed. In another study, 95% (of those interviewed) said after spending time, outside their mood changed from being depressed, stressed, and anxious to more calm and balanced.
Why is nature so restorative? One school of thought holds that it is hardwired in our genes. “We have a kind of biologically prepared disposition to respond favorably to nature because we evolved in nature.” Roger Ulrich, a leading researcher in “healing gardens”. As a result, we tend to respond positively to environments that were favorable to us.”
Many studies show that after a stress inducing event, images of nature very quickly produce a calming effect, which we feel is perfect for garden counseling. Within 3-4 minutes after viewing nature scenes, blood pressure, respiration rate, brain activity, and the production of stress hormones all decrease, and mood improves. This has an evolutionary advantage because it allows us to recuperate and recover our energy quickly. This ability to recover from stress quickly allowed us to be ready to respond to new threats. This was important for our ancestors’ survival, and today it helps us with our high stress social environments. By incorporating a garden counseling setting, we are using the advantages of nature to cope with our environment that isn’t completely “natural”.
Nature is also fundamentally linked to our human spirituality. Out in nature, we feel how we are connected to entities beyond ourselves, and understand our interdependencies with other living beings. Nature also helps us to reflect on the ever-changing nature of existence and what might lie beyond.
The Heart Matters! The Garden is a reminder of the importance of connecting with God.
All throughout the Bible we see references to various “Gardens” One such garden is “The Garden of Eden” referenced in the book of Genesis. In this book, (Genesis Chapter 3) we learn that this is the garden in which Adam and Eve first experienced a sense of failure, shame, and remorse. At various times in our lives, we too experience this and as a result we often attempt to live our lives out of the presence of God. Just as God called out to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3: 9) , He calls out to us. The same God who came looking for Adam and Eve in their brokenness in The Garden, is the same God who comes looking for those who are experiencing a heart of brokenness and provides a way for every person who wants to come back into the presence of God. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/423971752398811035/
“The Lord God has given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary.”
– Isaiah 50:4 (a) New King James Version (NKJV)
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