Calvin: “Look at all the stars! The universe just goes out forever and ever!”
Hobbes: “It kind of makes you wonder why man considers himself such a big screaming deal.”
If you ever needed a reason to step outside, whether to gaze at the stars or walk in the woods, Florence William’s engaging book, The Nature Fix, supplies it in spades. The Nature Fix explores the beneficial physical, psychological and social changes that nature induces in us, and explains the science behind it.
Amongst the many intriguing studies covered, researchers in Japan and Finland showed that spending just fifteen minutes in nature lowered blood pressure, stress levels and improved the overall mood of test subjects. Bumping up that nature experience to 45 minutes actually elicited improved cognitive performance in test subjects. Apparently, a small dose of nature gives the “executive office” of our brain a rest. That’s the part of the brain where problems are solved and decisions made; a little bit of rest allows it to bounce back at peak performance.
And the benefits don’t stop there. Nature, it seems, can improve our creativity and even has the capacity to make us more compassionate and generous. In a study designed to examine the impacts of awe inspiring experiences, one test group was instructed to gaze up at 200-foot tall Eucalyptus trees for one minute while another group was instructed to stare up at a rather non-descript building. Both groups then separately witnessed a carefully staged “accident” and were unknowingly evaluated on how helpful they were to the person needing assistance. Guess which group was the more helpful? The body of research suggests that awe inspiring experiences, like watching a beautiful sunset or staring at the Milky Way as Calvin did, make us feel part of something bigger than ourselves, and that helps make us feel more connected to each other. Interesting.
In Pepperell and our surrounds, we’re very fortunate to have nature so close at hand. Spending just a few minutes a day there walking, biking, riding or simply hanging could do us, and our community, a lot of good.