Archives for posts tagged as "stress"
In the cities of 2017, nearby nature provides opportunities to enjoy the scenery, relax, sit quietly, commune with others, and self-reflect. For early human ancestors, a stroll through the neighborhood might have been a bit more stressful. A run-in with a tiger or a warring tribe causes blood pressure to spike and stress hormones to shift. Are today’s pressures comparable to our ancestors’? Today, and in the past, the places we inhabit and the events we experience influence our bodies and minds in sometimes imperceptible ways.
The grocery store, your city buildings, the trees lining the main street in your neighborhood, the leaves in your driveway. The role of these everyday physical spaces and places are often taken for granted. Yet, by now we’ve established that an environment can support health and healing, or hinder it. The most straightforward example, of course, could be the hospital. For hundreds of years humans have built and cultivated complex environments intended to support healing. The design of healing spaces has changed throughout history, often according to values, beliefs, scientific knowledge, and technology.
Dedicated temples can be seen today in the Greek countryside of the once city-state of Epidaurus. This World Heritage Site dates from the 4th century BCE and is a remarkable example of design devoted to healing. Here people would come to worship, lodge, recreate, and heal. The use of a garden or hot springs as a healing place is also evident in other early Asian and Roman cultures.Read more
Consistent research findings conclude visiting nearby nature lowers blood pressure, reduces headache and fatigue, improves mood and hastens recovery from stress. A recent study on hypertension compared elderly research participants who spent seven days in a city with another group spending a week in the forest: “… subjects exposed to the forest environment showed a significant reduction in blood pressure in comparison to that of the city group.”Read more
Did you know there are two theoretical frameworks that attempt to explain the psychological experience of chronic stress and the restorative effect of nature? The framework that has received the most attention, Attention Restoration Theory (ART), was developed by Stephen and Rachel Kaplan, and proposes that nature has certain properties that allow a person to recover from the mental fatigue caused by the focused attention needed to get things done at work, school, and in our busy lifestyles. The other perspective, psychoevolutionary theory, looks at restoration from a more general perspective of stress reduction, and posits that people respond to certain perceptual qualities of nature that encourage our physiological systems to relax and recover in ways that help improve behavioral and cognitive performance. Both frameworks generally argue that human beings react positively to certain qualities and characteristics of natural environments.Read more
Can community green spaces help relieve the stress from everyday tasks and life events? And, what might be special about nearby green spaces?
It doesn’t take a scientist to know that a nearby park helps you feel better and spend time with your family. But does science have anything to say about stress and nearby nature spaces? We know that simple visual exposure to nearby nature (such as window views and green roadsides) alone or combined with moderate activity in green spaces can effectively reduce stress. Multiple studies demonstrate the restorative benefits of nature when participants complete a stressful task followed by prompts of natural or built areas. Blood pressure lowers when study subjects look out a window with a view of trees. Nature walks are associated with blood pressure improvement, better task performance, and decreased anger compared to results of an urban walk! 1 And,we know that our heart rates decrease more rapidly with a window view of a natural scene compared to a view of a blank wall or a natural scene presented on a plasma screen.2Read more
The influences of stress on general health and incidence of disease is well documented in the medical community. And most of us, simply by carrying out tasks in everyday life, feel the sources and consequences of stress. When we are faced with ‘acute’ stressors in our lives – such as loss of a job, or a divorce – we turn to coping and resilience strategies that immediately address negative emotions or situations. Support for stressful life events can be found in formalized health care centers and community groups. But, what do we do about chronic stress?Read more