How Nature Restores our Sense of Balance
Getting vitamin N, your daily dose of Green
Posted September 29, 2015
Each day we spend more of our time with machines—cars, computers, cell phones, and the cacophony of contemporary life. Out of touch with nature and our own natural rhythms, too many of us lose our balance, suffering from what environmental journalist Richard Louv calls “nature deficit disorder.” “The more high-tech our lives become,” he says, “the more nature we need to achieve natural balance.” He calls this “vitamin N,” the key to greater emotional and physical health (2011, p. 5).
Decades of environmental psychology have confirmed this. In Roger Ulrich’s classic study in a Philadelphia hospital (1984), some patients recovering from abdominal surgery had a view of trees outside their windows, while others looked out at only bare brick walls. While they all had the same doctors, nurses, and hospital food, the nature view was the one defining difference. The patients with the view of trees suffered from fewer complications, needed less pain medication, and were discharged more quickly than the others. Since then, many hospitals have created healing gardens, quiet green spaces for contemplation. In the 1990s, survey research on patients, visitors, and hospital staff who visited healing gardens in the San Francisco Bay area indicated that up to 88 percent of them felt calmer, more relaxed, and less stressed (Marcus & Barnes, 1995).
Whether in gardens, parks, wilderness hikes or a view from a window, environmental psychologists Stephen and Rachel Kaplan have found that reconnecting with nature can heal and restore us (1989). As I write this, looking out my study window, I see a gray squirrel scampering up the branches of a nearby pine tree while delicate green and gold wisteria leaves flutter in the breeze.
Our house is surrounded by trees—two lemon trees, deodar pines, and a bay laurel in the back yard; an avocado tree, crape myrtles and young redwood tree on the sides; a Japanese maple, Chinese tallow, liquidambar, and two groves of birches in front; a venerable coast redwood in the back corner and California live oaks on the hillside above I find daily renewal not only working in my garden but glancing up at nature’s living tapestry in the green world outside.
How do you get your daily dose of vitamin N?
Why not take a few moments to look out the window?
Or step outside to reconnect with the natural world.
Then take a deep breath and
Breathe in the beauty of this day.
Kaplan, R., & Kaplan, S. (1989). The experience of nature: A psychological perspective. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Louv, R. (2011). The nature principle. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin Books.
Marcus, C. C., & Barnes, M. (1995). Gardens in health care facilities. Martinez, CA: Health Design.
Ulrich, R. S. (1984). View through a window may influence recovery from surgery. Science, 224, 420-421.
Diane Dreher is a best-selling author, positive psychology coach, and professor at Santa Clara University. Her latest book is Your Personal Renaissance: 12 Steps to Finding Your Life’s True Calling.
Visit her web site at www.dianedreher.com