|Suicidal Behavior in Young People With Bipolar Disorder
||Brain abnormalities and suicidality in bipolar disordered young.
|Teenage Rebellion & Parental Freak Outs
||C.R. writes: Reported on ScienceDaily.com: “In a study, teens rarely talked to their parents about potentially risky online experiences. Parents and children often have much different perceptions of and reactions … ...
|Stigma and Social Support Matter in Substance Abuse
||When people are in treatment for substance abuse, the stigma they encounter and the social support they receive may have wide-ranging effects on their mental health. According to a new study published in Psychiatry Research, stigma and social support during substance abuse treatment are associated with several different aspects of...
|A Temp Solution
||Reincarnation-wise, suicide is a temporary solution to a permanent (samsaric) problem. Yet another reason not to do it....
|What Happens When We Reconnect with Nature
||Humans have long intuited that being in nature is good for the mind and body. From indigenous adolescents completing rites of passage in the wild, to modern East Asian cultures taking “forest baths,” many have looked to nature as a place for healing and personal growth.
Why nature? No one knows for sure; but one hypothesis derived from evolutionary biologist E. O. Wilson’s “biophilia” theory suggests that there are evolutionary reasons people seek out nature experiences. We may have preferences to be in beautiful, natural spaces because they are resource-rich environments—ones that provide optimal food, shelter, and comfort. These evolutionary needs may explain why children are drawn to natural environments and why we prefer nature to be part of our architecture.
Now, a large body of research is documenting the positive impacts of nature on human flourishing—our social, psychological, and emotional life. Over 100 studies have shown that being in nature, living near nature, or even viewing nature in paintings and videos can have positive impacts on our brains, bodies, feelings, thought processes, and social interactions. In particular, viewing nature seems to be inherently rewarding, producing a cascade of position emotions and calming our nervous systems. These in turn help us to cultivate greater openness, creativity, connection, generosity, and resilience.
In other words, science suggests we may seek out nature not only for our physical survival, but because it’s good for our social and personal well-being.
How nature helps us feel good and do good
The naturalist John Muir once wrote about the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California: “We are now in the mountains and they are in us, kindling enthusiasm, making every nerve quiver, filling every pore and cell of us.” Clearly, he found nature’s awe-inspiring imagery a positive, emotive experience.
But what does the science say? Several studies have looked at how viewing awe-inspiring nature imagery in photos and videos impacts emotions and behavior. For example, in one study participants either viewed a few minutes of the inspiring documentary Planet Earth, a neutral video from a news program, or funny footage from Walk on the Wild Side. Watching a few minutes of Planet Earth led people to feel 46 percent more awe and 31 percent more gratitude than those in the other groups. This study and others like it tell us that even brief nature videos are a powerful way to feel awe, wonder, gratitude, and reverence—all positive emotions known to lead to increased well-being and physical health.
Positive emotions have beneficial effects upon social processes, too—like increasing trust, cooperation, and closeness with others. Since viewing nature appears to trigger positive emotions, it follows that nature likely has favorable effects on our social well-being.
This has been robustly confirmed in research on the benefits of living near green spaces. Most notably, the work of Frances Kuo and her colleagues finds that in poorer neighborhoods of Chicago people who live near green spaces—lawns, parks, trees—show reductions in ADHD symptoms and greater calm, as well as a stronger sense of connection to neighbors, more civility, and less violence in their neighborhoods. A later analysis confirmed that green spaces tend to have less crime.
Viewing nature in images and videos seems to shift our sense of self, diminishing the boundaries between self and others, which has implications for social interactions. In one study, participants who spent a minute looking up into a beautiful stand of eucalyptus trees reported feeling less entitled and self-important. Even simply viewing Planet Earth for five minutes led participants to report a greater sense that their concerns were insignificant and that they themselves were part of something larger compared with groups who had watched neutral or funny clips.
Several studies have also found that viewing nature in images or videos leads to greater “prosocial” tendencies—generosity, cooperation, and kindness. One illustrative study found that people who simply viewed 10 slides of really beautiful nature (as opposed to less beautiful nature) gave more money to a stranger in an economic game widely used to measure trust.
All of these findings raise the intriguing possibility that, by increasing positive emotions, experiencing nature even in brief doses leads to more kind and altruistic behavior.
How nature helps our health
Besides boosting happiness, positive emotion, and kindness, exposure to nature may also have physical and mental health benefits.
The benefits of nature on health and well-being have been well-documented in different European and Asian cultures. While Kuo’s evidence suggests a particular benefit for those from nature-deprived communities in the United States, the health and wellness benefits of immersion in nature seem to generalize across all different class and ethnic backgrounds.
Why is nature so healing? One possibility is that having access to nature—either by living near it or viewing it—reduces stress. In a study by Catharine Ward Thompson and her colleagues, the people who lived near larger areas of green space reported less stress and showed greater declines in cortisol levels over the course of the day.
In another study, participants who viewed a one-minute video of awesome nature rather than a video that made them feel happy reported feeling as though they had enough time “to get things done” and did not feel that “their lives were slipping away.” And studies have found that people who report feeling a good deal of awe and wonder and an awareness of the natural beauty around them actually show lower levels of a biomarker (IL-6) that could lead to a decreased likelihood of cardiovascular disease, depression, and autoimmune disease.
Though the research is less well-documented in this area than in some others, the results to date are promising. One early study by Roger Ulrich found that patients recovered faster from cardiovascular surgery when they had a view of nature out of a window, for example.
A more recent review of studies looking at different kinds of nature immersion—natural landscapes during a walk, views from a window, pictures and videos, and flora and fauna around residential or work environments—showed that nature experiences led to reduced stress, easier recovery from illness, better physical well-being in elderly people, and behavioral changes that improve mood and general well-being.
Why we need nature
All of these findings converge on one conclusion: Being close to nature or viewing nature improves our well-being. The question still remains…how?
There is no question that being in nature—or even viewing nature pictures—reduces the physiological symptoms of stress in our bodies. What this means is that we are less likely to be anxious and fearful in nature, and thereby we can be more open to other people and to creative patterns of thought.
Also, nature often induces awe, wonder, and reverence, all emotions known to have a variety of benefits, promoting everything from well-being and altruism to humility to health.
There is also some evidence that exposure to nature impacts the brain. Viewing natural beauty (in the form of landscape paintings and video, at least) activates specific reward circuits in the brain associated with dopamine release that give us a sense of purpose, joy, and energy to pursue our goals.
But, regrettably, people seem to be spending less time outdoors and less time immersed in nature than before. It is also clear that, in the past 30 years, people’s levels of stress and sense of “busyness” have risen dramatically. These converging forces have led environmental writer Richard Louv to coin the term “nature deficit disorder”—a form of suffering that comes from a sense of disconnection from nature and its powers.
Perhaps we should take note and try a course corrective. The 19th century philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote about nature, “There I feel that nothing can befall me in life—no disgrace, no calamity (leaving me my eyes), which nature cannot repair.” The science speaks to Emerson’s intuition. It’s time to realize nature is more than just a material resource. It’s also a pathway to human health and happiness.
|How Yoga Helps with Depression, Anxiety and Addiction
||Aerobic movement of any kind helps to relieve depression and anxiety by boosting our brain’s dopamine levels and providing endorphins. But some types of exercises are superior for healing chronic conditions, mood disorders, and addiction. Yoga’s therapeutic benefits have been studied in recent decades, with much … ...
|8 Ways To Cope With Someone Who Has Delusions
||Do you know someone who struggles with delusions or odd patterns of thoughts? As discussed in last week’s article on this topic, a delusion is a firmly held thought or conviction … ...
|The Hidden Power of Creativity
||Today, I’m honored to share a guest post by Carol K. Walsh, MSW, an author, artist and coach. Carol is the author of a new memoir called Painting Life: My Creative Journey … ...
|Love: Making You Feel Guilty and Stupid
||When there is confusion, people often ask “why” individuals make the choices they do. As if an explanation of information would cause us to suddenly agree with another’s choices. For … ...
|Kim Jung Un Likes H-Bombs and the NBA
||The recent assassination of Kim Jong Un’s older half-brother, Kim Jong Nam, was apparently the latest extermination by Kim Jong Un. Besides exterminating people, Kim Jong Un also likes basketball … ...
|Study: Geographic location shapes what it means to be liberal or conservative
||What it means to be a “liberal”, “conservative”, or “moderate” varies from state to state in America, according to research published in PLOS One. “Our results suggest that if a person feels hatred toward others simply based on how they identify on the political ideology spectrum, then in some circumstances, that hatred is actually aimed [...]
|Mental Health Humor’s Daily Doodle: Pain Management
||Today’s Daily Doodle was more about pain management. Focusing on the doodle help get my mind off the pain I was experiencing. I find doodle and draw to help to cope … ...
|Study finds number processing task predicts improvements in gaming skill
||A particular cognitive ability can predict improvements in computer game playing skill, according to new research. The study, published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, examined players of the game Dota 2, a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA). The authors of the study recruited 288 participants from an international MOBA tournament and had them complete a [...]
|Share Your Story
||I remember the day I was first diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. It was my first year of graduate school, and I saw a counselor at the university I was at. She diagnosed me and sent me to a psychiatrist who confirmed the diagnosis. It … ...
|Stressed by success, a top restaurant turns to therapy
||A Spanish restaurant hired its own psychologist to help employees cope with the high stress environment.
|Billboard about gender roles sparks debate, protest
||At a rally, most people spoke against assigning roles to gender, but not everyone agreed.
|Study identifies the weird things men should do to turn women on
||The most guaranteed way to attract a partner is through “intellectual interests” and “creative achievement.”
|Bestselling Author of 50 Books Reveals His Amazing Journey...
||As a mental health blogger, sometimes you run across people with a story you simply must tell. Such is the case with Will Jiang of Mental Health Books. Will is … ...
|Why children ask ‘Why?’ and what makes a good explanation
||When I was about four years old, I asked my mother one of my first ‘Why?’ questions: ‘Mom, why does Pippo live underwater?’ Mom explained that Pippo, our goldfish, was a fish, and fish live underwater. This answer left me unsatisfied, so I kept enquiring: ‘Why do fish live underwater? Can’t we also live underwater?’ Mom [...]
|Aggression disorder linked to greater risk of substance abuse
||People with intermittent explosive disorder (IED)–a condition marked by frequent physical or verbal outbursts–are at five times greater risk for abusing substances such as alcohol, tobacco and marijuana than those who don’t display frequent aggressive behavior, according to a new study by researchers from the University of Chicago. In the study, published Feb. 28, 2017 [...]