Bioethics Blogs

Improve Health by Returning to Nature

It’s a challenging time of year for those of us living in
the snowbound regions of North America. Cold temperatures limit outdoor
activity to quick spurts broken up by the need to get warm and sunshine can be
hard to come by. Ground hogs are disrupted from their morning naps every Feb. 2
to see if warmer days will be welcomed back sooner rather than later. We yearn
for the return of leafy trees, green grass, and less slippery walkways. Science
has taken an interest in just what we gain from exposure to nature, and it
seems there is more to it than simply wishing winter a glad farewell.
  Though we may consider it common sense that
people feel better when they get outdoors, breathe fresh air, and spend time in
green spaces filled with grass and trees, there is a growing body of literature
to back it up.

According to the NYS Department of Environmental
Conservation
 
spending time in forests makes us healthier. 
The noted benefits include: boosts immunity, reduces stress, lowers
blood pressure and improves mood, helps with focus and concentration, increases
energy, and improves sleep. “Recognizing those benefits, in 1982, the Japanese
Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries even coined a term for it:
shinrin-yoku. It means taking in the forest atmosphere or “forest
bathing
,” and the ministry encourages people to visit forests to relieve
stress and improve health”
.
It seems they are onto something important here. Rx: Forest time.

But why? One study suggests that as humans we respond to the
color green itself in some primitive way that enhances our cognitive state.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.