The “Nature Effect”

by Stephanie Neuwald

Immersion in nature is a key element that attracts talented Retreat Leaders from around the globe to Samasati‘s rainforest sanctuary each year. The South Caribbean in Costa Rica offers lush tropical gardens, fresh ocean air, and an abundance of unique wildlife, providing a perfect backdrop to health and wellness retreats. As we discussed in a previous article, The Wisdom of the Jungle, the healing effects of nature are quite profound. Samasati Retreat Leader & Psychologist from Germany, Stephanie Neuwald, goes into greater detail on the subject and presents the key findings on Nature’s Effect on Mind, Body, and Spirit:

The effects of nature on body and psyche have been researched for the last 30 years in the America, Britain, Scandinavia and Japan. A lot of studies show that spending time in nature and even viewing nature pictures reduces negative feelings like anger, anxiety and stress and produces positive feelings like happiness, well-being, easiness and feeling free. An invigorating effect arises and body and soul refill with new energy. A day in nature has almost the same impact on us like a short vacation.

Feelings of relaxation arise as well as the feeling of inner freedom. Behavioral habits and problem solution strategies can be considered and new points of view and validation processes can appear. So nature contributes to giving meaning to our lives and thus plays a big role in the treatment of depression and burnout.

This has been shown by a study of Bratman et al. at Stanford university. They studied the impact of a 90-minute walk in nature on rumination, which is one of the main risk factors for depression. The researchers found that walking in nature, compared to walking in urban environment reduces rumination significantly as well as the neuronal activity in these areas of the brain connected to mental illnesses.

The impact of nature contact on the body consists in reducing blood pressure, pulse, muscle tension and stress hormones. Nature also shows to have a positive effect on activity and sports, which as well benefits body and soul.

Studies in hospitals, schools and offices show a significant reduction of stress, anxiety and pain only by having plants or nature pictures in the rooms or offering the possibility to having a view from the window into the green.

Nature doesn’t only boost healthiness but also assists to therapy of existing illnesses. So it could be shown that patients need less pain medication after surgery if thy they have nature access and they recovered faster than those, without nature contact.

There is as well evidence, that persons who have access to green surroundings are healthier in general and live longer.

Nature also has a positive effect on infant development. Research shows that children, who move to a greener environment improve their mental performance significantly. Nature contact was also to be found to have a positive impact on people with attention deficit syndrome and hyperactivity syndrome.

Many studies also show, that living in a superficial environment without nature contact fosters the development of physic and psychic illnesses. So the incidence of depression in people who live in big cities is higher than in people who live in rural areas. Equally, the incidence of depression is higher in people living in high-tech countries than in people living in more “natural” countries. Particularly working all day in front of a screen shows negative effects on the psyche. There is an increase of mental illnesses expected by growing urbanization.

Nature has a great influence on mood, good sleep, physical and psychic recovery and the reduction of stress. Summing up, we can say that spending time in nature is an important resource for the prevention of physic and mental illnesses. By involving nature in therapy conventional therapeutic methods can benefit and be more effective, because the person recovers faster and is more receptive and open for new solutions.

Stephanie and Steven Graves, Dipl. Psychologist and Fitness Trainer, will be hosting a transformative retreat focused on therapies that facilitate healing burn-out effects of chronic stress. Join them November 4th – 18th, 2016 at Samasati for the Stress and Burnout Therapy in Paradise Retreat – it’s the perfect combination of healing therapies and vacation!