This article was reprinted as it originally appeared on the Alliance for Community Trees’ website:
Los Angeles, CA (June 4, 2015) — Studies continue to accumulate demonstrating the health benefits of spending time in nature, or even just looking at nature. In a presentation at the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA) conference, MaryCarol Hunter, a landscape architect and ecologist at the University of Michigan, describes her efforts to determine exactly what “dose” of nature is going to have the most impact.
As reported by Jared Green in the American Society of Landscape Architects article, “What Dose of Nature Do We Need to Feel Better?,” Hunter and her team examined 44 people over 8 weeks. She asked them to go out and immerse themselves in urban natural environments at least 2.5 times per week for a minimum of 10 minutes. Using a custom-designed smartphone app, these people walked or sat in nature and then answered questions about their mental well-being, both before being exposed to nature and then after. They were asked to record the types of landscapes they saw, the weather, and then take photographs of their preferred views, “scenes they were drawn to, that gave them that ‘ahhhh’ feeling.” As the walked and recorded their thoughts, the app also tracked their location.
The early results show that the “nature pill works.” Among all participants, they reported significantly less stress, an increased ability to focus, and increased satisfaction with their mood and energy levels after being exposed to nature. But Hunter admitted that “self-reported data is viewed as worthless; people want physical proof,” so before and after the nature exposure, they also studied participants’ cortisol levels, a physical indicator of stress, which correlated with the self-reported responses more than 60 percent of the time. She said this shows the data is largely credible.
While Hunter said it’s still too soon to tell what the optimal dose of the nature pill is, even just “10 minutes is effective.” Hunter hopes to have findings and a replicable methodology on deciphering “the nature pill” ready by November 2015. Read more about this study and several others under way through EDRA.