Dr Forest at your service

This section is linked to exercise 7 Forest for rest and 9 The air we breathe

Not only are trees and plants wonderful to look at in a city, a green view is so much more than just decoration. A green environment improves the quality of life. Research shows that patients recover much faster in a green environment, residents of green neighbourhoods make less use of healthcare services, and employees of companies surrounded by green, feel much happier. In addition, a city park will encourage people to exercise and relax there, which will improve their health.

If you are feeling nervous, worried or stressed, what helps you to calm down in a situation like that? When thousands of people were asked this, almost all of them answered, “spending time in nature”. Research reveals that natural environments parks, forests, meadows etc can reduce our stress levels, stop us from thinking the worrisome thoughts and make us better able to focus on our homework and any other tasks at hand. In addition, spending time out in nature, makes us feel like we have more energy in us.

It is maybe hard to believe, but before we built cities, apartment buildings, had TVs, internet connections and all other comforts, human beings lived very close to nature. This made us very attuned to nature You can think of it as birds being able to navigate from Africa to Europe every spring. Similarly, we evolved in connection with nature and her cycles.

But even after years and years of living in the cities, our bodies have not changed that much. We will react to nature in a way that our bodies remember That is why when we get stressed in a built environment with all the flashing lights, sharp corners and sudden noises, we restore when we go out into a natural environment with green colours, sounds of birds, wind and water, as well as the fresh air and the natural smellscapes that are familiar to us.

Researchers have noticed that when we look at or enter a natural environment, majority of us starts to calm down right away on our body level. Familiar, non threatening natural sounds in nature or recorded will provide our nervous system messages that help us to relax. This works the same with pleasant, familiar nature smells around us.
After spending some time in nature, we notice that the thoughts do no longer race in the same circle, but they have calmed down. There is more space in our heads and more clarity. People have been found to be able to focus better after spending just 20 minutes in nature. That is the reason why it is important to get outside to look at trees and plants during the recess between classes. Especially for children and youth with ADHD the time spent in nature
increases their attention span later.

Finally, being outdoors is good for our immunity. Immunity is out internal military that makes sure we stay healthy and do not get sick. Nature helps us to become more stronger as our levels of vitamin D increase whe we are exposed to the sunlight. Of course, with sunlight one has to mind the deleterious effects of too much sun. However, if we pay attention, the times we spend time outside in the sun, for example in the early morning or afternoon sun, the benefits are likely to abundantly exceed the risks for our health.

Another way our immunity gets boosted in nature is by getting in contact with the microbes that are in nature. Of course, in the city you will also share the space with many people as well as their pets, so you should pay attention to not be exposed deleterious microbes. However, e.g touching the clean soil in the garden, running your hands through the wildflower meadow, or breathing in the compounds floating around in the forest air can have beneficial effects on our health to a degree that we are only starting to understand through scientific research.

This section is connected to exercise 3 Patterns in nature, and 7 Forest for rest

Some of the reasons behind why this happens can be found in the color green which effects our brain in a calming way. It is the same mechanism as with the colour red, which, is why in the old bull fighting tradition they use the red cloth which together with the waving movement would aggrevate the bull to attack. Green colour has an opposite, calming effect on us. For people who do not see the colour green, this cue will be not registered, but there are other cues which can help for colour blinded people calm down in nature. For instance, the branches of a tree form similar patterns that repeat themselves in different scales from large to small.
Examples of fractals in nature are snowflakes, trees branching, lightning, and ferns. Furthermore , it has been found that there is a neural mechanism in our brains that can explain why simply viewing nature can be beneficial for our health and on our mental capacities.

“Visual fluency” of nature was first mentioned by Benoît Mandelbrot, a French mathematician, who discovered these fractals in the rhythmic patterns of nature. At first glance, this physical “language” of nature seems incredibly complex, detailed and complicated to read, but actually the opposite is true. For our brain, fractals are easy to read and moreover, our brains find fractals particularly pleasant and soothing to look at. In fact, when researchers showed images of fractals to people, they discovered the brains of the test participants producing alpha waves. These alpha waves provide an awake, but relaxed state that is normally reached only by experienced meditators.