Whether your idea of spending time in the great outdoors is drinks on the patio or a backpacking trip through the mountains, most of us can probably agree that there’s just something about being outside that makes us feel great, but did you know that there’s actually science to back that up?
On the podcast Hidden Brain, host Shankar Vedantam talks with psychologist Ming Kuo in the episode Our Better Nature: How The Great Outdoors Can Improve Your Life about the physical and mental benefits of nature on the human brain.
Kuo has spent more than 30 years studying the effects of nature on humans. Early on, she studied research that looked at the well-being of zoo animals and even though the animals had all of the basics that they needed to survive (food, safety, shelter), they weren’t thriving. Biologists who study animals in the wild have something called the “habitat selection theory” which is the idea that we are wired for the habitats that our ancestors lived in, so animals who are in their “natural habitats” will do much better than animals in the zoo.
What does that have to do with us? In the history of humankind, urban communities are relatively new and our “natural habitats” are more, well, natural. So all of us living or working in urban landscapes are sort of like those animals in the zoo, we’re surviving in our new habitats, but not always thriving. But the good news is that just a little bit of greenery in our everyday lives can help increase our wellbeing in a variety of ways.
For example, one of the studies Kuo talks about in the episode compares pharmacy prescriptions in different neighborhoods of London with similar socioeconomic bases but different amounts of greenery. Turns out, the neighborhoods that have more greenery fill less mood-related prescriptions like anti-anxiety and anti-depressants than the neighborhoods with less greenery.
Another study mentioned in the podcast compared buildings in Chicago, again with similar socioeconomic bases but different amounts of trees and grass around the buildings. In the buildings without any greenery around, residents didn’t know or trust their neighbors and there were more crimes reported compared with residents in the buildings that did have greenery who were more familiar with their neighbors and had less reported crimes.
Still in doubt? Kuo talks about how a three day weekend in a forest preserve will boost your body's natural killer cells (hello, immune boost!) by 50%, whereas a three day weekend in a nice, urban area doesn't do anything for them at all. Beyond that, you can still see an increased level of those cells 30 days after your trip!
Apparently, just looking at trees, flowers, grass and other greenery even from indoors will lower your heart rate. And, if you’re stuck in the office with a view of nothing but your cubical (hey, get yourself a snake plant – those things can survive anywhere) and it’s been a stressful day, looking at photos of nature has been shown to have a calming effect.
Now you've got a great excuse to increase that patio redecorating budget and make sure that it includes some plants! If you’re in an apartment building or condo without a yard, take advantage of your patio space and use hanging or railing planters for flowers, herbs and plants.
Naturally, having more nature around you means it’s also likely that you’ll have more bugs around, which is where we come in! Use our citronella candles, torches with citronella torch fuel and AquaFlame citronella color-changing fountains to help create a barrier of protection in your green space so that you can relax and get those mood boosting effects with the bug bites.
Our citronella products offer you a natural solution to keeping the bugs away so you can enjoy your outdoor space, but our bigger focus is on the design element. We have over 100 products in different styles so that you don't have to sacrifice on style and can find items that fit with your decor style. Only a handful of our products are currently available on our website (we’re working on adding more!), so if you can’t find something online that you love, check out our 2019 product catalog for more citronella candle, outdoor lantern and torch options – many lawn and garden stores carry our products so if you find something that’s just right for you in our catalog, feel free to reach out and we’ll try to find a retailer near you!
To amp up the relaxation effect of the greenery in your outdoor space, the soothing sound of falling water from our outdoor AquaFlame is the way to go, just add a few drops of citronella oil to help keep the bugs away.
Click here to listen to the episode yourself, read through the show notes or take a look at the research yourself!