Nature immersion: Improving your life with the great outdoors
Research examines guided nature immersion programs and reinforces the benefits of nature immersion.
More than half of the world’s population has lived in an urban environment since 2014. And by 2030, this is expected to increase to 65 per cent1. Even in Singapore, despite aims aligned with greening policies to develop and retain its status as a “garden city” or “city in a garden”, progression towards urbanisation since the 1950s has led to a loss of 90% of its original forest2.
Amidst this shift to more urbanised societies, it’s easy to miss out on the importance of interacting with natural environments. In turn, there has been an increase in guided nature walk programs in recent years. However, little was known about their benefits.
“Experiencing nature has been found to be an effective way of reducing anxiety and improving mood,” says Pei Yi Lim, Bachelor of Psychological Science Honours graduate at James Cook University in Singapore. “However, most research examines the benefits of nature exposure in general, rather than comparing different ways of approaching it.”
In a study conducted by Ms Lim – in collaboration with Dr Denise Dillon, Associate Dean of Research (and Research Education), and Dr Peter Chew, Senior Lecturer in Psychology – the psychological and physiological benefits of guided and unguided nature immersion activities, such as going for a walk in a park, were compared. Ms Lim shares, “We were able to compare participants who had a guided experience and an unguided experience to see if the guiding made a difference – and in this case it didn’t.”
Nature exposure still offers significant benefits, and can help to increase levels of relaxation through factors such as reduced heart rate and blood pressure. Dr Dillon suggests that various forms of nature immersion could be a way to manage stress for a variety of people.
“You don’t need anything formal, just some suggested activities such as exploring gardens, paying attention to your senses, or sitting quietly experiencing the scene,” she says.
“Nature can be beneficial for anyone, but for those who may be hesitant to do so on their own for any reason, a guided immersion is certainly a recommended option if available near you.”
Lim, P.Y.; Dillon, D.; Chew, P.K.H. A Guide to Nature Immersion: Psychological and Physiological Benefits. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17, 5989. DOI: 10.3390/ijerph17165989
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1 World Health Organization. Urban Population Growth. 2009. Available online: http://www.who.int/gho/urban_health/situation_trends/urban_population_growth_text/en/index.html (accessed on 14 August 2019).
2Ng, P.K.L.; Sodhi, N.S.; Brook, B.W. Catastrophic extinctions follow deforestation in Singapore. Nature 2003, 424, 420–426. [Google Scholar]
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