With the weather yet to catch on to the idea that Spring has officially started, you’d be forgiven if you’ve not been out for a walk for a while. But there are good reasons for forcing yourself out of the door whatever the weather, especially if you can get to a park, the beach, or the hills.
A great deal of research supports the idea that contact with the natural environment is beneficial to well-being. For example it has been demonstrated that individuals living in a rural setting have better general health than those in urban areas (Watt et al 2000). Furthermore, those living in urban areas with access to gardens or parks typically report a significantly lower prevalence of psychological difficulties than those without such access (e.g. Lewis and Booth 1994).
Perhaps surprisingly though, it would appear that simply looking at nature without even interacting with it is sufficient to generate positive outcomes. For example in a classic study Ulrich (1984) showed that patients recovering from gall bladder surgery with a natural view from their window did so more quickly, had less need for painkillers, and experienced less postoperative complications than those with an urban view. In a prison setting, views of nature from a cell window are associated with lower stress symptoms, digestive problems, and headaches (Moore 1981). And in the workplace, a natural view is negatively correlated with employee intention to quit work and job stress (Leather et al 1998).
So, if you can, getting outside whatever the weather is a real investment in your well-being. And if you can’t get out, look out!
Dr Michael Stoker
Principal Clinical Psychology Manager