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Relaxing with Nature Does a Body Good

by Hayzell

Part of coping with pain or health difficulties includes having a self-care regimen that does your body and mind good. For me, I’ve always found that being out in nature has a way of making me feel restored. This is more than just a personal opinion: research shows that nature helps us feel better.

A Natural Stress Buster

Researchers Kjellgren and Buhrkall asked people suffering from stress to go out into natural environments and relax for half an hour. After their relaxation, the participants felt connected to nature, had a better sense of well-being and a higher overall level of energy and positive feelings than other participants who relaxed for 30 minutes watching a nature simulation indoors. A key finding of their research was that both environments—real and simulated nature—helped to reduce stress. Relaxing au natural just seems to give people even more energy and restorative effects. But even a simulated natural environment can be powerful: some researchers claim that walks in virtual forests can bring similar pain relief as morphine for some people.

Nature Helps Reflection and Mood

Sometimes stress in our lives comes from feeling overwhelmed by problems. Nature has been shown to also help in this department. Researchers Mayers, Bruehlman-Senecal, and Dolliver, examined the positive effects of exposure to nature and how it can benefit reflection on problems. Participants in their studies spent fifteen minutes walking in either a natural, urban, or simulated nature setting via videos. Overall, they found that exposure to nature (real and virtual) made people feel more connected to nature, more positive emotions, and it helped their ability to positively reflect on life problems.

Nature Brings Vitality

Nature also helps people have greater feelings of vitality. According to a study by Weinstein and colleagues, vitality is the sense of having both physical and mental energy. It’s the feeling of being alive, full of vigor, and having calm energy to make use of. Experiments have shown that getting out and enjoying nature’s beauty can bring some vitalizing energy into your life.

Green Spaces as Preventative Health

In the Netherlands, researchers found that by simply having green spaces within a 3 kilometer radius from where you live can help relieve negative health effects (physical and mental) after stressful life events. Nature seems to act as a buffer against the impact of stress. Although some might not have the luxury of living close to areas with loads of green spaces, there is no need to worry. As you read earlier in this post, getting yourself out into the wilderness, even if it’s simulated can also help too.

Nurturing Nature in your Life

Coping with a chronic health condition can be stressful, draining, and can put a damper on mood. Anything that soothes your body and mind is a welcome addition to the pain relief toolkit—especially when the remedy is backed up with scientific evidence. In short, head outdoors into the wild if you can. Even a park can bring city-dwellers a little bit closer to nature. If you are bed-ridden (or the weather is just awful), you can still reap benefits by simulating nature.

If you are interested in bringing nature home, check out my blog post “Bringing Nature Home to Relieve Pain.”


  • Kjellgren, A., & Buhrkall, H. (2010). A comparison of the restorative effect of a natural environment with that of a simulated natural environment Journal of Environmental Psychology, 30 (4), 464-472 DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvp.2010.01.011
  • Mayer, F., Frantz, C., Bruehlman-Senecal, E., & Dolliver, K. (2009). Why Is Nature Beneficial? Environment and Behavior, 41 (5), 607-643. DOI: 10.1177/0013916508319745
  • Ryan, R., Weinstein, N., Bernstein, J., Brown, K., Mistretta, L., & Gagné, M. (2010). Vitalizing effects of being outdoors and in nature. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 30, 159-168. DOI: 10.1016/j.jenvp.2009.10.009
  • van den Berg, A., Maas, J., Verheij, R., & Groenewegen, P. (2010). Green space as a buffer between stressful life events and health. Social Science & Medicine, 70 (8), 1203-1210. DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2010.01.002

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