Recent studies show that even spending brief moments in the woods, or even watching one from a window, can have a real and positive impact on our brains, reduce stress and help us feel revived.
Study # 1 - Watch an urban landscape with and without trees for 15 min
In a recent study, some subjects were asked to look for a quarter of an hour at an urban landscape composed only of buildings and roads (Suttie, 2019); other subjects spent the same time looking at straight, leafless trees in winter, including in an urban landscape. The study showed that those who stared at trees were in a much better frame of mind, with more positive emotions, felt more vibrant, and had a higher degree of personal relaxation than those who stared at buildings and roads. .
Study # 2 - Watch a forest landscape for 15 min
Likewise, in another study, young adults reported their mood after a 15-minute walk in a forest or city landscape (Suttie, 2019). In all cases, the subjects walking among the trees reported less confusion, fatigue, hostility, anxiety and depression and felt more energetic; Interestingly, participants who initially had high levels of anxiety had even higher positive results.
Indeed, a third study introduced the idea of higher “amygdala integrity” for participants living in a green environment; their brain structures have been shown to be better able to deal with stressful elements (Suttie, 2019).
Having a view of real or virtual nature reduces stress and anxiety
What to do on a rainy day when it is not so easy to go out for a walk in the forest? Just having a view of nature, whether real or virtual, produces a similar positive impact. A study from the 1980s showed that patients recovered faster after surgery if a hospital room window overlooked a natural landscape. Subsequent research showed that simply showing pictures of Nature improved subjects' feelings and enabled them to better handle complex tasks (BBC Radio 4, nd).
BBC Radio 4, nd BBC Radio 4 - Forest 404 - Why we should listen to trees. BBC. (accessed 6.8.19).
Suttie, J., 2019. How Trees Help You Stress Less. Mindful. (accessed 6.8.19).