Nature Heals Stress Self Help Advice

Written by Dr. Dan Johnston

Need motivation? Looking for creativity? The answer may be right outside your office or home window.

Prison inmates whose cellblock windows overlook a garden have a better frame of mind than those who see only a brick wall. Hospital patients with courtyard rooms viewing plants and flowers are discharged one day earlier than those without such a view. These same patients also require less pain medication. 

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Nature can be a potent cure for what ails you. 

Yet Americans spend, on average, 84 percent of their time indoors with locked windows, climate-controlled air and fluorescent lighting. 

Much of that time indoors is spent at work, where we could use a room with a view. Research shows that office workers with windows overlooking trees and landscapes are more productive than workers with no windows. 

It's not just having a window, but what's seen through the window that's important. We need to see nature from our perch in order to reap its calming benefits. 

If the only view from your office is the parking lot, don't despair. Adding a simulated panorama, with pictures, can help relieve the stress and boredom of a confined setting. 

Alternatively, consider the following ideas for bringing nature inside:

  • Put a plant or fresh flowers in your office.
  • Place seashells on your desk as a reminder of a peaceful beach vacation.
  • Use a desktop waterfall to bring you the soothing sounds of flowing water.
  • Put a birdfeeder outside your window.

Nothing, however, beats the real thing. Take a break from work. Go on a short walk. Stop to look at the sky, smell the flowers and feel the ground beneath your feet. If you can't take a walk, stand in the doorway and feel the heat of the sun, the cool of a breeze or the mist of the rain. Let nature rejuvenate you. 

Being in nature has always been refreshing. But modern life has challenged our connection with it. Instead of immersing ourselves in the wild, we try to control it with barriers such as fences, walls and dams. In trying to protect ourselves from the harmful impact of uncontrolled nature, we have robbed ourselves of its healing influence. 

When your life gets stressful, try this simple solution: look out of the window for signs of growth in the trees and on the ground.  You might find that a part of you will grow, too. 

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Dan Johnston, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and director of psychological services at the Medical Center of Central Georgia. He also serves on the faculty of the Mercer University School of Medicine. Johnston is the creator of the Awakenings Web site, offering lessons for living. Photographer: Paul Vlaar

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