The sense of smell is perhaps our most underrated mind. It can help us determine if the food can be eaten if the clothes are clean – or make us feel comfortable with flowers. It can also affect our mood by bringing memories to life and creating associations.
Research also shows that the sense of smell can help those who are stressed to feel calmer – and especially those who get to smell the scent of nature. It’s perhaps nothing new that being outside in nature can be good for you. But here are the reasons why.
Scent of nature
Exactly what it is that seems so soothing to us in nature has so far been unclear, but now the researchers argue that it is the scent.
What is most important for the stress reduction is not the connection to the visually green environment or the natural sounds, but the smell.
The most common diseases today are increasingly lifestyle diseases that result from, among other things, stress and lack of physical activity. There is a close relationship between stress and mental illness and if the stress symptoms are not noticed in time, the person in question is at risk of worsening and prolonged mental illness. A report shows that mental illness has increased significantly in ten years, and continues to increase.
Nature as a cure
The environment plays a big role in how we feel. In her dissertation from 2011, she has concluded that natural environments can improve mental health, prevent, and in some cases be used for the treatment of diseases.
Studies have found that people with access to deciduous forests and other types of quiet nature generally have lower stress levels. If they were in nature and were also physically active, the risk of suffering from mental illness was significantly reduced.
Evidence has also been found that nature-based therapy can serve as a treatment for, for example, schizophrenia, depression, and cardiac rehabilitation. This should influence how people in the health care system treat people with stress symptoms and mental illness and that more factors such as lifestyle and environment may play a greater role in the person’s illness picture. But we have not come very far with this yet. But it is about addressing the problem before the patient needs to seek medical attention for stress- and lifestyle-related illnesses such as fatigue syndrome, obesity, or type II diabetes.
Today’s health care needs to change the way work is done within health care in order to improve public health.
It is possible to influence other institutions in society to increase people’s mental health in the world. We need greater cooperation between, for example, urban planners and the health sector, both in research and among community actors.
Collaborations are extremely important for being able to change society and hopefully increase efforts for preventive health care, as this is usually the main means of managing today’s disease state.
Efforts to improve public health at the same time have beneficial effects both on the environment and the social economy, which makes them cost-effective. We know that science has proven, through tests with measurable factors such as blood pressure and heart rate, that nature actually has a calming effect. What is more difficult to measure and be completely sure of is why and how it is.
Dr. Simon Bell, professor at the University of Estonia’s biomedical University, has for many years studied the impact of nature on our health. He confirms that there is a clear connection, but when asked why he has only theories. “We have proof that proximity to nature makes us more relaxed, in terms of physiological factors, that is how we can measure. So we know it works, but we don’t really know how”
The task will then be to look at the data and make weak links to the circumstances that prevailed when they were collected, or to submit hypotheses about what was special about the circumstances in which heart rate and blood pressure fell.
Here is a list of the five reasons you believe there are for nature to relieve stress, based on circumstances and physiological data.
Most people probably agree that colors affect mood and emotions. We use red to signify danger, something that we have taken from the natural world, and we know that blue and green shades can be soothing. “It can be in something as simple as the color,” Bell begins, “when the colors that are most commonly found in nature – green, blue and different kinds of brown – are definitely more soothing.
We also have an innate reaction to colors. When we look at something red, for example, it actually increases heart rate. It’s a stimulating color. Psychologically, blue is the opposite of red – it lowers blood pressure, and blue decreases us, though not down to depression level. There is some evidence to suggest that green is relaxing because it is associated with growing and nature.
The big city stimulates, but nature expects very little from our minds. We can interact with nature as intended, while Dr. Bell believes that we as a species have not yet become accustomed to city life. He says: “The big city demands attention, we are forced to take in our surroundings, but we evolved from the natural world and we are still not good at coping in an environment made by people.” Here it is important to disconnect, which is very difficult in the city, but in nature we do not have to make much effort to reach there.
As humans, we can live our lives pretty much without contact with the natural world we inhabit. We have a tendency to come from nature and our own place in its delicate balance. “Sometimes it’s very important for us as people to feel small, to feel like part of something that is much bigger than ourselves and our hectic lives. Becoming one with nature, with the universe, makes one humble and therefore it also becomes relaxing.
Anyone can benefit from this, but it is not possible to do so from a distance. To get the most out of nature, you have to be in the middle of it, but it pays to go to something less popular, because the more people there are, the less soothing it gets. Very few people are lucky enough to live in or near remote nature areas, so most of us have to travel to those places, whether it’s a few hundred yards away or hundreds of miles away. In that journey, and above all having completed it, there may be another clue to the relaxing effect of nature. People feel happier, less stressed and more rested after a trip: effects that can linger for months. Together with a calm natural environment, this can have a profound effect, when the traveler gets the full benefit of his travel destination.
Clean and unclean air is not exactly difficult to attract, and the benefits are obvious. But when the air is good, there are also other factors that can become relevant, and what the air brings with it can be even more beneficial than you first think. “The air we breathe in nature may well be fundamental to the decreased blood pressure levels and heart rates we’ve seen,”
Chemicals from the numbers can contribute, they are phytoncides, airborne chemicals that are released to protect against insects. The sea air is loaded with negative ions that accelerate the body’s ability to absorb oxygen and, more importantly, balance the serotonin levels. Nature gets us to relax, and even if the studies cannot conclude that the reasons above are correct, there is enough research in this area that can say that nature is in fact a great health cure and the reasons for it.