The best natural healer turns out to be nature

All those kids with ADHD and bipolar disorder?? How do they (in general) spend most of their time? On video games and other passive engagement. Not the way we did when we were kids running around all over the place in the great outdoors.

Nature is an important part of everyone’s life and we cut it out at our peril. Of course our systematic disregard for nature is bringing the world to an end on all sorts of levels, but our mental health too suffers greatly.

It’s just a piece of the puzzle, but a very significant one.

I spent all of yesterday out in my yard (that looks like a forest) on a futon mat sick as hell, but outside. The importance of nature is not lost on me, even if I can’t get out of bed. I’ll make my bed in nature.


By chance, a small hospital in Pennsylvania became the setting of a remarkable experiment. Scientist Roger Ulrich noticed some surgery patients recovered in a room with a view of leafy trees, while others recovered in an identical room, except its windows faced a brick wall.

Ulrich decided to test whether the view made any difference in the outcome for patients. He looked back at records on gall bladder surgery over a period of 10 years. The results proved enlightening.

Patients with the tree view were able to leave the hospital about a day earlier than those with a wall view, the study revealed. Patients with trees in sight also requested significantly less pain medication and reported fewer problems to nurses than wall-view patients. Contact with nature, even as limited as a view through a window, enhanced recovery from illness.

Researchers have learned much about the restorative effects of nature since Ulrich’s landmark study appeared in 1984. Studies repeatedly have shown that contact with nature can lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety, relieve stress, sharpen mental states and, among children with attention and conduct disorders, improve behavior and learning. Regardless of cultural background, people consistently prefer natural settings over man-made environments.

“We know that exposure to natural environments has clearly beneficial physiological effects,” says Portland psychologist Thomas Joseph Doherty.

But if exposure to nature is beneficial, what happens when we withdraw from it? That’s one of the defining questions for ecopsychology — an emerging branch of psychology rooted in the idea that mental health requires, in addition to strong bonds with fellow humans, a connection with nature and an understanding of our place in the ecosystem we are a part of. (read the rest here)

12 thoughts on “The best natural healer turns out to be nature

  1. Thank you bipolar life ” Humans are a part of nature, we simply tend to forget that.”

    Even living in a rural small city its hard for me to really connect with the natural world which i think of as the real world as compared to the man made world.

    My compulsions tend to keep me inside on the computer. I’m not sure how to break this as when i’m not i’m thinking about it instead of about where i am. Opposite of mindfulness.

    I’ve been making great leaps backwards recently. Adding medication instead of taking it away. It goes the way it goes.



  2. California’s a big state! 🙂

    The Trinity Mountains are (from my memory) in the north central part of the state east of Arcata…an absolute wonder. I remember a Bigfoot totem outside one of the small towns’ post office. A very quirky place, and very unpopulated.

    I cannot wait to get away to the Catskills. I looove mountains.

    By the way, another animal I saw in suburban NJ recently: a Capped Heron…normal habitat? South America! No wonder it looked so exotic!


  3. I live on a farm, surrounded by fields, the forest starts a hundred yards from the back door, it’s two miles to the beach. Lots of sea birds, birds of prey, deer… The other day I found myself standing about 20 yards from a doe. She just looked at me, then went on grazing.

    Nevertheless, sometimes I can get a bit claustrophobic in some surreal way. Because my apartment in the attic only has roof windows. All I can see through them is the sky. I can’t see the land. Well, unless I stand right next to the window, that is. Looking forward to moving downstairs, into an apartment with a view over the garden.

    Living this close to nature in many ways has saved me from going even more to pieces during crises than I did.

    Restraint rooms and the like: In every other context than a psychiatric one it’s called “white torture”. But well, I can see how sensory deprivation turns from torture into “treatment”, when you believe sea gulls and elders are talking to you, and perceive things like doors getting slammed or the phone ringing as unbearable noise. You’re not supposed to listen to nature, but to technology. Get used to it!


  4. When nature is a healer, isn’t a restraint room, with all its sensory deprivation, the exact opposite? And after being out for a book launch yesterday, I later realized the heat had totally floored me: might it have been my meds (he aks rhetorically)?


  5. This seems like it should be common sense! Humans are a part of nature, we simply tend to forget that. Glad to hear that you are outside getting fresh air.


  6. This weekend went to Botanical Gardens near my home, and just sat in front of a bed of flowers…focusing on the details of each leaf and petal was enormously rejuvenating. By sitting still and having no distractions except for the life happening all around, nature beckons us to live in the moment.

    Animals I saw: frogs on a lily pad, turtle sunning on a rock, a turkey guarding her little peeps, great blue heron commanding the sky, cormorant diving for fish, a water moccasin (yikes!), dragonflies, oh! I could go on and on!

    I also just moved my bed so that I could get a view of a tree outside my window and the sound of the leaves at night is very soothing…

    My favorite place to go in the country is the Pacific Northwest! The forests are so dense and magical…

    Also, ever been to the Trinity Mountains in Northern California? No one around…

    Leaving for the Catskills on Thursday for a few days…can’t wait!


    1. mmm…animals in nature are just the best!!

      I’m from California but don’t believe I’ve been to the Trinity Mountains…

      so many beautiful places though, all over the world…I’m sure I could find a new favorite place once a week if I had the opportunity.

      have a great time in the Catskills!


  7. trees are wondrous things…the forest being one of the most healing places in the world.

    but one of my most rejuvenating wondrous experiences of nature was in the desert…at Joshua Tree…oh my god..I thought I’d died and gone to heaven…

    every favorite vacation has been in nature…and my favorite thing is to try to find new and different landscapes…

    Yosemite being another amazing spot…being that one goes off season…don’t like all the people otherwise…

    the forest too though has been a long time favorite…the Santa Cruz mountains and Redwood forests are awesome…

    and of course my new home in Appalachia has awesome forest too with a hugely diverse amount of tree species…


  8. I think that a walk in the forest is an essential part of mental health. We have a number of parks in the Atlanta Metro region where you can take walks in the forest within a close drive of your home. I think that looking off into the canopy of the forest has essential beneficial effects on the psyche.


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