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Why We Crave Nature

Group of young hikers in the mountainsWhether it’s a walk in the woods, a swim in the sea or staring at a sunset, nature makes your brain happy. Do you ever wonder why we crave nature so much? The answer goes back into our distant human past that reveals how the human brain evolved. Let’s face it, humans weren’t meant to sit for endless hours a day in cubicles facing a computer screen. The human brain developed surrounded by nature. It’s a concept in science known as “nature connectedness” or “biophilia”—the intimate relationship between nature and your happy brain.

Another emerging field, known as eco-psychology, advocates that though the human brain may be adapting to our fast-paced world, its original function was to respond to the natural world in which we dwelled and evolved over millennia. 

A study cited in my book Brain, Body & Being reports, “When study participants were put into fMRI machines and shown images of hectic urban life, the area of the brain, known as the amygdala, showed greater activity. This is the area of the brain that governs the ‘fight-or-flight response.’ When this mechanism runs rampant, we experience heightened levels of stress and anxiety…. In the same experiment outlined above, when participants were shown images of the outdoors, activity in the anterior cingulate—the area of the brain that governs altruism, contentment, and an overall sense of peace—flashed with activity.”

If you’ve been putting off relaxing because you think it requires the expense of a massage or visit to a spa, think again. You may find the same benefits from a short walk along a lake, a tree-lined street or during a romp in the park with your pooch. So what does the all mean for you and your ability to achieve greater health and happiness? Discover the answer in my piece This Is Your Brain on Nature.

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