Why does nature make us feel good?
Why is it I always feel better after walking through the forest? I feel energised and purposeful while also more relaxed and less stressed.
There is lots of research describing the therapeutic benefits of walking through a forest - how breathing in air awash with negative ions and volatile essential oils released by trees reduces our feelings of stress and increases our immune defenses; how sharing time with plants improves our psychological well-being by reawakening our feelings of connection with this bioenergetic landscape we inhabit and share with all living things. In fact even just looking at nature makes us feel better!
In the 1980's American researcher Roger Ulrich conducted a study of patients undergoing major surgery within a hospital setting, offering proof that "those who had rooms with windows facing outdoor green space had significantly shorter recovery periods (and fewer analgesics to manage pain) compared with those in rooms with windows overlooking urban landscapes' (Mencagli and Nieri p41). Even as far back as 430BC, the ancient Greeks appreciated this healing power of nature when they located their first hospital, Epidaurus (a 180 room healing sanctuary for women in childbirth and seriously ill patients), 'in wooded valleys close to springs and caves where 'good spirits' were thought to dwell' (HistoryWiz).
The significance of green space in our long evolution as homo sapiens has profoundly influenced our genetic inheritance. Mencagli and Nieri Marco, Italian agronomists and bioresearchers, describe why nature exerts a therapeutic power over humans - 'when we say that a natural place provides sensations that make us feel good, we are simply drawing on our innate preference for the place where 99.5 percent of our evolutionary time has been spent: natural settings and landscapes' (Mencagli and Nieri p49). In this setting, our bodies and minds spontaneously relax, 'reducing stimuli on the amygdala-hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis' (Mencagli and Nieri p86). Provocatively, they ask what will be the implications to future generations given most of the world's population now lives in densely populated urban environments lacking green spaces?
Reading their book, The Secret Therapy of Trees: Harness the Healing Energy of Forest Bathing and Natural Landscapes, I have learned why breathing in the volatile oils released by plants make us feel so good and acts like a 'natural aromatherapy session' (Mencagli and Nieri p84). I've understood how natural landscapes clear an atmosphere of positive ions, increasing the negative ionisation of the air which reduces our experiences of 'respiratory stress, migraines, fatigue, mood disorders, and other maladies' (Mencagli and Nieri p106). I have also discovered insights into this energetic biosphere, pulsing with electromagnetism, that we inhabit and share with all living things. I've noticed, too, that bringing more consciousness and understanding to my intuitive experiences when in the forest, helps me to appreciate them more fully.
I am particularly intrigued by the notion of all living things sharing an energetic experience together. This energy, its frequency and vibration in the form of electromagnetism, 'supports all living processes and allows both humans and plants to relate instantly with the world around us within the biosphere' (Mencagli and Nieri p117). Belgium scientist Walter Kunnen's bioresonance experiments from the 1950s confirmed that, 'every group or collection of cells with the same function, liver cells for example, resonates on precise electromagnetic frequencies, allowing the organs to gather the energy they need to survive'; in effect, an antenna-like function 'to receive or send a certain electromagnetic signal' and 'enter into resonance with nourishing elements' (Mencagli and Nieri pp121-122).
This all seems a little airy-fairy - life process decision-making at the cellular level - but the Lecher antenna (an instrument designed in the 1950s 'to measure electromagnetic wavelengths and frequencies of biological interest') enabled Kunnen to measure the interaction between humans and plants by attending to the weak electromagnetic fields given off by both species, and the resonance between them (Mencagli and Nieri p126). Recent studies have proven that 'plants emit bioelectromagnetic fields that are able to influence the state of our organs', and rather wonderfully, Beech forests produce beneficial effects for humans, in particular 'the prostate, ovaries, cardiovascular system and small intestine' (Mencagli and Nieri p129). All the more reason to take a walk in the forest or hug a tree.
Here is a Marco Nieri's Ted Talk explaining the beneficial energies plants release into the biosphere. He suggests that trees love contact with human beings -
And below is a diagram of the Lecher antenna from Health Care Academy and a You Tube explaining how it is used. I am wondering how or if I could use this in my installation? Or is there a place for trusting and relying on our emotions and feelings without material proof? Some cogitating required. I have approached the Earth Science librarian at Victoria University to see if I can make contact with any students interested in this area.
Lecher Antenna, sourced from Healthcare Academy
The Secret Therapy of Trees: Harness the Healing Energy of Forest Bathing and Natural Landscapes by Mencagli and Nieri Marco
Marco Nieri and Pawan Kumar Singhania. Bioenergetic landscapes – reduce stress and restore health using electromagnetic properties of plants. RAHMANN G & AKSOY U (Eds.) (2014) Proceedings of the 4th ISOFAR Scientific Conference. ‘Building Organic Bridges’, at the Organic World Congress 2014, 13-15 Oct., Istanbul, Turkey (eprint ID 23477)https://orgprints.org/id/eprint/23477/1/23477_MM.pdf
Bioenergetic Landscapes https://www.archibio.it/en/
How Does the Lecher Antenna Work? https://healthcare-academy.nl/en/how-does-the-lecher-antenna-work/