Green Spaces Nurture Minds

With Dr Marc

Nature is a physician with seemingly unlimited healing power. This insight, often attributed to Hippocrates who spoke of the vis medicatrix naturae, is now being confirmed by modern science. A review of the literature suggests that “ access to nature plays a vital role in human health, wellbeing, and development that has not been fully recognised” and that “ . . . the positive effects on human health, particularly in urban environments, cannot be over-stated.” A more recent update on the science further concludes that; “access to safe, high quality green space benefits individuals across every stage of the lifespan, enhancing their physical, mental, social and spiritual health and wellbeing.”

Connection with nature is one of the most powerful ways to improve mood, cognition and general health. Our brains seem to be tuned to respond to natural signals and when we are immersed in nature we become healthier, happier, and smarter. A recent article in National Geographic discusses this effect and highlights research such as a University of Michigan study that demonstrate improvements in cognition after exposure to natural environments. Of course doctors who have followed in Hippocrates footsteps have known about nature’s healing abilities for centuries, with Voltaire proclaiming the art of medicine consists of amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.

What Voltaire, Hippocrates and others recognised, is that through connecting with mother nature we connect with our own true nature; the primordial “deep inner well of our being”, where we can find wholeness, love and peace. Yet, with the bulk of humanity now living in cities and the art of medicine giving way to science and corporate interests, we have become disconnected from nature and human health and our natural environment are suffering the consequences. While it maybe little wonder that the world’s top health and wellness retreats are embedded in beautiful natural surroundings, the sad truth is that there are no truly pristine environments left.

The whole planet is polluted to some degree and the time has come for us to turn the tables and have humans start healing nature. The work of earth repair is an intergenerational project that will require a collective human effort, perhaps aided through the co-opting of artificial intelligent systems and the most talented and innovative human minds. Then perhaps, through reconnecting with mother nature, we can reconnect with and heal ourselves.