The Great Outdoors

The Great Outdoors

Posted by: Sharon | Filed Under Uncategorized  
Feb 2


For years, parents have encouraged their children to go outside and play, knowing intuitively that the fresh air and sunshine are good for them.

It is fascinating to learn that research shows that being exposed to the outdoors, or to any natural environment, measurably improves one’s mood, attention/concentration, and even physical health. Studies have shown that exposure to green reduces anxiety and enhances happiness and well-being.

Doctors Rachel and Stephen Kaplan of the University of Michigan have done extensive research on this. Incredibly, just having a view of nature from one’s window leads to increased enjoyment of one’s job, better health, and better general life satisfaction. In one study, just a brief look at a natural photograph boosted people’s moods.

The effects go well beyond improving mood and reducing anxiety. Having a view from a window, or simply viewing photos of nature, have been found to speed healing and reduce pain for patients recovering from surgery. Dr. Robert Ulrich found that patients recovering from abdominal surgery who had rooms overlooking trees got out of the hospital faster, required less pain medication, and had fewer complications than patients who had only a wall to look at. In a Swedish study, he found that surgery patients in ICU reduced their anxiety and their need for pain medication, just by looking at pictures of trees and water!

Researcher Ernest Moore found that prisoners in Milan, Michigan who had a view of farmland from their cell windows had less health care needs than those who did not.

Walking or running outdoors is, of course, very refreshing, because one has the benefit of exercise, as well as the colors, sounds and smells of nature. But the exciting news is that just seeing nature, even in small doses, even in a photograph, can impact both children and adults’ health, attention and focus. This has major implications for children in school.

Dr. Frances Kuo learned that children in an urban environment who had even a small view of a tree or a patch of grass, had a greater capacity for paying attention, and were better able to delay gratification and control their behavior. The children near the small spot of nature were less aggressive and more civil to one another. These are city children living in buildings with a tree or a bit of grass nearby, compared with children living in buildings surrounded by concrete, which would not seem like it would make a very large difference. But it does.

This is actually very encouraging news, because it shows how easy it can be to improve so many aspects of our own and our children’s lives. Making sure that office workers and students in school at least have access to a nature view can have huge benefits to productivity, focus, learning, happiness and better relationships among the people involved. Giving schoolchildren breaks outside, even for brief periods during the day can have huge beneficial effects on their health, their attitudes and their schoolwork.

What a simple way to make life better!



Clay, Rebecca, “Green is good for you,” APA Monitor, vol. 32, number 4, April, 2001, 40-42.

Lofy, John, “A Walk in the Woods,” (viewed 10/1/12).

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