Healing power of nature

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Healing power of nature
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These notes are based on a guest lecture for the Health Psychology unit of study at the University of Canberra.


This lecture provides an introduction to the "healing power of nature" from a psychological point of view. It emphasises psychoevolutionary theory and practical applications.


This section involves some experiential activities to heighten personal awareness about our engagements with nature.

Sensory awareness inventory[edit]

Write down as many examples as you can of how you receive pleasure, comfort or enjoyment through each of your five senses:

Sight Sound Touch Taste Smell

  • Circle all the sources of pleasure that involve nature
  • Design a "perfect day" which involves receiving at least one favourite source of pleasure through each of your senses
  • Consider: Are there more than five senses?[1][2]
More info

Favourite place in nature[edit]


This section looks at the role of nature in health and well-being through human history.






This section explores the main psychologies theories used to understand the healing potential of nature.


This area represents intersections between:

  1. Health
  2. Environment
  3. Psychology

Psychevolutionary theory[edit]

  1. Evolutionary psychology (Wikipedia)

Biophilia hypothesis[edit]

  1. Biophilia hypothesis (Wikipedia) (Wilson, 1984)
  2. Edward O. Wilson's Biophilia Hypothesis (wilderdom.com)

Attention restoration theory[edit]

  1. Attention restoration theory (Wikipedia)
  2. Attention restoration theory (Motivation and Emotion Book Chapter, Wikiversity)
  3. Attention restoration theory (Psychology of natural scenes, Wikiversity)
  4. Kaplan (1995)

Stress reduction theory[edit]

  1. Stress reduction theory (Wikipedia)
  2. Stress reduction theory (Psychology of natural scenes, Wikiversity)
  3. Ulrich et al. (1991)


This section highlights some key and illustrative research findings about the healing potential of exposure to nature.

Natural scenes[edit]

  • Ulrich (1984): Natural view through a hospital window promoted recovery
  • Viewing

Green space[edit]

  • Public health

Green exercise[edit]

Mountain biking is an example of "green exercise".
  • Field studies
  • Lab studies
  • MMORPG exergames

Nature therapy[edit]

Nature therapy / ecotherapy
  • Adventure therapy
  • Animal therapy (e.g., companion animals, equine therapy, mini-zoo keepers)
  • Conservation therapy (e.g., mini zoo-keepers)
  • Green prescriptions (GRx)
  • Horticultural therapy
  • Nature meditation



See also[edit]


Barton, J., & Pretty, J. (2010). Urban ecology and human health and wellbeing. Urban Ecology, 12(1), 202-229.

Bowler, D. E., Buyung-Ali, L. M., Knight, T. M., & Pullin, A. S. (2010). A systematic review of evidence for the added benefits to health of exposure to natural environments. BMC Public Health, 10, 456. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-10-456

Frumkin, H. (2001). Beyond toxicity: Human health and the natural environment. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 20, 234-240. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0749-3797(00)00317-2

Gullone, E. (2000). The biophilia hypothesis and life in the 21st century: Increasing mental health or increasing pathology? Journal of Happiness Studies, 1(3), 293-322.


Kaplan, S. (1995). The restorative benefits of nature: Toward an integrative framework. Journal of Environmental Psychology15(3), 169-182. http://doi.org/10.1016/0272-4944(95)90001-2

Louv, R. (2008). Last child in the woods: Saving our children from nature-deficit disorder. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin books.

Maas, J., Verheij, R. A., Groenewegen, P. P., De Vries, S., & Spreeuwenberg, P. (2006). space, urbanity, and health: how strong is the relation? Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 60(7), 587-592.

Ulrich, R. (1984). View through a window may influence recovery. Science, 224(4647), 224-225.

Ulrich, R. S., Simons, R. F., Losito, B. D., Fiorito, E., Miles, M. A., & Zelson, M. (1991). Stress recovery during exposure to natural and urban environments. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 11(3), 201-230.

Wilson, E. O. (1984). Biophilia. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.