The other day I was listening to a podcast about anxiety – an interview with a Dr. Bill Knaus, author The Cognitive Behavioral Workbook for Anxiety. Naturally, he mentioned the positive effects of nature, even images of nature.
Serene nature scenes reduce stress. As little as 5 minutes a day of walking in nature can have a positive effect. You don’t have to be in nature to enjoy the benefits. A nature scene photo or painting can calm the mind and feel relaxing.
He goes on to say that not all nature scenes stimulate tranquility – imagine a scene that includes a bear running in your direction.
So which nature scenes are the most beneficial?
There are some ingredients that science has found useful to promote a sense of serenity and a sense of thriving. One is blue skies, green fields and water. But it’s just not blue skies, green fields and water but they exist in an open landscape, possibly extending to rolling hills, but that’s not necessary.
The idea is that you’re looking from a sheltered vantage point. You don’t see any dangers because you can look ahead and see any in advance and if you do see a danger, you have plenty of advance warning, so you’re more comfortable in that type of setting.
When I heard that I happened to be walking around a gorgeous lake – the pristine scene of blues skies, green plants and water you see in the photo above. I stopped to appreciate it, and take the photo, as one does.
I wasn’t surprised to hear that landscapes that are open are more calming because they allow us to see potential dangers coming at us – our ancestral brains are wired that way, even in the absence of charging bears in our urban lives.
But when it comes to gardens, we don’t want that openness; we want enclosure, and privacy. We want garden rooms, not open fields or meadows. At least this gardener very much wanted enclosure for my little townhouse back yard and am thrilled to finally have it after 7 years here, thanks to getting permission to build a privacy screen, and also planting a few small trees.
So I wonder if tests on anxiety reduction have been done in gardens? Have they tested the impact of openness versus enclosure? Because personally I feel safer in this little space than in an open field somewhere.
Dr. Knaus did go on to say:
You can add an ingredient, such as a stream that winds into a wooded area, that may also trigger a sense of curiosity, so you not only are going to feel more serene but also your curiosity is piqued and curiosity can be a driving force so that you can move on to something more active and more directed with a greater sense of openness to your experience and looking around to see what life is like for you.
Isn’t that what gardens do?