(This article was reprinted in the online magazine of the Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies, May 18, 2016.)
A colleague recently sent me a link to an article which claims that having nature in your surroundings extends life and increases happiness. The article titled, “Having a nice garden could save your life, study suggests,” notes the strong association between exposure to greenness and vegetation and lower mortality rates. Nature also has a positive effect on mental health according to the article. In addition, people living in places with beautiful natural scenery have better health as reported in “Scenery not just greenery has an impact on health.” For those in urban environments, getting as much nature in it as possible is beneficial too, according to the research.
A large part of what underlies all this is Attention Restoration Theory which “asserts that people concentrate better after spending time in nature or even looking at scenes of nature.” Moreover, the researchers Atchley and Strayer argue in “Creativity in the Wild: Improving Creative Reasoning through Immersion in Natural Settings,” that creativity is positively affected also.
All of this seems reasonable, with the caveat that social science research is particularly provisional. But as anyone who has been fortunate to walk in the woods or feasted their gaze on mountains or oceans know, the beauty of nature restores and inspires.