May 27, 2020
You probably have a Buddha-like presence and a resting pulse of 50 bpm. Still, even before the pandemic, we've found marketing to be a tad stressful. So, we're always looking for ways to blow off steam. Exercise, healthy drinks, non-healthy drinks, yoga, you name it. Now, we think we've discovered the ultimate tranquilizer — nature.
For decades writers, artists, and scientists of every stripe have wondered at the calming effect of being in nature, just looking at it or biking through a tree-filled park. By contrast, the high-stress of everyday life amp up the anxiety-producing hormone, cortisol, which elevates blood pressure and causes a myriad of physical and mental illnesses. But nature appears to reverse the effects.
In Japan, the Nature Effect, known as shinrin, is studied in earnest at hundreds of forest parks. Many of these parks also double as research facilities for scientists. They take measurements of cortisol levels, heart rate, and blood pressure before and after forest walks. They've recorded an average decrease in cortisol levels by 12 percent, a 7 percent decrease in sympathetic nerve activity, a 6 percent reduction in heart rate, and a 1.4% decrease in blood pressure. These forest centers have become a national pastime for thousands of Japanese, and their government funds them generously.
There's no replacement for experiencing nature with all five senses. Still, new studies show that positive effects accrue just by looking at ocean waves, pine forests, or mountains. Surprisingly, that includes viewing nature on a computer screen, television, or lower quality video. The effect corresponds with fractal geometry. Fractals exist when the whole of an object is created by different sizes of the same shape. The perks up the brain's chill alpha waves and activity in the visual cortex that apparently really mellows us out. Other fractal images, not from nature, are also calming.
That made us think of making a web page devoted to beautiful nature imagery where anyone can get a dose of the secret sauce. Thus, "your daily zen" was born. Try it for a couple of minutes and see if the magic works for you.
For an entertaining overview of nature effect studies around the world, see Florence Williams' book, The Nature Fix.