A wide range of research shows that experiencing the natural world is associated with well-being; for example, activities in natural environments are associated with more favorable emotional and attentional outcomes than similar activities in synthetic environments. A meta-analysis of 32 studies found that even brief exposure to natural environments is associated with moderate increases in positive affect, as well as small decreases in negative affect. Nature can be particularly beneficial for helping us recover from stress; time spent in natural environments is associated with restoration – including feeling calm, relaxed, revitalized, and refreshed.
You might be wondering while I am sharing this information with you while 80% of the U.S. population is under some version of a “Stay at Home” order, which has limited many people’s ability to get out into nature. The good news is that you can experience the benefits of interacting with the natural environment, even if you can’t get outdoors. Indirect interactions with nature, like exploring natural environments using virtual reality, are a promising alternative in situations in which real-world nature exposure is not possible. Even just having a view of natural elements through a window is associated with well-being.
For today’s positive psychology exercise, I encourage you to take a “virtual nature break” by exploring the National Park Service. You can “visit” all 58 national parks using Google Maps, or check out virtual tours through Google Arts & Culture. You don’t need to travel to explore these natural landscapes, from glaciers to lava tubes!
Today’s Positive Psychology Exercise: Take a Virtual Nature Break
The National Park Service invites you to Find Your Virtual Park and explore the beauty of our natural parks, even when you can’t be there in person.
- Try out some of the “Park Activities You Can Do from the Comfort of Your Home” from the NPS.
- Take a 360-degree tour of a national park with Google Maps.
- Check out one (or all!) of the virtual tours from Google Arts & Culture’s collaboration with the National Parks Service. You can explore parks from across the country, including:
- Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska
- Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii
- Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico
- Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah
- Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida
Jeon, J. Y., Yeon, P. S., & Shin, W. S. (2018). The influence of indirect nature experience on human system. Forest Science & Technology, 14(1), 29-32. https://doi.org/10.1080/21580103.2017.1420701
Abstract: A growing number of studies have shown that contact with nature contributes enhancing positive psycho-physiological effects. This study experimentally compared the effects of direct and indirect contact with nature on psychological and physiological affect, respectively. Thirty university students participated in this experiment. The results of this study indicated that indirect nature experience also provided positive psychological and physiological effects, except for parasympathetic nerve activity. The results of the present study would support the effectiveness of virtual nature for people who cannot easily access real nature in order to improve psychological benefits.