Natures the Natural Medicine: Effects on Attention Mood and Recovery
This past week a friend of mine posted a mock advertisement on my Facebook page entitled Prescription Commercials You’ll Never See on TV. My curiosity caused me to hit the play button. As I viewed the video, it started out “Do you find yourself longing for the Apocalypse?” “I did. I was looking for a reason to live. “Hi, are you feeling tired, irritable, stressed out? Well, you might consider nature.”
Although the commercial is meant to be funny, it caused me to think about how important nature has been essential my mental health and recovery process and the therapeutic benefits I see when working with individuals in recovery.
Nature provides simplicity, tranquility, and purity today’s fast paced technological world cannot offer. Nature yields a quiet, safe place to slow down, relax, and be still. Personally, for me, spending time in nature connects me closer to my higher power. For me, her is nothing like paddling through the water in a canoe at the marsh in the summertime. The rush of the wind through the trees, the sounds of the birds, smell of fresh air and the touch of sunlight invoke all five senses, and I feel awakened. The natural sunlight and fresh air provide Vitamin D, which can decrease depression and increase neurotransmitters. Nature provides a quiet place for meditation and reflection what I call a recharge.
Nature appears to have such a simple, and soothing effect on the addicted mind that many treatment centers are beginning to incorporate nature into their daily treatment regime include hiking, sailing, ropes courses, backpacking and rock climbing.
Research indicates that moving and interacting with the environment has a significant impact on cognition memory and attention as well as stress reduction. Bratman, Hamilton and Daily (2012) noted that positive psychologists Kaplan and Kaplan developed Attention Restoration Theory that explored the impact exposure to nature has on the “restorative effect on the brains ability” (123). The theory suggests if an individual either views images of nature or is present in a natural environment they can benefit from better focus and attention because the natural landscape “ allows attentional reserves to replenish”, which can improve performance on tasks, reduce impulse control, improve sleep, and even reduce levels of stress and depression (124).
The Kaplan’s suggests that in order for nature to have a significant impact four components need to be present between the individual and the natural environment in order for nature to have an impact on attention and mood. First, there must be an “extent” (7) to the experience such as being “immersed”(7) in the natural realm and landscape. Second there needs to exist a feeling of “being away”. The landscape must provide a break in the daily routines of life such as work, electronic devices and the hustle bustle of the city landscape. Third there must be a “fascination”(7) with the environment that engages the individual’s specific attention and enjoyment. Fourth there must exist a “compatibility” (7) with the environment and landscape some individuals may prefer hiking in the mountains while others may prefer fishing on a lake or skydiving.
Nature needs to be examined as a therapeutic instrument and natural medication in the recovery process. The rush of the wind, the warmth of the sun and soothing effects of water may have a major impact on assisting in the quieting and calming of the addictive mind in recovery. The next time you feel anxious or depressed why not head out to the local park or nature trail and try a dose of nature.
Bratman, G. N., Hamilton, P.J., Daily, G. (2012). The impacts of nature experience
On human cognitive function and mental health. The Annals of New York Academy of Sciences. 1249 118-136.
Lazar, J. (2016). Nature Rx. [Video file]. Retrieved from