Healing power of nature

Healing power of nature
Resource type: this resource contains a lecture or lecture notes.
Completion status: this resource is ~25% complete.

These notes are based on a guest lecture for the Health Psychology unit of study at the University of Canberra.


This lecture provides an introduction to the "healing power of nature" from a psychological point of view. It emphasises psychoevolutionary theory and practical applications.


This section involves some experiential activities to heighten personal awareness about our engagements with nature.

Sensory awareness inventoryEdit

Write down as many examples as you can of how you receive pleasure, comfort or enjoyment through each of your five senses:

Sight Sound Touch Taste Smell

  • Circle all the sources of pleasure that involve nature
  • Design a "perfect day" which involves receiving at least one favourite source of pleasure through each of your senses
  • Consider: Are there more than five senses?[1][2]

Favourite place in natureEdit

  • Close your eyes
  • Take a deep breath in … and out
  • Imagine your favourite place in nature
  • See yourself visiting that place
  • What does it feel like?
  • When you’re ready, say goodbye and leave that place
  • Then open your eyes
  • Find a person near you and share about your favourite place


This section looks at the role of nature in health and well-being through human history.


  • Humans lived deeply in and with nature for hundreds of thousands, if not millions of years
  • Thinking, feeling, and behaving was intimately connected to natural environments (land, air, water, plants, animals, weather, ecosystems)


  • 1000 - 10,000 years ago: Many indigenous cultures became agrarian (farming-based) – Agrarian society (Wikipedia)
  • Present - 250 years ago: Many agrarian cultures became industrialised (manufacturing economy) – Industrialisation (Wikipedia)



  • ↑ Urbanisation
  • ↑ Human population
  • ↓ Natural environment
  • → ↑ Nature deficit disorder?


This section explores the main psychologies theories used to understand the healing potential of nature.


This area represents intersections between:

  1. Health
  2. Environment
  3. Psychology

Psychevolutionary theoryEdit

  1. Evolutionary psychology (Wikipedia)

Biophilia hypothesisEdit

  1. Biophilia hypothesis (Wikipedia) (Wilson, 1984)
  2. Edward O. Wilson's Biophilia Hypothesis (wilderdom.com)

Attention restoration theoryEdit

  1. Attention restoration theory (Wikipedia)
  2. Attention restoration theory (Motivation and Emotion Book Chapter, Wikiversity)
  3. Attention restoration theory (Psychology of natural scenes, Wikiversity)
  4. Kaplan (1995)

Stress reduction theoryEdit

  1. Stress reduction theory (Wikipedia)
  2. Stress reduction theory (Psychology of natural scenes, Wikiversity)
  3. Ulrich et al. (1991)


This section highlights some key and illustrative research findings about the healing potential of exposure to nature.

Natural scenesEdit

  • Ulrich (1984): Natural view through a hospital window promoted recovery
  • Viewing

Green spaceEdit

  • Public health

Green exerciseEdit

Mountain biking is an example of "green exercise".
  • Field studies
  • Lab studies
  • MMORPG exergames

Nature therapyEdit

Nature therapy / ecotherapy
  • Adventure therapy
  • Animal therapy (e.g., companion animals, equine therapy, mini-zoo keepers)
  • Conservation therapy (e.g., mini zoo-keepers)
  • Green prescriptions (GRx)
  • Horticultural therapy
  • Nature meditation



See alsoEdit


Barton, J., & Pretty, J. (2010). Urban ecology and human health and wellbeing. Urban Ecology, 12(1), 202–229.

Bowler, D. E., Buyung-Ali, L. M., Knight, T. M., & Pullin, A. S. (2010). A systematic review of evidence for the added benefits to health of exposure to natural environments. BMC Public Health, 10, 456. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-10-456

Frumkin, H. (2001). Beyond toxicity: Human health and the natural environment. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 20, 234–240. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0749-3797(00)00317-2

Gullone, E. (2000). The biophilia hypothesis and life in the 21st century: Increasing mental health or increasing pathology? Journal of Happiness Studies, 1(3), 293–322. https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1010043827986

Kaplan, S. (1995). The restorative benefits of nature: Toward an integrative framework. Journal of Environmental Psychology15(3), 169–182. http://doi.org/10.1016/0272-4944(95)90001-2


Louv, R. (2008). Last child in the woods: Saving our children from nature-deficit disorder. Algonquin Books.

Maas, J., Verheij, R. A., Groenewegen, P. P., De Vries, S., & Spreeuwenberg, P. (2006). Green space, urbanity, and health: how strong is the relation? Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 60(7), 587–592. http://doi.org/10.1136/jech.2005.043125

Ulrich, R. S. (1984). View through a window may influence recovery. Science, 224(4647), 224–225. http://doi.org/10.1126/science.614340

Ulrich, R. S., Simons, R. F., Losito, B. D., Fiorito, E., Miles, M. A., & Zelson, M. (1991). Stress recovery during exposure to natural and urban environments. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 11(3), 201–230. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0272-4944(05)80184-7

Wilson, E. O. (1984). Biophilia. Harvard University Press.