Natural Environments Enhance “Vitality” and Reduce Stress

Vigor, enthusiasm, positive emotions, and calm energy are characteristics of “vitality,” and have been associated with improved health outcomes and stress management.

Richard Ryan

Richard Ryan

The subjective experience of “vitality” can be increased being outside, particularly in a natural environment, according to  by University of Rochester’s Richard Ryan and Louis Mistretta , Netta Weinstein, now of University of Essex,  McGill’s Jessey Bernstein and  Kirk Warren Brown  of Virginia Commonwealth University with Concordia’s  Marylène Gagné.

Netta Weinstein

Netta Weinstein

The team asked volunteers to complete surveys and diaries, in addition to participating in experiments comparing reactions to being outdoors vs indoors during physical activity and viewing nature scenes vs buildings on volunteers’ subjective “vitality.”

Jessey Bernstein

Jessey Bernstein

These five studies suggest the positive impact of being outdoors and around natural elements on subjective vitality, even when the effects of physical activities or social interactions are controlled.

Kirk Warren Brown

Kirk Warren Brown

Most office workers can attest to the team’s findings, that visiting nature has restorative, energizing effects, and enables a fresh perspective on challenges.
Nevertheless, most office workers have difficulty leaving work in leaving climate-controlled environments for much-needed breaks.

Marylene Gagne

Marylene Gagne

Weinstein and Ryan extended these findings with University of Essex’s Andrew Przybylski, and found that besides providing “vitality”, energy, and stress management, volunteers who were “immersed in natural settings” reported more caring, generous attitudes toward others.
They valued their aspirations to help and connect with others and make generous decisions more than self-interested aspirations for financial success and admiration.

Andrew Przybylski

Andrew Przybylski

Weinstein and team suggested that viewing and experiencing nature and natural settings increases individuals’ sense of personal autonomy to pursue interests while reducing pressures, fears, and social expectations.

These studies suggest the importance of scheduled outdoor breaks from work activities, and thoughtful urban planning that incorporates green spaces and natural environments:  “…full contact with nature can have humanizing effects….to the extent our links with nature are disrupted, we may also lose some connection with each other.”

-*How do you integrate exposure to outdoor and natural setting with your work day?

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6 thoughts on “Natural Environments Enhance “Vitality” and Reduce Stress

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