Being immersed in nature is a great way to improve your mood, and new research from James Cook University shows you don’t need to join an organised program to see the benefits.
Bachelor of Psychological Science Honours graduate, Pei Yi Lim and Dr Denise Dillon compared the psychological and physiological benefits of guided and unguided nature immersion activities, such as going for a walk in a park, and found no difference in participants’ moods, heart rate, or feeling of being connected to nature between the two experiences.
“We found that although both are beneficial, the guided nature immersion program did not offer any additional benefits compared to unguided immersion,” Ms Lim said. “This contradicts the claims made by organisers of guided nature walk programs that their programs strengthen the experience.”
Ms Lim said there has been an increase in guided nature walk programs in recent years but little was known about their benefits.
“Experiencing nature has been found to be an effective way of reducing anxiety and improving mood,” she said. “However, most research examines the benefits of nature exposure in general, rather than comparing different ways of approaching it.
“We were able to compare participants who had a guided experience and an unguided experience to see if the guide made a difference – and in this case it didn’t.”
Dr Dillon said unguided nature immersion could be suggested as a way to manage stress for a variety of people.
“You don’t need anything formal, just some suggested activities such as exploring gardens, paying attention to your senses, or sitting quietly experiencing the scene,” she said.
“Nature can be beneficial for anyone, but for those who may be hesitant to do so on their own for any reason, a guided immersion is certainly a recommended option if available near you.”