Background This study explores the relationship between human health and nature. The motivation for the study is to examine if nature that citizens have access to in their daily lives can be used as a mean to relieve stress and promote general wellbeing. The results of the study are based on a problem statement that focuses on how stress sick people experience having mindful and sensuous activities in nature. This problem statement is significant and relevant because – to my knowledge – there are no psychological studies on how stress sick citizens experiences the use of local public green areas for stress reduction. Approach The study has a phenomenological standpoint. Its empirical basis consists of observation and interviews with a group of stress sick informants during a 7 week course of stress intervention once a week. The analytical approach is based on Reflective Lifeworld Research. With Reflective Lifeworld Research the aim is to capture the essence of the experiences of the stress sick during their stay in nature. The consequence of this thinking is that the essence is not something that the researcher adds through interpretation. Therefore the informants immediate experiences are analyzed without using external material e.g. theory and hypotheses. The reason for this is to let the experiences speak for themselves, without having interpretations of reality distract from it. Since the external material is not included in the analysis, it is added later on in the discussion of the analytical findings. Findings The analysis consists of seven constituents that together form the essence of the stress sick informants’ experiences of having mindful and sensuous activities in nature with the aim to reduce stress and promote well-being. These constituents are: 1) Stress symptoms despite natural surroundings. Several informants experiences stress symptoms in the form of aversion and tension, when they start having mindful and sensuous activities in nature. The aversion and tension is experienced as restlessness, discomfort, chaotic thoughts and sadness. 2) Being mindful and sensuous in nature. When the informants attention is aware of colors, smells and sounds of nature, they experience that thoughts come and go without the usual commitment. Hereby they mentally transforms from a ‘decisive’ state, where they are thinking about what they should do or what should be different, to a ‘being’ state, where they are simply present and focus on what is happening in the present. 3) Being comfortable relaxed in nature. The informants experience what they see, feel, hear and smell in the nature as relaxing. The activities in nature, such as sitting in front of a fire, doing breathing exercises or hanging in the hammock between the trees, creates physical and mental relaxation. In addition the informants experience that the stays in nature makes them better able to rest and sleep, which they point out as a factor increasing well-being in their everyday life. 4) Nature is a free space. The informants experience nature as a free space, where they feel that they can be themselves. Their problems related to stress seem of less importance, when they are engrossed in all the sensory impressions in nature. 5) The group interaction is anchored in the outdoor experience. The informants have meaningful experiences based on being with each other in nature. Everyone accepts each other in spite of their own vulnerability and stress sickness. Thereby they feel that the demands of the group does not exceed their resources. They experience is that the non-demanding socializing where everyone has similar needs or reasons for being in nature, provides a nourishing bond. 6) The informants experience a connection to nature. They experience an increased awareness in nature. The existential and essential experience goes beyond their thinking mind and transcends them from their focus on themselves. Their problems seem smaller when they are outside, because they experience a sense of only being ‘a small piece of the universe’. They find that even though life circumstances are stressful, nature shows that life goes on, leaves die in the fall, but new ones grow out in spring. 7) Nature as a health strategy that creates stress reduction and well-being. It appears that there is a multifaceted picture of the informants needs for stress management. The informants experience both a need for relaxation, but also a need for more energy. The mindful and sensuous stays in nature meet both needs. The informants experience energy and relaxation when being mindful of the sensations in nature. In regards to the long-term health benefits of the intervention, the informants I interviewed half a year after they participated in the intervention describe that they experience nature more intense and present than they previously did. These informants use their gardens and local nature areas in a strategy to reduce stress and increase well-being in their everyday life. Conclusion This study concludes that the stress sick experience mindful and sensual activities in nature as stress reducing and profitable for their well-being. Characteristic stress symptoms such as insomnia, poor concentration and restlessness improves by being in nature. The informants also experience relaxation and balance of body and mind. Despite these positive results, some stress symptoms can be expected when stress sick people initiate having mindful and sensual stay in nature. It can sometimes be uncomfortable to be introduced to unfamiliar physical and mental sensations under the mindful and sensual activities. An interesting result of the study is that the sensory experiences of nature can be profitable for being mindful and this can intensify the sensory experiences in nature. This interaction between sensory and mindfulness makes the informants more aware and present. Furthermore, the study finds that the informants experience of a connection to nature can be used therapeutically as it makes problems appear smaller, because of the recognition that they are only a small piece in the universe and that life goes on despite their current struggles. Finally, the results indicate a long term effect of the 7 week stress intervention, since the informants keep using nature after the intervention in a mindful and sensuous way to reduce stress and increase well-being, and to have a free space in their everyday life. Recommendation It can be beneficial to include the nature, which citizens have access to in their everyday life in health promotion and health strategies that aim to reduce stress and increase the well-being of stress sick people. The main effort though, should be of a preventive character to avoid severe stress cases. Nature is not as a substitute for changing the stressors in the hectic work and everyday life that creates risk of stress. Keywords Nature based health promotion, Stress reduction, well-being.
|Uddannelser||Psykologi, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) Bachelor el. kandidat|
|Udgivelsesdato||29 apr. 2015|
|Vejledere||Højholt Pers, Mikka Lene & Dorthe Elle Ilsøe|