Depression

Stressed? Turn Off the TV, Look Out the Window

Try to include glimpses of nature in your daily routine—actual nature, not a digital facsimile.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Researchers measured heart-rate recovery—an indicator of stress—among volunteers performing mildly stressful tasks in an office setting. If a window overlooking a nature scene (grass, trees and a public fountain) was present, the subjects’ heart rates calmed down sooner than if there was an HDTV plasma screen displaying the same view. In fact, the TV screen had no more effect on heart rate than looking at a blank wall.

nature and stress reduction

An HDTV nature scene doesn’t ease stress as well as the real thing, study shows.

By Rick Chillot

What you can do

Try to include glimpses of nature in your daily routine—actual nature, not a digital facsimile.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Researchers measured heart-rate recovery—an indicator of stress—among volunteers performing mildly stressful tasks in an office setting. If a window overlooking a nature scene (grass, trees and a public fountain) was present, the subjects’ heart rates calmed down sooner than if there was an HDTV plasma screen displaying the same view. In fact, the TV screen had no more effect on heart rate than looking at a blank wall.

THE DETAILS: University of Washington researchers conducted the study in an office with an existing window, and fitted a 50-inch plasma screen into it or covered it up as needed. They had their volunteers perform word puzzles for forty minutes, measuring their heart rates before, during and after each task. They also recorded the time spent looking at window, screen or wall. The subjects’ heart rates dropped to normal sooner if they had a real window to look at, and the more time they spend looking at the window, the faster the recovery.

WHAT IT MEANS: We love nature shows, but your body would rather you take a walk in a park or find a room with a view of some trees. Besides reminding us of nature’s stress-busting power, this study encourages us to consider what we lose when we accept technological replacements for natural experiences.

Published on August 15th, 2008

Last updated on May 13th, 2010

2008-2009 Copyright Rodale

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