The Power of Green

It’s not just fresh air that helps clear your mind when you take a walk in the park—simply being around plants and trees has a beneficial effect, too.

What can numb pain, make you a better person, and help you concentrate?
A plant.

It may sound far-fetched, but it’s true. While big pharmaceutical companies spend billions trying to come up with new medications to improve concentration or reduce stress, some researchers are focusing on a cheaper and far more simple approach: using nature to help people feel better.

In the last 24 years, the number of hours people spend outside has dropped dramatically. Back in 1987, the average American spent 25% more time outdoors. Today, he spends 90% of his time indoors, 5% in his car and only 5% outside. “After 50 years of increasing popularity, to the point that going to a national park was the iconic American family vacation, sometime in the late 1980s everything shifted regarding nature recreation,” says conservation ecologist Dr. Patricia Zaradic of the Red Rock Institute, a privately run scientific research center. “The Internet was born, video games and movies became more accessible, and all forms of electronic entertainment became increasingly popular.”

Yet research continues to show that being outside and, importantly, simply being around greenery in the form of plants and trees even when we’re inside, makes us feel good. It might seem obvious why relaxing under a big chestnut tree in your backyard would make you feel good; it’s less clear how plants in an office environment or a school also make a dramatic difference—improving productivity, ability to concentrate, increasing recovery rates and reducing stress. But studies show that plants do just that.

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