Nature and Wellbeing

6th May 2015

Being an entrepreneur brings high levels of stress, caused by the constant threat, change and problem solving, therefore taking care of their well being is of a fundamental necessity. Yet, despite the stress, entrepreneurs are still expected to make effective decisions, stay focused, and be in good health. Most business owners will argue that they cannot afford to get sick or their business will suffer. The physical and mental implications of stress are too great to ignore or dismiss as irrelevant.

It is now scientifically proven that stress can cause heart disease, cancer and some neurodegenerative disorders. Furthermore, these alterations in our biology can have an epigenetic effect, which impacts future generations. We see it as a social responsibility to feed our community information on how to stay well as without our health, there will be no energy or mental capacity for innovation, business, or ideas.

This article will focus on the role that nature has as a restorative environment. Specifically, it will look at how nature helps release serotonin and how it adds to our overall cognitive and limbic well being.

Serotonin ( 5-hydroxytryptamine – 5HT) was first found in 1948 in blood platelets and subsequently in the brain. It is found in neurons that are receptive to the neurotransmitter and along a pathway in the brain (see image). For neuroscientific studies serotonin is very important for two reasons: it is one of the oldest pathway systems in the brain, making it a significant contributor to our evolutionary development; also, due to being an expansive pathway it mediates and regulates many cognitive and limbic processes – from certain types of depression to anxiety, focus and cognitive flexibility.

Serotonin and nature are linked through light. Many studies have been conducted to prove that natural daylight, even when overcast, is acting as a serotonin booster. Just a short walk can boost

serotonin levels and start to lower cortisol levels, which makes us feel less anxious. Nature plays a key role in vitality. Spending time outdoors is crucial in regards to having calm energy. It is a myth that having energy is the same as being energetic and running around. The ideal type of energy is calm, so you are able to make and see things with a clear perception, to take things in stride.

Having cognitive flexibility is a king, especially as you face problems and changes in your business. It allows you to be able to move from solution point to solution point without anxiety or feeling stuck.

Vitality “represents energy that one can be harnessed or regulated for purposive actions”, it also creates resilience against physical and mental stressors. All of these effects are paramount to staying alert and successful in business.

In a scientific study in 2009 participants were given 5 different takes to complete in order to asses the link between vitality and natural environments. The results of two of the tasks were quite telling: one where participants were asked which landscape they prefer built or nature in regards to anticipating feeling vitality. The results were directed towards the natural environment.

In the second task the participants took a 15 minute walk in a tree lined walk away and then a 15 minute walk through a tunnel. Higher vitality scores once more were recorded for the nature walk.

Despite this study being psychological rather than neurological it shows a preference and change in state of mind when exposed to a natural environment. The neuro­scientific hypothesis would be that if vitality is measured by having higher calm energy and wellbeing, then this could be linked back to serotonin. To date there are no FMRI studies indicating how the brain interacts with natural environment versus a built environment. Furthermore there are no biological markers which measure a change in neurotransmitters,hormones or chemicals in relation to exposure to a natural environment. There have been links to peripheral.

For now, we just know that people feel better and less anxious when viewing naturescapes, so in 10 min break get stuck in to this beautifully video.