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Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14(8), 864; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph14080864

A Review of the Benefits of Nature Experiences: More Than Meets the Eye

1
School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD 4072, Australia
2
Zealandia Sanctuary, 31 Waiapu Road, Karori, Wellington 6012, New Zealand
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Yoshifumi Miyazaki, Hiromitsu Kobayashi, Sin-Ae Park and Chorong Song
Received: 1 June 2017 / Revised: 24 July 2017 / Accepted: 26 July 2017 / Published: 1 August 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Evidence-Based Nature Therapy: Advances in Physiological Evaluation)
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Abstract

Evidence that experiences of nature can benefit people has accumulated rapidly. Yet perhaps because of the domination of the visual sense in humans, most research has focused on the visual aspects of nature experiences. However, humans are multisensory, and it seems likely that many benefits are delivered through the non-visual senses and these are potentially avenues through which a physiological mechanism could occur. Here we review the evidence around these lesser studied sensory pathways—through sound, smell, taste, touch, and three non-sensory pathways. Natural sounds and smells underpin experiences of nature for many people, and this may well be rooted in evolutionary psychology. Tactile experiences of nature, particularly beyond animal petting, are understudied yet potentially fundamentally important. Tastes of nature, through growing and consuming natural foods, have been linked with a range of health and well-being benefits. Beyond the five senses, evidence is emerging for other non-visual pathways for nature experiences to be effective. These include ingestion or inhalation of phytoncides, negative air ions and microbes. We conclude that (i) these non-visual avenues are potentially important for delivering benefits from nature experiences; (ii) the evidence base is relatively weak and often based on correlational studies; and (iii) deeper exploration of these sensory and non-sensory avenues is needed. View Full-Text
Keywords: sensory; nature benefits; nature experience; wellbeing; nature therapy sensory; nature benefits; nature experience; wellbeing; nature therapy
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Franco, L.S.; Shanahan, D.F.; Fuller, R.A. A Review of the Benefits of Nature Experiences: More Than Meets the Eye. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14, 864.

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