Some would say it's common sense that exposure to nature helps our sense of well being, but a two professors want to find out how much exposure and what aspects of Mother Nature's creations provide these benefits.

MaryCarol Hunter of University of Michigan and Dr. Marc Berman of University of Chicago are performing two of six research projects funded by the TKF Foundation, a nonprofit organization that funds publicly accessible urban green spaces, to explore the benefits of nature, especially in urban spaces.

Hunter had her study subjects take walks of at least 10 minutes 2-1/2 times a week, then answer a series of questions on a mobile app to help assess their state of mind. Participants' responses were correlated with their cortisol levels in saliva, which indicates stress levels. Her findings showed that 10 minutes of exposure to nature can show benefits, reducing stress levels while increasing one's energy and ability to focus and elevating mood.

Berman's research compared the effects of a walk through dense, urban environments against those of stroll through an arboretum. Subjects walked 2.5 miles, approximately 50 minutes, and then given memory tests to assess their ability to focus. Those who walked through the arboretum enjoyed memory improvement 20 percent greater than the other group.

Further research will take place to help understand what characteristics of nature cause these improvements - is it the colors, shapes, or lines?  Hopefully time will tell. Read More