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Stress Recovery During Exposure to Natural and Urban Environments. Journal of Environmental Psychology. 11: 201-230

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Different conceptual perspectives converge to predict that if individuals are stressed, an encounter with most unthreatening natural environments will have a stress reducing or restorative influence, whereas many urban environments will hamper recuperation. Hypotheses regarding emotional, attentional and physiological aspects of stress reducing influences of nature are derived from a psycho-evolutionary theory. To investigate these hypotheses, 120 subjects first viewed a stressful movie, and then were exposed to color/sound videotapes of one of six different natural and urban settings. Data concerning stress recovery during the environmental presentations were obtained from self-ratings of affective states and a battery of physiological measures: heart period, muscle tension, skin conductance and pulse transit time, a non-invasive measure that correlates with systolic blood pressure. Findings from the physiological and verbal measures converged to indicate that recovery was faster and more complete when subjects were exposed to natural rather than urban environments. The pattern of physiological findings raised the possibility that responses to nature had a salient parasympathetic nervous system component; however, there was no evidence of pronounced parasympathetic involvement in responses to the urban settings. There were directional differences in cardiac responses to the natural vs urban settings, suggesting that attention/intake was higher during the natural exposures. However, both the stressor film and the nature settings elicited high levels of involuntary or automatic attention, which contradicts the notion that restorative influences of nature stem from involuntary attention or fascination. Findings were consistent with the predictions of the psycho-evolutionary theory that restorative influences of nature involve a shift towards a more positively-toned emotional state, positive changes in physiological activity levels, and that these changes are accompanied by sustained attention/intake. Content differences in terms of natural vs human-made properties appeared decisive in accounting for the differences in recuperation and perceptual intake.
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... In general, the restoration effect of the natural environment has been examined using SRT [37,38] and ART [25,26]. SRT assumes that negative feelings and stress can be reduced when individuals are exposed to an ideal unthreatening nature [37]. ...
... In general, the restoration effect of the natural environment has been examined using SRT [37,38] and ART [25,26]. SRT assumes that negative feelings and stress can be reduced when individuals are exposed to an ideal unthreatening nature [37]. In other words, the greenery offered by nature is associated with psychological stability and a calming effect. ...
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... A number of articles have demonstrated that being away and fascination can act as mediators of the restorative benefits of window view generation [35][36][37]. In contrast, in stress-reduction theory, when exposed to a nonthreatening natural environment rather than various urban environments, it facilitates psychological and physiological stress recovery, a shift in mood towards positive aspects, and positive physiological activity level changes [38,39]. ...
... A number of articles have demonstrated that being away and fascination can act as mediators of the restorative benefits of window view generation [35][36][37]. In contrast, in stress-reduction theory, when exposed to a nonthreatening natural environment rather than various urban environments, it facilitates psychological and physiological stress recovery, a shift in mood towards positive aspects, and positive physiological activity level changes [38,39]. The theoretical foundations of the current paper are based on both of these theories, and a recent study examining the effects of indoor plants and outdoor greenery on people's depression and anxiety symptoms during the epidemic further demonstrates the irreplaceable role of being away and the restorative qualities of attention-recovery theory as mediators of mental recovery. ...
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