How do Nature Relaxation™ videos work to Lower Stress & Optimize Mental Performance? To understand, we must first understand the Stress Response VS Relaxation Response systems innate in all of us, so that we can leverage our evolutionary affinity with Nature and utilize our modern technology to relax more often, feel better, and achieve optimum mental performance.
STRESS RESPONSE VS RELAXATION RESPONSE SYSTEMS
The counterpart to the Stress (Fight-or-Flight) Response, the Relaxation Response occurs when the body is no longer in perceived danger; when activated our autonomic nervous system functioning returns to normal. Simply put, the relaxation response is the opposite of our natural response to stress. These systems and how they interact can be best described by an analogy of a lever with only two modes:
THE LEVER: AN ANALOGY
Envision that in each one of our brains there is a lever, with only two opposite modes. The two modes are 'relaxed mode' or 'not relaxed' (stressed) mode. This lever is moved by a mix of our immediate environment, and what thoughts or actions we are focused on at the moment.
Commonly referred to as Flight or Fight Mode, when Stressed Mode is activated, we experience an increase in adrenaline levels, blood pressure, and heart rate which prepares us to either stay and deal with a threat or to run away to safety. This ancient system evolved as a defense to short-term threats that existed during our hunter & gatherer days. As such it just isn't suited to the handle the existential long-term threats we face in modern times.
When our brain remains on 'not relaxed' mode for too long, we experience burnout*, and we suffer mentally and physically as a result. If not properly diffused regularly, this leads to chronic stress - the leading cause of death & disease around the world.
Therefore, it is imperative that we learn how to activate our Relaxation Response regularly in order to give our system a much needed refresh & recharge. Then life happens: we are busy, and finding extra time to relax can be easier said than done. But what if lowering daily stress was as simple as turning on a background video or audio? What if Nature has us hard-wired to feel better automatically? What if certain videos work better than others?
HOW OUR ENVIRONMENT AFFECTS THE BRAIN: AN EVOLUTIONARY TALE
Interestingly enough, our physiological system also adapted in ways that can work to our advantage, thanks to millions of years of living intimately connected to Nature. There are, in fact, certain natural environments (and even certain sounds)* that automatically shift our minds and bodies into a more relaxed and therefore coherent/harmonious state.
In other words, there are certain natural environments that automatically shift this lever in our brain to 'relaxed mode', and there are other environments which automatically activate our Fight or Flight (not relaxed) mode.
Think about it: when living in the wild, our hunter/gatherer ancestors had two immediate but perpetual concerns: having a source of fresh water, and being able to spot predators. Not being able to see predators meant we had to stay more alert; an ambush from a predatory animal could be lurking close by, and as such our system automatically shifts to Fight or Flight mode in densely forested areas with low visibility. Take a look at the below example image:
A scene like the one above, while of Nature, has actually been documented to cause a spike in stress levels*.
Conversely, when we look at a scene with lots of open space, sunlight, and/or fresh water, our mind & body automatically shifts back into relaxed mode.
Here is an example Natural Scene with Green Views & Fresh Water:
Notice the shift that happens in your mind when we look at this above colorful coastal scene with flowing water versus when you look at the dark forest picture.
Additionally, our senses were adapted to operate most efficiently in wide open, green spaces. When in such settings, the attention center in our brain responsible for constantly scanning for environmental threats is able to rest & recharge*. This in turn allows it us to better focus on the task at hand.
Why? Because evolution taught us that these types of scenes were less likely to contain threats to our existence and our senses could therefore relax.
Comparison: Urban Versus Natural Scene:
Take a look at the two pictures below and pay attention to how you feel after:
Urban settings that are devoid of trees and plants require our brain's attention center to work even harder, and therefore can lead to burnout. Therefore, it's not hard to imagine why the number of people with depression in cities is directly linked to the number of green spaces available.*
Next, look at this scene of Nature:
Notice the Difference?
While it's great to know that we require natural spaces to function at optimum levels, the reality is most major cities are largely devoid of enough green spaces to achieve optimum mental health and focus.
USING NATURE TO FIND CONTENTMENT AND HAPPINESS
As you can see, Nature can be a powerful tool to help shift our minds into "relax mode." When in relaxed mode, our heart & breath rate slows down, and as a result wefeel better. When we feel better, we automatically are more receptive, calm, positive and therefore happier*. We become better able to reflect on the beauty that surrounds us.
This sets the state for us to feel gratitude and contentment (the golden keys to life), which occurs naturally when shifting our focus from negative thoughts & stimuli to the abundant & resplendent beauty that surrounds our planetary paradise home. When in relaxed mode, witnessing beauty in Nature can allow your system to reset, and in many cases can lead to instances of sheer bliss, allow for a release of deeply withheld emotions, or in some cases it may even lead to realizing some divine realization or creative insight about our next big project, business venture, or life move.
When we are relaxed and observe the beauty & majesty of Nature, we have the opportunity to find complete peace and contentment. We can become whole and happy, regardless of whatever situation our life has thrown us into. And we can return to this space often - thanks to modern technology.
That's where Nature Relaxation™ comes into play: through our films and technology, no matter where someone is in the world - in an office with no windows, in a cramped airplane seat, on the couch - one can simply press a few buttons from any nearly any phone, computer, or TV and instantly be relaxing in a paradise-like setting complete with music and/or nature sounds.
The beautiful natural environments on featured in all of our Nature Relaxation videos have been carefully crafted so as not to have any scenes that might involuntarily shift your mental lever into "not-relaxed" mode. Therefore, you can completely relax and give your mind and body a much needed period of rest. Even if done only for a few minutes each day or week, over the long term this can have a very positive effect on the health of our mind and body*!
NOW IS THE TIME TO RELAX
Considering the devastating impacts we as a society are witnessing as a result of our collective withdrawal from living close to Nature - and considering that we are collectively addicted to our screens, I believe it only makes sense to use the technology we are addicted to to help us instead of hurt us further. The tablets, phones, TVs, and computers which we are glued to can be used to instantly project Nature Relaxation, creating a space for relaxation, healing, and serenity.
While it obviously isn't the same as a real walk in nature or trip to the beach, a virtual trip to nature can interestingly enough carry many of the same benefits - benefits that counter the negative effects of daily stress. Simply put, watching Nature Relaxation regularly makes us happier, and healthier. And it's a lot easier than going for a real walk in the woods or making a trip to the beach. Just press play, and relax all day :)