Spending time and being physically active in nature promotes well-being and health. Nature helps us recover from the effects of stress and forget our everyday worries. It also lifts our moods. The effects are manifested in lower blood pressure and a stabilised heart rate.

Other positive effects of nature include getting people out and about and providing opportunities for social interaction. However, the effects of the natural environment on our emotional well-being stretch beyond social contacts.

Spending time in our favourite spots in nature, in particular, restores us. Experiences of restoration in reported favourite spots such as recreation areas, urban forests and coastal areas are stronger than those reported in favourite spots such as parks or built-up urban environments.

Suitable portions of nature linked to environmental quality

The restorative effect of nature is achieved when our annual use of our local green areas exceeds five hours per month or when we visit nature sites outside the urban area two to three times a month. Non-urban nature areas have a more effective impact on our moods than urban green areas.

Instant restoration can be achieved even in a small green area, where plants create a feeling of being separated from the built-up urban environment. Restoration on a larger scale requires larger green areas suitable for longer stays.

Photo: Mikko Jokinen, Luke.
Photo: Mikko Jokinen, Luke.

Research data facilitates the development of services

The Natural Resources Institute Finland is conducting research into ways in which natural environments improve health and well-being. How can we also bring green areas close to people in cities? What are the needs and wishes of different population groups? The effects of nature on well-being are also studied in relation to the societal significance of recreational use of nature, multiple use of forests, and the development of nature-based business operations. In Finland, research cooperation relating to well-being is concentrated on the University of Tampere and the National Institute of Health and Welfare. Extensive international collaborations are involved in this research.

Societal demand is great for data on this subject. The data is required for the implementation of the Finnish National Forest Programme and Finland’s Tourism Strategy to 2020, the planning and management of state-owned and private forests, the planning of municipal and provincial land-use, and for promoting tourism and nature service businesses.

Picture on top of the page: Erkki Oksanen, Luke.