Even the briefest exposure to nature can reduce stress, according to findings by Roger Ulrich, an associate dean in the College of Architecture at Texas A&M University.
Even more surprising to Ulrich was how quickly brief bursts of nature work. In some cases, stressed-out subjects relaxed after only three minutes of nature viewing.
In their study, Ulrich and his colleague, University of Delaware psychologist Robert Simons, showed 120 students a graphic, 10-minute accident film. Before and after the film, viewers' stress levels were evaluated, using such standard measures as blood pressure, muscle tension and heart rate, along with a self-rating of stress.
Next, students viewed a videotape of a nature or urban scene for 10 minutes. One nature scene showed a peaceful river, the other a forest. The urban scenes depicted a street with heavy traffic, a street with light traffic, an outdoor mall with many pedestrians and an outdoor mall with few pedestrians. Viewers' stress levels were again evaluated.