Overview: How does it work ?

Nature & our Senses

The concept of ‘biophilia’, from the Greek meaning ‘love of life and the living world’, was first made popular by the American biologist, E.O. Wilson in 1984. He believed that, since we evolved in nature, we have a biological need to connect with it. We love nature because we learned to love the things that helped us to survive. We feel comfortable in nature because that is where we have lived for most of our time on earth. In other words, we are genetically determined to love the natural world: it is in our DNA. Strong evidence for our ‘nature-primed neurons’ comes from the related concept of ‘biophobia’, which asserts that we have an innate fear or disgust of natural phenomena that would have been harmful to our survival, for example we detect a snake pattern more quickly than any other, and a gagging reflex is activated at the smell of rotting meat. Further supporting evidence for an evolutionary basis to our affinity with nature comes from studies showing our marked preference for ‘savannah’ style environments, open, grassy landscapes with small scattered trees (Balling & Falk, 1982; 2010), similar to those of East Africa where the human species evolved. Appleton proposed a ‘prospect-refuge’ theory (1996) to explain our preferences for these landscapes, suggesting we make aesthetic judgements according to the extent to which they represent the genetically important features of ‘prospect’, an open, unimpeded view, and ‘refuge’, an opportunity to hide from any hazard. Our attraction to the sound of running water has been similarly attributed to the evolutionary advantage of a nearby clean water source (Choker & Mene, 1992; Ulrich, 1993).

Since E.O. Wilson’s time when there was little scientific evidence humans’ biophilic connection, science has explained how and why.

Very simply, everything falls into place, effortlessly, through our senses. In other words, it is by focusing on our body and our senses and allowing them to interact with Nature in specific ways, that our brain enters into alpha waves mode which not only improves our mental and physical health, but also the capabilities of our brain (see more here).

Today, many scientists from a wide variety of disciplines, including biologists, medical doctors, psychologists and neuroscientists, are beginning to recognize that this affinity for the natural world may be fundamental to our health, and growing evidence is suggesting that contact with nature may be as vital to our well-being as regular exercise and a healthy diet.

Recent findings have shown that our five senses are hardwired in our DNA for connection with Nature.

As Dr Qing Li, Associate Professor at the Nippon Medical School in Tokyo and one of the world’s leading experts on the health benefits of natural environments puts it:

‘We are “hard-wired” to affiliate with the natural world, and just as our health improves when we are in it, so our health suffers when we are disconnected from it’ (2018).

With urbanization, we have witnessed this disconnection of humans from Nature. It has become increasingly clear: this dis-connection leads to dis-ease and such dis-function in the very workplaces we keep aiming to optimize.

By 2050, 70% of humanity will be living in urban areas, thereby accelerating the feeling of dis-connection and dis-ease that Humans are suffering from.

But what are our senses and how are they the key to our health and our human potential ?

As it turns out our five core senses as first categorized by Aristotle are grouped together as exteroceptive, because it is through them that we interface with the external world.

  • Sense of Sight: color (hue satutation, shade), light intensity, distance, motion, texture, speed, range of focus (narrow/wide), sharpness of focus.
  • Senses of Hearing:  volume, pitch, quality, direction, rhythm.
  • Sense of Touch (tactile system): temperature, texture, pressure, pain/pleasure.
  • Sense of Smell (olfaction): pleasant/unpleasant, intriguing, metallic, sharp, musty, musky, etc…
  • Sense of Taste: gustatory perception, or gustation) : sweetness, sourness, saltiness, bitterness, umami, kokumi.

In humans, these five exteroceptive senses are positively adapted to interact and reciprocate with stimuli from Nature, because this is where we have lived most of our time on earth.

Research shows that positive adaptation does not seem to have happened for our senses to reciprocate with urban stimuli.

As per Biophilia, when our senses find the stimuli from Nature that they are positively adapted for, our brain goes into Alpha waves (see below), and a whole chain of mental and physiological benefits follow. It is like coming home for us.

And as Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Nightingale” illustrates, imitations of Nature’s beneficial stimuli just does not have the same benefits for humans.

Although research is still in its early days, science has discovered some of Nature’s specific stimuli (or “active ingredients”) that create health benefits when they interact with human senses.

  • Sight <–> Fractals
  • Hearing <–> Birds, Water, Wind
  • Touch <–> Tree bark, plant foliage, negative ions from earth
  • Smell <–> Phytoncides
  • Taste <–> Soil bacteria

(What are the active ingredients section).

Although most of the research has so far focused on these five “exteroceptive” senses, it is known that humans have many others that have been neglected with increasing urbanization such as:

  • Proprioception
  • Interoception
  • Mirror
  • Body Radar
  • Feeling / Heart Sense
  • Subtle Energy Sense
  • Imaginal Sense

A lot could be said about each one, and during Natural Leadership’s guided Multisensorial Nature immersions, these senses are rediscovered and explored to bring further benefits.

Finally, it is important to note that senses may interact with one another (a phenomenon call synesthesia), and that some senses may be the gateway to others.

It has been discovered that Intuition is a sense that we access readily when our brain is in alpha wave mode (around 7.5 Hz).

But today, many of us don’t know what it means to have strong sensory awareness or inner connection, or how we feel in our own body about certain situations. In that state, we cannot access intuition.

During guided Multisensorial Nature immersions, we access our sense of Intuition simply by focusing on exercises for our five core senses in Nature.

This happens because these multisensorial exercises enable our brain to enter alpha wave mode.

Thus, our five core senses are the gateway to the sense of intuition, as a starting point…

But what do we call “intuition” exactly ?

Intuition is an intuitive perception that is commonly acknowledged to play an important role in business decisions and entrepreneurship, learning, creativity, medical diagnosis, healing, spiritual growth, and overall well-being.

If we dig deeper, intuition corresponds to 3 different types of process:

  • Implicit knowledge or learning. Knowledge we acquired in the past and either forgot it or did not realize we learned. The brain matched the patterns of new problems or challenges with stored templates in memory based on prior experience.
  • Energetic sensitivity, which refers to the ability of our nervous system to detect and respond to environmental signals such as electromagnetic fields. For example, it is well established that in both humans and animals, nervous system activity is affected by geomagnetic activity. Some people appear to have the capacity to feel or sense that an earthquake is about to occur before it happens. It has recently been shown that changes in the earth’s magnetic field can be detected about an hour or even longer before a large earthquake occurs. Another example of energetic sensitivity is the sense that someone is staring at us. Several scientific studies have verified this type of sensitivity.
  • Nonlocal intuition, which refers to the knowledge or sense of something that cannot be explained by past or forgotten knowledge or environmental signals. Examples of nonlocal intuition are when a mother senses something happening to her child, who is many miles away, or the repeated, successful sensing experienced by entrepreneurs about factors related to making effective business decisions.

In guided multisensorial Nature immersions, we have facilitated access to the first two types of intuition processes. The third one comes with regular practice.

Alpha Waves & our Brain

Science has shown that when our senses interact and reciprocate with “active ingredients” from Nature, our brain enters into alpha waves.

But what does that mean ?

Brain waves are measured by frequency, which is cycles per second, or hertz (Hz), and they range from very slow to very fast.

Alpha waves (7Hz-13Hz) are fit in the middle of the spectrum, between theta waves (4Hz-7Hz) and beta waves (13Hz-35Hz).

The other waves are delta (0.5Hz-4Hz) and gamma (>35Hz).

So why is it so beneficial to be in alpha waves ?

Because they are a state of “relaxed “wakefulness” also called “flow”.

In this mode, we move away from our day-to-day conscious thoughts, and our subconscious can connect the dots that our conscious mind can’t possibly hold. This is called intuition.

In alpha wave mode, it has been demonstrated that we unlock our Intuition, and we have the ability to connect apparently unrelated pieces of information with an impact on creativity, decision-making, problem-solving, learning, etc...

These subconscious neural processes occur at a different rhythm and a deeper level than your normal daily intentional, focused thoughts. That’s why it is said that intuition is so powerful.

When we are able to slow down our normal, alert and active beta (or gamma) brain wave states and enter more relaxed, lower frequency alpha and theta states, we are better able to access the information our intuition is providing us.

Alpha wave mode also facilitates mind/body integration.

And here’s the punch line: in alpha brain, we process information at 20,000,000 bits/sec.

That’s 500,000 times faster than in standard beta wave problem solving mode.

In alpha wave mode, we “slow down to go fast”.

Furthermore, in alpha wave mode, we have access to facilitated visualization rather than thoughts only in beta wave.

With all these features, alpha wave mode is an optimal time to program the mind for success and it also expands your capabilities for problem-solving, decision-making, creativity, imagination, and learning.

Our gateway to alpha wave mode and intuition is sensory awareness. But today, many of us don’t know what it means to have strong sensory awareness or inner connection, or how we feel in our own body about certain situations.

In any given situation, many of us go immediately into problem-solving (beta wave brain) mode while disregarding any intuitive insight or gut feel.

In beta wave (fast brain), we have limited problem-solving and decision-making capabilities.

Click here to see the impact of alpha waves on Decision-making

With regards to creativity, multiple studies have established the relationship between sensory awareness and creativity. We can refer here to Leonardo Da Vinci’s seven principles, Sensazione (heightened sensory awareness).

From another angle, alpha wave mode helps to restore our “directed attention capacity” or “executive attentional control” that we use in beta wave mode. That’s because science has found that in urban environments, humans overtax their “directed attention” resulting in an increase in stress and a decrease in their capacity to use their beta wave mode to problem solve.
This finding was behind the popularity of Attention Restoration Therapy, invented in the 1990’s by Kaplan & Kaplan. Since then, science has uncovered that alpha waves play a central role in ART and is behind the manifold restorative effects of Nature that have been established in the literature.

In summary, by losing our sensory connection with Nature, we have also lost problem-solving, decision-making, creativity and learning capabilities.

Click here to see the impact of alpha waves on Creativity & Problem-solving

Finally, The Natural Leadership Process takes advantage of our expanded learning capabilities, our heightened sensory awareness and facilitated mind/body integration in alpha wave mode by integrating Embodied Learning modules into the process.

One aspect of our Embodied Learning practice is to shift from our human perspective of a given situation by adopting an altered sensory perception inspired by Nature (animals, plants or trees), thereby offering fresh insights which are surprisingly applicable in the business world.

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Click for Reference List
  • Atchley RA, Strayer DL, Atchley P (2012) Creativity in the Wild: Improving Creative Reasoning through Immersion in Natural Settings. PloS ONE 7(12): e51474. Doi:10.1371/journal.pone
  • Berto R (2014). The Role of Nature in Coping with Psycho-Physiological Stress: A Literature Review on Restorativeness. Behav Sci. 2014 Dec;4(4):394-409.
  • Bowler D et al. (2010). A systematic review of evidence for the added benefits to health of exposure to natural environments, BMC Public Health, vol. 10, p. 456, 2010
  • Chevalier G, Sinatra ST, Oschman JL et al. (2012). Earthing: Health Implications of Reconnecting the Human Body to the Earth’s Surface Electrons. J Environ Public Health 2012; 2012:291541
  • Divya N. (2015). Development of Creativity Through Heightening of Sensory Awareness. ICoRD ’15 (International Conference on Research into Design – Bangalore)
  • Gladwell M.
  • HagerhallCM, Laike T, Küller MMarcheschi E, Boydston C, Taylor (2015). Human physiological benefits of viewing nature: EEG responses to exact and statistical fractal patterns. Nonlinear Dynamics Psychol Life Sci. 2015 Jan;19(1):1-12.
  • Hägerhall C (2014). Biophilia and the Fractal Geometry of Nature. Accessed on 20 March 2015 from www.cemusstudent.se/wp-content/…/C-Hägerhäll-Uppsala-21- mars2014.pdf
  • Hansen M et al. (2017). Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing) and Nature Therapy : A State-of-the-Art Review, Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health, vol. 14(8), p. 851, 2017.
  • Hutchins G., Storm L. (2019). Regenerative Leadership: The DNA life-affirming 21st century organizations.
  • Juyoung Lee, Qing Li, Liisa Tyrväinen, Yuko Tsunetsugu, Bum-Jin Park, Takahide Kagawa and Yoshifumi Miyazaki (2012). Nature Therapy and Preventive Medicine, Public Health – Social and Behavioral Health, Prof. Jay Maddock (Ed.), ISBN: 978-953-51-0620-3, InTech.
  • Kaplan R., Kaplan S. (1989). The experience of nature: a psychological perspective. Cambridge University Press.
  • Kaplan R., Kaplan S (1998). “With People in Mind: Design and Management for Everyday Nature” (Island Press, 1998)
  • Klimesch W. (2012). Alpha-band oscillations, attention, and controlled access to stored information. Trends Cogn. Sci. 2012 Dec; 16(2):606-617
  • Koga K., Iwasaki Y. Psychological and physiological effect in humans of touching plant foliage—Using the semantic differential method and cerebral activity as indicators. Physiol. Anthropol. 2013;32:7.
  • Kuo, F. E. (2010). <<Parks and other green environments: essential components of a healthy human habitat: National Recreation and Park Association>>, National Recreation and Parks Association, Ashburn, VA, 2010, 45p
  • Leboon R. (2018) Rethinking Intuition Using the Framework of an Integrative-Brain Assessment for Optimal Decision-making – Upenn Press (Mphil Organizational Dynamics).
  • Lunenburg FC. (2010) The power of intuition – Int. Jounal of Bus. And Admn.
  • Louv P.(2015). Last child in the woods: Saving our children from Nature-Deficit Disorder
  • Lustenberger C, Boyle MR, Foulser AA, Mellin JM, Fröhlich F. (2015). Functional role of frontal alpha oscillations in creativity. Cortex Volume 67, June 2015, p74-82
  • Mandelbrot BB (1998). Is Nature fractal ? 1998;279:783-784.
  • Matzler K., Bailom F, Mooradian TA (2007) – Intuitive Decision Making – MIT Sloan Management Review.
  • McCraty R, Zayas M. (2014). Intuitive Intelligence, Self-regulation, and Lifting Consciousness. Global Adv. Health Med. 2014; 3(2): 56-65.
  • Miyazaki Y, Morikawa T, Fujita N. (2000).The effect of touching wood on the activity of the autonomic nervous system and subjective evaluation; using the blood pressure, the pulse, and sensory evaluation. In Wood 2000 Kyoto. Kyoto: Japan Wood Research Society; 2000. In Japanese.
  • Ohly H., White MP, Wheeler BW, Bethel A, Ukoumunne OC, Nikolaou V, Garside R. (2016). Attention Restoration Theory: A systematic review of the attention restoration potential of exposure to natural environments. J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev. 2016;19(7):305-343.
  • Oschman JL, Chevalier, Brown R. (2015). The effects of grounding (earthing) on inflammation, the immune response, wound healing, and prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. J Inflamm Res. 2015; 8: 83-96
  • Park B.J., Tsunetsugu Y., Kasetani T., Kagawa T., Miyazaki Y. (2010). The physiological effects of Shinrin yoku (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing): Evidence from field experiments in 24 forests across Japan. Health Prev. Med. 2010;15:18–26.
  • Selhub, Eva et Alan Logan. Your Brain on Nature, the science of nature’s influence on your health, happiness and vitality. Kindle Edition. 2012. 259 p.
  • Stevens P (2018). Fractal Dimension Links Responses to a Visual Scene to Its Biodiversity. Ecopsychology 10(2) DOI 10.1089/eco.2017.0049
  • Wheatley MJ.(2006). Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World. San Francisco, CA :Berrett-Koehler.
  • Cerveau & Psycho N° 110 – Mai 2019
  • nhahealth.com (Neurohealth website)
  • Forbes Apr 19 2019
  • invisible-edgellc.com (Invisible Edge website) “How Altering Your Brain State Can Help You Access Your Intuition”. Rick Snyder.

What are the benefits?

Research on the benefits of Nature or Multisensorial Nature immersions is a relatively young science.

It all started in Japan in the late 90’s, with the emergence of Shinrin Yoku. The objective in Japan was to find a solution to the stress epidemic that was stemming from rapid urbanization and penetration of communication technologies.

The initial results of research about Shinrin yoku’s health impact were so convincing that it got integrated into the Japanese National Healthcare program.

Since then, research has demonstrated health impacts beyond stress reduction and has been integrated in other countries’ healthcare systems (e.g. South Korea).

What follows is a synthesis of demonstrated benefits of Multisensorial Nature immersions on the general population. It does not include benefits on Children or the Elderly.

Physiological Health

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Overall, the physiological benefits of Multisensorial Nature immersions have both preventive and a therapeutic dimensions.

Central Nervous system Health

  • Activates parasympathetic system function. Some of its activities include stimulating digestion, activating metabolism, and helping the body relax.
  • Decreases sympathetic system function. It is associated with “fight or flight” syndrome, stress and cortisol secretion.

Cardiovascular Health

  • Reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart disease, myocardial infarction rate and stroke (based on a review of 143 scientific studies)
  • Controls your blood pressure by on average > 10 points (sitting, walking or relaxing in the forest for 4 hours).
  • Lowers your heart rate.

Respiratory Health

  • Reduces your risk of chronic respiratory diseases, including asthma and mortality from lung disease.
  • Protects you against lung infections. Lower risk of illness and death from pneumonia and bronchitis.
  • Improves asthma inflammation through reduction of IL-6 biomarkers.

Immunity & Cancer care

  • Boosts your immune defences. activates elimination of tumour cells and viruses via activation of Natural Killer (NK) cells.
  • Faster & better recovery from cancer, via improved physical and psychological recovery (e.g.positive concentration and attention, better stamina)

Endocrine system

  • Regulates your hormone metabolism (insulin, oxytocin, serotonin, cortisol)
  • Reduces risk of type 2 diabetes 
  • Reduces rate of obesity
  • Improves sleep quality
Click for Reference List
  • Bowler D et al. (2010). A systematic review of evidence for the added benefits to health of exposure to natural environments, BMC Public Health, vol. 10, p. 456, 2010
  • Hansen M et al. (2017). Shinrin-Yoku (Forest Bathing) and Nature Therapy : A State-of-the-Art Review, Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health, vol. 14(8), p. 851, 2017.
  • Kuo, F. E. (2010). <<Parks and other green environments: essential components of a healthy human habitat: National Recreation and Park Association>>, National Recreation and Parks Association, Ashburn, VA, 2010, 45p
  • Li, Qing et al., <<Acute effects of walking in forest environments on cardiovascular and metabolic parameters>>, European Journal of Applied Physiology, [s.l.], 23 mars 2011, p. 2845-2853.
  • Li, Q., et al. (2009). Effect of phytoncide from trees on human natural killer cell function. Int J Immunopathol Pharmacology, Vol.22, No. 4, (October-December 2009), pp. 951-959, ISSN 0394-6320.
  • Morimoto, Q. Li et al. A Forest Bathing Trip Increases Human Natural Killer Activity and Expression of Anti-Cancer Proteins in Female Subjects [document électronique]. Japon, Journal of Biological Regulators and Homeostatic Agents, Vol. 22, no.1, 45-55, 2008.
  • Pretty, J., Angus, C., Bain, M., Barton, J., Gladwell, V., Hine, R., et al. (2009). <<Nature, childhood, health and life pathways: University of Essex>>, Interdiciplinary Center for Environment and Society, Colchester, 2009-02, 36p.
  • Selhub, Eva et Alan Logan. Your Brain on Nature, the science of nature’s influence on your health, happiness and vitality. Kindle Edition. 2012. 259 p.

Psychological Health

Mental or psychological health benefits of Mulltisensorial Nature immersions are varied and go way beyond stress reduction.

  • Busts stress. As measures by cortisol level reduction after just minutes.
  • Increases Positive emotions
    • Makes you feel happier. Nature connection leads to more happiness (>8,000 sample meta-analysis across multiple continents)
    • Makes you feel richer. Living close to Nature improves your health perception similar to an increase in your personal income of $10,000/year.
  • Increases Relaxation & Tranquility
  • Increase feeling of Wellbeing, Vitality & Energy levels
  • Decreases Negative emotions
  • Reduces Fatigue
  • Reduces Anxiety
  • Improves Depression symptoms
  • Improves quality of Sleep
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Click for Reference List
  • Berman, M. et al., <<Interacting with Nature Improves Cognition and Affect for Individuals with Depression>>, National Institutes of Health, Public Access, [s.l.], 1er novembre 2012, p. 1-12.
  • Berto R (2014). The Role of Nature in Coping with Psycho-Physiological Stress: A Literature Review on Restorativeness. Behav Sci. 2014 Dec;4(4):394-409
  • Hunter, M. R., Gillespie, B. W., & Chen, S. Y.-P. (2019). Urban Nature Experiences Reduce Stress in the Context of Daily Life Based on Salivary Biomarkers. Frontiers in Psychology, 10.
  • Kaplan R., Kaplan S. (1989). The experience of nature: a psychological perspective. Cambridge University Press.
  • Kondo M et al.,(2018). Does spending time outdoors reduce stress ? A review of real-time stress response to outdoor environments, Health and Place, vol. 51,pp. 136-150, 2018.
  • Louv P.(2015). Last child in the woods: Saving our children from Nature-Deficit Disorder
  • Morita, E. et al., <<Psychological effects of forest environments on healthy adults: Shinrin-yoku (forest-air bathing, walking) as a possible method of stress reduction>>, Journal of the Royal Institute of Public Health, [s.l.], 20 octobre 2006, p. 54-63.
  • Ohly H., White MP, Wheeler BW, Bethel A, Ukoumunne OC, Nikolaou V, Garside R. (2016). Attention Restoration Theory: A systematic review of the attention restoration potential of exposure to natural environments. J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev. 2016;19(7):305-343.
  • Park, Bum-Jin et al, <<Physiological Effects of Shinrin-yoku (Taking in the Atmosphere of the Forest) – Using Salivary Cortisol and Cerebral Activity as Indicators – >>, Journal of physiological anthropology, [s.l.], [s.d.], p. 123-128.

Social/Organizational/Relationships

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Guided Multisensorial Nature immersions have demonstrated a major impact on quality of relationships and social cohesions.

  • Raises Self-Confidence
  • Increases feelings of Empathy
  • Creates sense of Belonging to Group
  • Generates Group Trust
  • Generates feeling of Equality
  • Increase level of Respect
  • Generates Deep Listening
Click for Reference List
  • Juyoung Lee, Qing Li, Liisa Tyrväinen, Yuko Tsunetsugu, Bum-Jin Park, Takahide Kagawa and Yoshifumi Miyazaki (2012). Nature Therapy and Preventive Medicine, Public Health – Social and Behavioral Health, Prof. Jay Maddock (Ed.), ISBN: 978-953-51-0620-3, InTech.
  • Weinstein, Netta et al., <<Can Nature Make Us More Caring? Effects of Immersion in Nature on Intrinsic Aspirations and Generosity>>, University of Rochester Library, [s.l.], [s.d.], p 1315-1329.

Cognitive & Executive Functions

Multisensorial Nature immersions have shown a marked impact on restoring Cognitive and Executive functions, akin to pushing a “refresh” button for handling professional tasks..

  • Improves Concentration 
  • Restores (Directed / Executive) Attention 
  • Improves Memory

But more recently, guided Multisensorial immersions have demonstrated that by switching our brain waves to alpha, they can actually expand our executive capabilities:

  • Unlocks intuition
  • Optimizes Decision-making by aligning all 3 brain levels
  • Improves Problem-solving by increasing 500,00-fold processing speed
  • Enhances Creativity by integrating sensory / analytical and mind/body information
  • Enhances Learning potential by integrating embodiment for deeper knowledge
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Click for Reference List
  • Abram D.(1997). The Spell Of The Sensuous: Perception And Language In A More-than-human World. New York : Vintage Books, 1997.
  • Atchley RA, Strayer DL, Atchley P (2012) Creativity in the Wild: Improving Creative Reasoning through Immersion in Natural Settings. PloS ONE 7(12): e51474. Doi:10.1371/journal.pone
  • Divya N. (2015). Development of Creativity Through Heightening of Sensory Awareness. ICoRD ’15 (International Conference on Research into Design – Bangalore)
  • Leboon R (2018) Rethinking Intuition Using the Framework of an Integrative-Brain Assessment for Optimal Decision-making – Upenn Press (Mphil Organizational Dynamics).
  • Kaplan R., Kaplan S. (1989). The experience of nature: a psychological perspective. Cambridge University Press.
  • Klimesch W. (2012). Alpha-band oscillations, attention, and controlled access to stored information. Trends Cogn. Sci. 2012 Dec; 16(2):606-617
  • Lunenburg FC (2010) The power of intuition – Int. Jounal of Bus. And Admn.
  • Lustenberger C, Boyle MR, Foulser AA, Mellin JM, Fröhlich F. (2015). Functional role of frontal alpha oscillations in creativity. Cortex Volume 67, June 2015, p74-82
  • Matzler K., Bailom F, Mooradian TA (2007) – Intuitive Decision Making – MIT Sloan Management Review
  • McCraty R, Zayas M. (2014). Intuitive Intelligence, Self-regulation, and Lifting Consciousness. Global Adv. Health Med. 2014; 3(2): 56-65.
  • Stevens P (2018). Fractal Dimension Links Responses to a Visual Scene to Its Biodiversity. Ecopsychology 10(2) DOI 10.1089/eco.2017.0049.
  • nhahealth.com (Neurohealth website)
  • Forbes Apr 19 2019
  • invisible-edgellc.com (Invisible Edge website) “How Altering Your Brain State Can Help You Access Your Intuition”. Rick Snyder.

What are the “active ingredients” of Nature ?

Phytoncides

These are naturally occurring chemical compounds secreted by plants and trees to protect themselves from ‘a threat’ such as bacteria, insects and funghi. When a plant detects a threat of this kind, its immune system increases the production of phytoncides to control the growth of the infection. Our bodies appear to respond positively to some of these phytoncides, which, unsurprisingly, given we evolved amongst trees breathing in these substances, seem to work in concert with our own immune systems.

Phytoncides are also part of the communication pathway between trees, and their concentration in the air depends on the temperature, with greater concentrations in warmer weather. Evergreens such as pine trees, cedars, spruces and conifers are the largest producers of phytoncides. Terpenes are the main components of phytoncides and are what we smell when we are in natural environments. For example, D-limonene smells lemony, alpha-pinene smells fresh and piney, and beta-pinene smells herby.

Dr Qing Li and his team at the Nippon Medical School in Tokyo have conducted a number of experiments investigating the effects of phytoncides. In one experiment, they incubated natural killer (NK) cells with phytoncides for 5-7 days, and found that at the end of this period, both NK cell activity and the presence of anti-cancer proteins had increased (Li et al., 2009). In a follow-up experiment investigating the impact of phytoncides on immune function in people, 13 healthy men stayed in a hotel in Tokyo for three nights and hinoki stem oil was diffused into their rooms whilst they slept. Results showed significant increases in the numbers of NK cells (by 20%) and NK activity, enhanced activity of anti-cancer proteins, significant decreased levels of stress hormones, increased hours of sleep and decreased scores of anxiety and fatigue, whilst the control group saw no changes.

A study by the department of psychiatry in Japan, involving 12 participants who suffered from depression, showed that the phytoncide D-limone was more effective than anti-depressants in lifting mood and ensuring emotional well-being in patients with mental disorders (Komori et al., 1995).

Geosmin (the phytoncide that causes the smell of earth after rain) comes from soil organisms, particularly the streptomyces bacteria that are key to many antibiotics. We are alert to this rich smell in incredibly small quantities, a sensitivity likely to have developed as it led to water sources, which may also be an explanation as to why its presence helps put us at ease.

Click for Reference List
  • Li, Q., Kobayashi, M., Wakayama, Y., Inagaki, H., Katsumata, M., Hirata, Y., … Miyazaki, Y. (2009). Effect of Phytoncide from Trees on Human Natural Killer Cell Function. International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology, 951–959.
  • Komori, T., Fujiwara, R., Tanida, M., Nomura, J., & Yokoyama, M. (1995). Effects of Citrus Fragrance on Immune Function and Depressive States. Neuroimmunomodulation, 2, 174-80.

Fractals

Fractals are self-similar patterns that can be found throughout the natural world, but are uncommon in human-made structures (Mandelbrot, 1983). They are sometimes referred to as ‘nature’s roughness’ and examples include snowflakes, plant leaves, tree branches, forests, ocean waves, river systems, coastlines, clouds and galaxy clusters.

 

Richard Taylor, a nanoparticle physicist, conducted experiments to measure people’s physiological response to viewing images with fractal geometries. He measured skin conductance and found people recovered from stress 60% better when viewing computer images with a mathematical fractal dimension (D) of between 1.3 and 1.5. Several experiments have confirmed that people generally prefer images with this low to mid-range D, most commonly found in natural phenomena. 

 

Taylor and Hägerhäll, an environmental psychologist, used EEG to measure people’s brain waves, and discovered that viewing computer-generated natural fractals increased alpha wave activity, an indicator of a wakefully relaxed state and internalised attention (Hägerhäll et al., 2008, 2015).

They have also used MRI scans to identify which areas of the brain are activated when viewing fractals: in addition to expected areas involved with high-level visual processing (the ventrolateral cortex) and spatial long-term memory (the dorsolateral cortex), they discovered that viewing fractals activated the parahippocampus, an area involved with regulating emotions and highly active when listening to music.

 

Taylor and Hägerhäll claim this is because our visual system understands fractals. They argue that just as other human systems, such as our lungs, capillaries and neurons, are branched into fractals, so too is the movement of the eye’s retina. They used an eye-tracking machine to measure where people’s pupils were focusing, and discovered people first scanned the big elements in the scene and then the smaller ones in a fractal pattern with a mid-range D. Scientists have found that this is our quickest, most effective way to recognize objects, which our brains need to do when faced with new visual information.

 

When a scene is too complex, such as a busy urban street, it is more difficult to take in and can lead to discomfort, whether conscious or unconscious. Conversely, when faced with common natural features we evolved alongside, such as raindrops on water, our visual cortex is in harmony. Taylor asserts that the visual system is hard-wired to understand fractals, with a physiological congruence when the fractal structure of the eye matches that of the fractal image being viewed, and suggests that this fluent visual processing is a natural stress reducer. 

Click for Reference List
  • HagerhallCM, Laike T, Küller MMarcheschi E, Boydston C, Taylor (2015). Human physiological benefits of viewing nature: EEG responses to exact and statistical fractal patterns. Nonlinear Dynamics Psychol Life Sci. 2015 Jan;19(1):1-12.
  • Hägerhall C (2014). Biophilia and the Fractal Geometry of Nature. Accessed on 20 March 2015 from www.cemusstudent.se/wp-content/…/C-Hägerhäll-Uppsala-21- mars2014.pdf
  • Kaplan R., Kaplan S. (1989). The experience of nature: a psychological perspective. Cambridge University Press.
  • Mandelbrot BB (1998). Is Nature fractal ? 1998;279:783-784.
  • Mandelbrot, B. & Wheeler, J. (1983). The Fractal Geometry of NatureAmerican Journal of Physics, 51,
  • Stevens P (2018). Fractal Dimension Links Responses to a Visual Scene to Its Biodiversity. Ecopsychology 10(2) DOI 10.1089/eco.2017.0049
  • Werner G. (2010). Fractals in the nervous system: conceptual implications for theoretical neuroscience. Front Physiol. 2010;1:1-28.
  • Kaplan R., Kaplan S (1998). “With People in Mind: Design and Management for Everyday Nature” (Island Press, 1998)

Nature Sounds

Urban noise is considered one of the greatest pollutants of modern city living, with the World Health Organisation attributing thousands of deaths every year in Europe to heart attack and stroke caused by high levels of background noise. Numerous studies have demonstrated the links between noise pollutants and stress: in a German study of 2000 men, environmental noise over 50 decibels was associated with a 20% increase in hypertension; in a sample of nearly a million people living near Bonn airport, women exposed to noise over a 46 decibels were twice as likely to be on medication for hypertension as those exposed to noise under 46 decibels; in a huge study amongst several thousand school children in UK, Spain and the Netherlands living near large airports, there were significant impacts of noise levels in reading comprehension, memory and hyperactivity (Clark et al., 2005); and a study before and after the opening of the international airport in Munich showed nearly a doubling of stress hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine in children near the airport after flights began, and a significant increase in blood pressure compared with the children living further from the airport.

 

Natural surroundings often, although not always, represent respite from noise pollution, and is therefore experienced as peaceful, restorative and stress-reducing. A number of studies have demonstrated reductions in cortisol levels, and increases in heart-rate variability (HRV) when stressed participants are exposed to nature sounds (Alvarsson et al., 2010). The three most soothing sounds to humans have been found to be wind, water and birdsong (Nilsson, 2006). Psychological studies using birdsong have consistently shown improvements in mood and mental alertness, and its qualities perceived as both distracting and restorative (Radcliffe, et al. 2013). People’s preferences for the sounds of nature may also have an evolutionary basis: we associate birds singing in the morning with alertness and safety, and running water with a clean fresh water source.

Click for Reference List
  • Alvarsson, J., Wiens, S., & Nilsson, M. (2010). Stress recovery during exposure to nature sound and environmental noise. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 7,1036-46.
  • Kaltenbach, M., Maschke, C., & Klinke, R. (2008). Health Consequences of Aircraft NoiseDeutsches Ärzteblatt international, 105(31-32).
  • Clark, C., Martin, R., van Kempen, E., Alfred, T., Head, J., Davies, H. W., Haines, M., M. Barrio, I., L Matheson, M., & Stansfeld, S. A. (2005). Exposure-effect relations between aircraft and road traffic noise exposure at school and reading comprehension: the ranch projectAmerican Journal of Epidemiology, 163(1), 27-37.
  • Methorst J. et al. (2020). The importance of species diversity for human well-being in Europe.Ecological Economics, 2020; 106917
  • Nilsson, M., & Berglund, B. (2006). Soundscape quality in suburban green areas and city parks.Acta Acustica United with Acustica, 92( 6), 903-911.
  • Ratcliffe, E., Gatersleben, B., & Sowden, P. (2013). Bird sounds and their contributions to perceived attention restoration and stress recoveryJournal of Environmental Psychology, 36,221-228.

Tree Bark / Plant foliage

Koga and Iwasaki study revealed statistically significant correlations between touching natural substances, such as tree-bark, and incidents of decreased blood pressure. Moreover, these findings are associated with an increase in participants’ subjective feelings of calmness.

Also, a 2000 study by Miyazaki et al. revealed statistically significant correlations between touching natural substances, such as tree bark, and incidents of decreased blood pressure.

Click for Reference List
  • Koga K., Iwasaki Y. Psychological and physiological effect in humans of touching plant foliage—Using the semantic differential method and cerebral activity as indicators. Physiol. Anthropol. 2013;32:7.
  • Miyazaki Y, Morikawa T, Fujita N. (2000).The effect of touching wood on the activity of the autonomic nervous system and subjective evaluation; using the blood pressure, the pulse, and sensory evaluation. In Wood 2000 Kyoto. Kyoto: Japan Wood Research Society; 2000. In Japanese.
  • Park B.J., Tsunetsugu Y., Kasetani T., Kagawa T., Miyazaki Y. (2010). The physiological effects of Shinrinyoku (taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing): Evidence from field experiments in 24 forests across Japan. Health Prev. Med. 2010;15:18–26.

Sunlight

The benefits of increased exposure to sunlight, both for mental and physical health have been recognised by doctors for centuries, with Hippocrates routinely prescribing ‘sunbaths’ as treatment for a variety of maladies as far back as 400 BC. The Roman philosopher Aulus Cornelius Celsus (25 BC to 50 AD) recommended that sufferers of melancholy live in spaces full of light; and in 1863 Florence Nightingale appealed to hospital designers to include wards that were brightly lit by natural sunlight. In 1984, ‘Seasonal Affective Disorder’ (SAD) was recognised as a condition which causes lethargy and sadness during the winter months when people spend more time indoors and are exposed to less natural light. With our modern technology-based lifestyles, there are now growing concerns that depressive symptoms linked to a deficit in sunlight exposure may no longer be limited to the winter months. Whilst for many people the health benefits of spending more time outside are obvious, researchers have been using scientific methods to investigate the positive impact on mental health and wellbeing of increased exposure to natural light (aan het Rot, Moskowitz & Young, 2006; Genuis, 2006; Walch et al., 2005).

 

There appear to be a number of factors involved in the positive role sunlight plays in promoting and maintaining mental wellbeing.

 

Serotonin 

 

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, commonly associated with feelings of wellbeing and happiness, although its biological function is in fact much more complex, with links to numerous physiological processes, including appetite and digestion, sleep, memory, cognition, reward and learning. Low serotonin levels  are often attributed to a number of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, panic attacks, insomnia, eating disorders, alcohol abuse, low  self-esteem, and obsessive thoughts and behaviours.  Conversely, higher levels of serotonin correlate with better mood and feelings of satisfaction and calmness. Many antidepressants work by boosting levels of serotonin among brain neurons, and sunlight has been found to have a similar effect.

 

Studies have measured levels of brain chemicals flowing directly out of the brain and found that people have higher serotonin levels on bright sunny days than they do on cloudy ones, and that effect remains irrespective of temperature.

An Australian study involving 101 healthy men found that levels of serotonin in their brains increased in direct relationship to their exposure to sunlight. Catheters placed in the internal jugular veins of the participants allowed assessments to be done as they were exposed to varying degrees of sunlight. The study found that “the rate of production of serotonin by the brain was directly related to the prevailing duration of bright sunlight, and rose rapidly with increased luminosity” (Lambert, G., Reid, C., Kaye, D., Jennings, G., & Esler, M., 2002).

 

Vitamin D 

 

Optimum levels of vitamin D are important for overall health and wellbeing (Gillie, 2005). Although vitamin D is found in certain foods, humans get most of their Vitamin D from exposure to sunlight. However, the World Health Organisation estimates that over a billion people are currently deficient in vitamin D (approximately 50% of all Americans) as a result of our modern indoor lives, and considers vitamin D deficiency as a major public health problem worldwide across all age groups. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to a number of health issues, including tiredness, bone and back pain and depression.

Although the amount of sunlight necessary varies according to age, skin type, and diet, the WHO recommends getting 10–30 minutes of sunlight, several times per week in order to maintain healthy blood levels.

 

Ultraviolet light

 

Natural light also contains a spectrum of light wavelengths. Although access to sunlight brings the risk of exposure to dangerous levels of ultraviolet (UV) light, recent research also suggests that UV-induced release of nitric oxide from skin may have certain health benefits, including lowering the incidence of hypertension and cardiovascular disease (Liu et al., 2014).

There’s also evidence that UV light can push melanocytes—the cells that produce dark pigment in skin—to release endorphins, a feel-good chemical (Fell et al., 2104).

Click for Reference List
  • aan het Rot, M., Moskowitz, D., Young, S. (2006). Exposure to bright light is associated with positive social interaction and good mood over short time periods: a naturalistic study in mildly seasonal people.  Journal of Psychiatric Research.
  • Fell, G., Robinson, K., Clifford, J., Woolf, D. & Fisher, E. (2014). Skin β-Endorphin Mediates Addiction to UV Light. Cell,157(7), 1527-1534. 
  • Genuis, S. J. (2006). Keeping your sunny side up. How sunlight affects health and well-being.  Canadian Family Physician, 52(4), 422-3, 429-31.
  • Gillie, O. (2005). Sunbathing is needed for optimum health in the British IslesHealth Research Forum.
  • Lambert, G., Reid, C., Kaye, D., Jennings, G., & Esler, M. (2002). Effect of sunlight and season on serotonin turnover in the brain. The Lancet, 360,1840-42.
  • Liu, D., Fernandez, B., Hamilton, A., Lang, N., Gallagher, J., Newby, D., Feelisch, M., & Weller, R. (2104). UVA irradiation of human skin vasodilates arterial vasculature and lowers blood pressure independently of nitric oxide synthase. Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 134(7), 1839-46.
  • Walch, J., Rabin, B., Day R, Williams, J., Choi, K., & Kang, J. (2005). The effect of sunlight on postoperative analgesic medication use: a prospective study of patients undergoing spinal surgery. Psychosomatic Medicine, 67, 156-63.

Soil Bacteria

There is growing evidence to suggest that breathing in, playing in, digging in, and even eating dirt may be good for our health.

Mycrobacterium vaccae is the microorganism in soil that has been found to affect humans in a number of positive ways.

 

In 2004, Mary O’Brien, an oncologist at the Royal Marsden, injected the soil bacteria in lung cancer patients, hoping it might help her patients’ immune systems beat back the cancer in their lungs. Although it was not successful in fighting the cancer, it ‘significantly improved patient quality of life’: patients were happier, expressed more vitality, and better cognitive functioning.

 

In 2007, Lowry and his team at Bristol University, injected M. vaccae into mice and subjected them to a series of stress tests. Those injected with the bacteria showed far less stressed behaviour than the control group, acting “as if on antidepressants’. They found that the bacteria activated groups of neurons in the mouse brains responsible for producing serotonin (a neurotransmitter that, when impaired, can cause depression). They also noted that the neurons that were activated were also known to be related to immune response, suggesting a link between the immune system and emotional health. Further experiments injecting and even just feeding mice M. vaccae have shown mice racing through mazes far faster than controls, suggesting the bacteria gave a significant brain boost as well as elevating their mood.

 

Scientists are beginning to understand that the immune system and the brain are closely connected, and are finding more and more evidence that depression and other mental health conditions are associated with prolonged inflammation (a clear indication of immune system dysfunction). Having previously believed that immune responses and brain activity were functions of separate systems, scientists now understand that at least half the brain cells are not nerve cells, but are immune- like cells (‘glial cells’) that communicate closely with our central nervous systems.

 

In 2016, Lowry tested how effective M. vaccae was in reducing anxiety in mice, by creating stressful maze situations and watching the differences in behaviour in those injected with the bacteria and those not injected. The results showed that the mice injected with M. vaccae readily explored open parts of the maze, compared with the controls who spent more time in the closed parts, forgoing the potential reward of exploring open spaces. The bacteria also reduced the colon inflammation typically seen in stressed-out mice.

Another experiment placed mice with a dominant alpha-male mouse, usually creating discomfort, but found that those injected with the M. vaccae seemed unaffected and showed 50% less of the flight/freeze behaviours than the controls and remained less submissive for weeks after treatment. Lowry and his team concluded that this was a more proactive response to stress, rather than passive, and hope it might help in treating PTSD in humans, known as a passive response to stress.

Click for Reference List
  • O’Brien, M.E., Anderson, H., Kaukel, E., O’Byrne, K., Pawlicki, M., Von Pawel, J., Reck, M. (2004). SRL172 (killed Mycobacterium vaccae) in addition to standard chemotherapy improves quality of life without affecting survival, in patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer: phase III resultsAnnals of Oncology, 15(6):906-14.
  • Lowry, C. A., Hollis, J. H., de Vries, A., Pan, B., Brunet, L. R., Hunt, J. R., Paton, J. F., van Kampen, E., Knight, D. M., Evans, A. K., Rook, G. A., … Lightman, S. L. (2007). Identification of an immune-responsive mesolimbocortical serotonergic system: potential role in regulation of emotional behaviorNeuroscience, 146(2), 756-72.
  • University of Colorado at Boulder. (2016, May 16). Immunization with bacteria promotes stress resilience, coping behaviors in miceScienceDaily.
Chutes2

Negative Air ions

Air ions are electrically charged molecules or atoms in the atmosphere. An air ion is formed when a gaseous molecule or atom receives sufficiently high energy to eject an electron. NAIs are those that gain an electron, while positive air ions lose an electron.

The natural and artificial energy sources include (1) radiant or cosmic rays in the atmosphere; (2) sunlight including ultraviolet; (3) natural and artificial corona discharge including thunder and lightning; (4) the shearing forces of water (Lenard effect); (5) plant-based sources of energy.

The atmosphere surrounding the earth is subjected to a natural electric field and its intensity

is continuously fluctuating under both local and global influences. The local influences include geographical location and weather conditions such as thunderstorms, rain, fog, mist, and so on; the global facts refer to classical daily electric field variations. When leaf points or branches of trees have a high potential difference from their surroundings in their electric fields, corona discharge (also called point discharge) occurs and NAIs may be released.

Negative oxygen ions are the most commonly recognized NAIs. Reports showed that superoxide O2 was a kind of NAIs. Among NAIs generated by natural atmosphere and the Lenard effect (waterfall), superoxide O2 are the major negative ions. In plants, superoxide O2 is mainly produced in the thylakoid membrane of photosystem I (PSI).

Found in high concentrations in forested and mountainous areas, and near moving water (Li et al., 2010), and found to reduce depression (Terman et al., 1998; Goel et al., 2005).

Negative Earth ions (Earthing)

Earthing, or grounding with your feet, has significant research-backed scientific benefits. Essentially, negative ions are antioxidants; they neutralize oxidants, or free radicals. They allow your body to achieve equilibrium or homeostasis at a cellular level. This is one of the reason why walking barefoot on earth is so beneficial, providing the ground is not covered with concrete or another man-made material !

– Demonstrated benefits:

  • Reduced inflammation, which contributes to chronic disease
  • Improved sleep
  • Reduced cortisol levels
  • Relieved pain
  • Faster healing
  • Calms the sympathetic nervous system
Click for Reference List
  • Chevalier G, Sinatra ST, Oschman JL et al. (2012). Earthing: Health Implications of Reconnecting the Human Body to the Earth’s Surface Electrons. J Environ Public Health 2012; 2012:291541
  • Oschman JL, Chevalier, Brown R. (2015). The effects of grounding (earthing) on inflammation, the immune response, wound healing, and prevention and treatment of chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. J Inflamm Res. 2015; 8: 83-96

Reduced Air Pollution

Associated with myocardial inflammation and respiratory conditions (Villarreal-Calderon et al., 2012): reduced air pollution has an inevitable positive health impact.

Cooling Effect

High temperatures can cause heat exhaustion, heat-related aggression and violence, and respiratory distress due to heat-related smog formation (Anderson, 2001; Akbari, 2002; Tawatsupa et al., 2012), all reduced by nature’s cooling effect.

Note: this section references only publications that are most relevant to the Natural Leadership process. This is not an exhaustive list of publications.