Fredrick Law Olmstead designed Central Park, one of the most famous parks in the world, and went on to design city parks all over the U.S.  What he did that was different and significant was that he recognized that people needed nature in order to get along with one another, in order to be their best selves, that it was a place where people could let off steam, especially the working classes, who normally didn’t have access to green spaces.

Something researchers in Japan recognized about urban life is that when we are indoors we rely mostly on our eyes and ears, but our other senses are underutilized.  They think this is partly related to why outdoor environments make our stress levels go down.  We can hear the sound of a creek gurgling, feel the wind blowing on our cheeks or smell the aroma of the woods, especially in Japan where there are lots of wondrous cypress trees.

Our sensory system evolved in the natural world and when we’re in those spaces, our brains become relaxed because these are things that we were designed to look at, hear and to smell.  For instance, our immune cells, or “natural killer cells,” which fight cancer, increase in forests.  As a result, Japan now has 48 therapy trails.

In Finland, public health officials now recommend that citizens get 5 hours a month, minimum, in the woods, in order to stave off depression.  This is evidence-based.  They found that people need this time in order to preserve their mental health.

The nature pyramid is the idea that nature is something we have every day.  One of the things we’re recognizing is that, like other medicines, nature follows a dose curve.  A little bit of nature is helpful; a little more nature is even more helpful.

We are fortunate in America.  We have these incredible wilderness spaces and national parks, and science is showing that when we spend time in those spaces, it can be tremendously helpful for our sense of self, for problem solving, social bonding, and rites of passage.1

As a practitioner of family law, I am always looking for reasonable and healthy ways to relieve stress.  As research reveals, a walk in nature is very good medicine for stress relief.

by Patrick Gaffney

by Patrick Gaffney

1 This blog was taken in part from:, and influenced by “The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes us Happier, Healthier and More Creative” by Florence Williams.  W. W. Norton & Company; 1 Edition (February 7, 2017.)