Just looking at nature can help alleviate cravings for alcohol and drugs

It turns out that humanity has new reasons to protect and restore nature or create greenspaces because a new study shows that just looking at nature can reduce cravings for things like alcohol, drugs and food.

That means nature can act in a crucial health management capacity in certain situations by helping people combat anxiety and not resort to drinking or overeating to feel better.

Conducted by researchers Dr. Sabine Pahl and Leanne Martin at the University of Plymouth, the study found that having access to a greenspace such as a garden or forest area that takes up no less than 25 percent of ones view can have a significant healing effect.

“Among other things, it measured the proportion of greenspace in an individual’s residential neighbourhood, the presence of green views from their home, their access to a garden or allotment; and their frequency of use of public greenspaces,” the university said.

This provides health professionals a new way of treating some patients. Instead of just providing a prescription, a doctor can also advise a patient to spend a little time in the great outdoors or to least start a little garden, which has also been proven to reduce stress.

“It has been known for some time that being outdoors in nature is linked to a person’s wellbeing,” Martin said. “But for there to be a similar association with cravings from simply being able to see green spaces adds a new dimension to previous research. This is the first study to explore this idea, and it could have a range of implications for both public health and environmental protection programmes in the future.”

Dr. Sabine Pahl added that reducing cravings would help reduce major health problems as well that cravings contribute to causing.

“Craving contributes to a variety of health-damaging behaviours such as smoking, excessive drinking and unhealthy eating,” Pahl said. “In turn, these can contribute to some of the greatest global health challenges of our time, including cancer, obesity and diabetes. Showing that lower craving is linked to more exposure to green spaces is a promising first step. Future research should investigate if and how green spaces can be used to help people withstand problematic cravings, enabling them to better manage cessation attempts in the future.”

As someone who is able to look out the window and see nothing but greenspace and blue skies every day and has a garden, I can personally attest that it does help to curb anxiety and helps me relax in even the most stressful situations. Whereas I used to go to the refrigerator to eat my stress away, I now look out my window or take a nice walk through nature and take deep breaths to alleviate my stress and avoid cravings.

Health professionals should definitely consider the power of nature to aid in the healing process, and we should all strive to create more greenspaces and protect existing natural spaces so that everyone has access to something that is clearly good for us.

Featured Image: Wikimedia

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Stephen D. Foster Jr.

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