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News & Views: “A Picture is Worth 1,000 Aspirin”
- from Parade Magazine - August, 2001


Soothing images of mountain streams and sunny beaches may offer hope for easing pain in normally sterile hospital environments. Humans respond positively to scenes of nature, a phenomenon known as biophilia. But John Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore credits a nature scene with sounds of water, wind and bird calls for cutting pain 43% in patients undergoing bronchoscopy, in which tubes are put up the nose and into the lungs.

How does it work? “In essence, you are taking your mental focus away from pain and placing it in a pleasant situation,” says Katherine Bowman at the University of California at San Francisco Pain Management Center.

Green is Good for You!!!

Psychologist Rachel Kaplan, PhD at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, is at the forefront of research on what they call “restorative environments”. She is exploring nature's impact on people's mental functioning, social relationship, and physical well being.

Among her findings, is that fascination with nature helps people recover from what she calls “normal psychological wear and tear”. Even when represented with photographic simulations of a forested area, she noticed that the photographs boosted people's mood.

In her most well-known study, Kaplan has found that simply viewing representations of nature can help hospital patients recover from surgery more quickly, had fewer complications and required less pain medication. To soothe patients, families and employees, she says, facilities should incorporate such features as nature views and nature-related art in patients rooms, aquariums in waiting areas, and gardens where patients, family and staff can find relief.

Another researcher, Roger S. Ulrich, PhD, director of the Center for Health Systems and Design at Texas A&M University, has found that nature can help the body heal, too. He found that heart surgery patients in intensive care units could reduce their anxiety and need for pain medication by looking at pictures depicting trees and water.

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