Psychology expert details benefits of interacting with nature

Haifa Sibasi, a psychology expert who previously worked at Birzeit University as a student counselor, gave a lecture to Faculty of Education students and faculty members on the relationship between psychological well-being and exposure to nature, on Tuesday, December 11, 2018.

Sibasi began her interactive lecture by defining nature as the physical world that surrounds humans, in which they’ve had no hand in creating or directly influencing. The relationship between humans and nature, she noted, went through a tumultuous period during which they were at odds with each other. 

“Human beings feared nature, in the beginning,” Sibasi commented. “Then, humans understood nature and began a period of harmony in which they sought to utilize its resources for growth. Nowadays, however, the relationship has worsened with the overexploitation of nature.” 

This relationship constitutes the basis through which humans perceive nature, Sibasi remarked, adding that nature has a direct impact on the human psyche and psychological well-being, which as she stated, is not only the lack of mental illness, but the overall health of the mind and the spirit. 

“The proliferation of technology has limited our interaction and exposure to nature,” Sibasi said. “This has an adverse effect on our mental well-being, as interacting with nature has well-documented benefits on the human mind and the mental attitudes of people.” 

The study to which Sibasi referred to was conducted at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, where a group of participants were told to interact with nature for 30 days. After each interaction, the participants’ overall mood and mental attitude were recorded, and a general trend of improved mental well-being was noticed. 

Sibasi asked the attending students and faculty members to spend at least five minutes a day interacting with nature - a healthy escape from modern life, as she called it, and note the benefits and improvements to their moods.