Eva Selhub, MD and Alan Logan, ND, authors of Your Brain on Nature, explore how nature ministers to the mind in an article titled Vis Medicatrix naturae: does nature “minister to the mind”? published in the journal BioPsychoSocial Medicine. Selhub and Logan shed light on the healing power of nature and how it can help in coping with a technology saturated world, as well as how it can impact mental health and vitality.
The healing power of nature, vis medicatrix naturae, has traditionally been defined as an internal healing response designed to restore health. Almost a century ago, famed biologist Sir John Arthur Thomson provided an additional interpretation of the word nature within the context of vis medicatrix, defining it instead as the natural, non-built external environment. He maintained that the healing power of nature is also that associated with mindful contact with the animate and inanimate natural portions of the outdoor environment. A century on, excessive screen-based media consumption, so-called screen time, may be a driving force in masking awareness of the potential benefits of nature. With global environmental concerns, rapid urban expansion, and mental health disorders at crisis levels, diminished nature contact may not be without consequence to the health of the individual and the planet itself. In the context of emerging research, we will re-examine Sir J. Arthur Thomson’s contention that the healing power of the nature-based environment – green space, forests and parks in particular – extends into the realm of mental health and vitality.