Much has been written about the “soft fascination” of nature, namely the state of heightened awareness and increased receptivity that descends on people who are immersed in a nature experience, such as dangling your feet in a flowing stream or sitting on a bench watching a sunset. These good feelings and relaxed state of perception, described best by Rachel and Stephen Kaplan in their book, The Experience of Nature: A Psychological Perspective, have been credited with lowering blood pressure, increasing cognitive ability and reducing stress among other mental, physical and even spiritual health benefits. E.O. Wilson, the famous naturalist and sociobiologist, developed a theory called the Biophilia Hypothesis in which he contends that humans subconsciously seek connections with other living things and all of nature, and these desires are deeply rooted in the human condition.
Scientists and researchers continue to study the physiological and psychological basis of the soft fascination of nature, but anyone who has spent time outdoors in nature knows that the experience is intensified and made more memorable when nature is experienced with more than one of your senses. In fact, there is significant scientific evidence that demonstrates some of the strongest memories we have are not just those of sight and sound, but rather, those of touch, taste and, peculiarly, smell. Simply stated, the more senses that are involved in apprehending reality, the more powerful and memorable the experience.
A number of park and recreation agencies and landscape design firms are incorporating this principle into…
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