Our Better Nature | Hidden Brain If you live in a big city, you may have noticed new buildings popping up — a high-rise here, a skyscraper there. The concrete jungles that we've built over the past century have allowed millions of us to live in close proximity, and modern economies to flourish. But what have we given up by moving away from the forest environments in which humans first evolved? This week, we discuss this topic with psychologist Ming Kuo, who has studied the effects of nature for more than 30 years.
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Our Better Nature: How The Great Outdoors Can Improve Your Life

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Our Better Nature: How The Great Outdoors Can Improve Your Life

Our Better Nature: How The Great Outdoors Can Improve Your Life

Our Better Nature: How The Great Outdoors Can Improve Your Life

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/646413667/646446199" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Researchers say there's growing evidence that nature has a powerful effect on us, improving both our physical and psychological health. Angela Hsieh/NPR hide caption

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Angela Hsieh/NPR

Researchers say there's growing evidence that nature has a powerful effect on us, improving both our physical and psychological health.

Angela Hsieh/NPR

If you live in a big city, you may have noticed new buildings popping up — a high-rise here, a skyscraper there. The concrete jungles that we've built over the past century have allowed millions of us to live in close proximity, and modern economies to flourish.

But in this shift to an increasingly urbanized society, are we missing something important?

For more than 30 years, psychologist Ming Kuo has studied the effects of nature on humans. She came to this field of research not from an interest in greenery, but from a fascination with crowding and noise — the negative impacts of urban environments.

"I was interested in the dark side of the environment," she says. "I was interested in how violent or dangerous or you know bad urban environments had detrimental effects on people."

Kuo says she eventually became intrigued by the positive effects of nature after she started to dig into the data.

"It's only when you look at the patterns of what people are like with more and less access to nature that you start to see this pattern," she says.

This week on Hidden Brain, Shankar Vedantam talks with Ming Kuo about the physiological and psychological benefits of spending time in nature.

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Hidden Brain is hosted by Shankar Vedantam and produced by Jennifer Schmidt, Rhaina Cohen, Parth Shah, Thomas Lu, Laura Kwerel, and Camila Vargas. Our supervising producer is Tara Boyle. You can also follow us on Twitter @hiddenbrain.