Learning Night recap: Dr. Miina shares the importance of nature immersion

Written by Joanna Ng Published on 

Why do we want to be around nature so much? Dr. Miina shares the reason and gives tips to help improve our mental wellbeing.

In January, the Oasis Team had a ‘Tuning In’ interview with Dr. Miina Öhman on nature immersion. She spoke about how her interest in this topic began during covid-19, as well as what she found to be the biggest stress factors in an urban environment. Living in an urban jungle ourselves, our team was greatly inspired by the interview. The pandemic has temporarily hindered our freedom to travel, resulting in more time spent with technology and less with nature. This was one of the reasons why we decided to invite Dr. Miina to our first-ever learning night, so we could share the importance that nature immersion has on our health.

The Evolution

We all know that nature and exercise are good for us – countless studies and reports from researchers have shown us that. But why is it so? Dr. Miina shares with us that it has to do with how our instincts and senses are genetically determined and still adapted to hunter-gatherer behaviour. We want to be around nature, simply because we still have the same instincts as our ancestors had. While we have learnt to cope with the cold, heat, dark and physical exertion with technology advancements, we still lack the conscious awareness of brain and immune system. This leads to the failure in seeking technological adaptation.

As Dr. Miina mentioned, we have a stress response, also known as “Fight or Flight” response that helps save us from predators. Putting it in today’s context, it is a response that helps us to react quickly when in danger, for example, when you’re at risk of being hit by an oncoming vehicle. These are known as short term stress, which can be good for us, but it is detrimental to our health when it becomes chronic.

Why do we feel more stressed in urban environments?

A comparison between the city and nature
Take a look at the city and nature – Where would you prefer to be? Image from Unsplash

Everyone says technology is the main culprit for stress in an urban environment, but it’s more than that.

  1. Alarming noises – Imagine roadworks, construction sites or just engine sounds from large vehicles.
  2. Physical Inactivity – When we’re not moving, we’re not using our muscles, which leads to a deteriorating immune system.
  3. High-population density – Having tons of strangers around us daily can be psychological stress too
  4. Over-hygiene – As our environment gets cleaner, we are less exposed to germs around us, and this makes us more vulnerable to various diseases.
  5. Mental Stress – We are conditioned to act a certain way in public and this is tiring and consuming for the brain.

How can nature help?

Why do we feel calm simply by just looking at a picture of nature? This is because nature requires only involuntary or even no attention to us. It accepts and welcomes us as we are, and when we’re in nature, we know we can relax. By letting ourselves enjoy nature, it can help to increase immune cells activity, such as “Anti-Cancer” proteins and train a child’s developing immune system properly. Not only that, but it also helps us mentally as relaxation helps to decrease our anxiety and distress. While many think that it is a hard routine to keep, especially in a busy work environment where we have a schedule to keep. However, Dr. Miina assures that even doing it once a week, or 30 minutes per day is as effective, as the effects from nature could last for more than a week.

Questions from the floor:

What is the difference between short and long term stress?

Short term stress is when there is a clear beginning and ending. For example, you meet the predator, you fight and it ends. However, chronic stress has no clear ending, and it is felt almost for long periods of time.

How is cancer research on nature immersion proven?

Those studies were done in a laboratory in a cell-cultured dish, where you look at the cancer cell lines and how they behave. When they are exposed to nature, you can see if they shrink, die, or multiply. But before that, the Japanese were able to measure the numbers of killer cells in people’s bloodstreams, and they were able to show that these type of cells increase when you spend time in nature. This is because we are exposed to these beneficial antigens pathogens from nature that naturally helps to train our immune system. One part that they wanted to find out was the movement that happens when we’re in nature. People were also walking in the city setting, but they didn’t induce the same effect. It’s this natural relaxation that happens in nature immersion that is part of bringing these positive effects.

Learning Nights is a new initiative by Oasis, by KrASIA, where we hold casual short-talks in pod groups that is similar to an adult version of Show and Tell. In our vision, Learning Nights would be a place where everyone can meet, interact and share anything in their lives.

If you are interested in speaking at an Oasis learning night or want to partner for an event, please email [email protected]


Joanna Ng

Joanna Ng is the Community Coordinator at KrASIA.


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