You go outside, you commune with nature. You feel good. That's familiar and simple enough that it hardly seems like a fruitful area for research. But in recent years, an entire field of environmental psychology has arisen in the efforts to tease out the relationship between nature outside of our heads and psychological and neurological processes inside. Proponents see this as integral to understanding how to heal ourselves – and perhaps the planet.
These mental processes turn out to be subtle and nuanced. For instance, there's the matter of differentiating stress from mental fatigue. De-stressing is about getting away from the grind, visiting with a good friend, or watching the Tigers win a doubleheader. Mental restoration is different. It comes from a solo walk in the park, or time spent gardening. That was where we began a conversation with Raymond De Young, associate professor of environmental psychology and planning in the University of Michigan's School of Natural Resources and Environment.