'In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks’. (John Muir 2015).
Ever noticed how rejuvenated and refreshed you feel after a walk in the woods or forest? Walking in wide-open green spaces helps put the brain into a state that is very close to that which is achieved through meditation.
People who walk or jog regularly in nature have been found to be up to 50% happier, than those who get all their exercise in a gym. When we take a break from the rush of our daily lives we enjoy the beauty and peace of being in a natural setting.
Research is casting light on how spending time outdoors and in forests makes us healthier, both mentally and physically. Even five minutes around trees or in green spaces may improve health. And it is FREE!
Spending Time around Trees reduces Stress and Improves Mood
Numerous studies show that both exercising and sitting in forests helps reduce blood pressure as well as stress-related hormones - cortisol and adrenaline. Research has found that being in the forest significantly decreases levels of anxiety, depression, anger, confusion, and fatigue. And because stress inhibits the immune system, the stress-reduction benefits of forests are further magnified.
Boosts our Immune System.
While we breathe in the fresh air, we breathe in phytoncides, airborne chemicals that plants give off to protect themselves from insects. Phytoncides have antibacterial and antifungal qualities that help plants fight disease. When we breathe in these chemicals, our bodies respond by increasing the number and activity of a type of white blood cell called natural killer cells. These cells kill tumor- and virus-infected cells in our bodies. Several researchers are currently exploring whether exposure to forests can help prevent certain kinds of cancer.
Spending Time in Nature Helps you Focus
Our lives are busier than ever with jobs, school, and family life. Trying to focus on many activities or even a single thing for long periods of time can mentally drain us, a phenomenon called Directed Attention Fatigue. Spending time in nature, looking at plants, water, birds and other aspects of nature gives our brain a rest, allowing us to focus better and renew our ability to feel calm – very much like a mental holiday for the brain.
Boosts Vitamin D Levels
For those of us who work indoors and stay indoors when we get home can have Vitamin D deficiencies, particularly common in colder climates. Vitamin D plays a vital role in keeping us healthy and well, we don’t get enough of it from food alone. Getting out to the natural sunlight in the best way to produce Vitamin D, and a walk in the open air is the best way to do that.
Forests Make Us Healthier
Numerous studies around the world are exploring the health benefits of spending time outside in nature, green spaces, and, specifically, forests. In the last three decades, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries even coined a term for it: Shinrin-Yoku. It means taking in the forest atmosphere or "forest bathing," and people are encouraged to visit the forests to relieve stress and improve health.
Benefits of Grounding or ‘Earthing’
To take this a step further, the act of Grounding can provide even more benefits for your physical, mental and emotional state. Grounding, which is also known as Earthing is the very simple act of connecting directly with the earth. Most of us are wearing rubber bottomed shoes whenever we are in nature, as electrical beings this blocks us from being able to ground ourselves, this can show up as a whole host of symptoms within our bodies. Many of us may want to make a more conscious effort to do this when we are outdoors or in a forest as Earthing can help with arthritis, depression, chronic fatigue and lower cortisol levels — this last one can be beneficial for those us living in cities and may tend to have n higher levels of cortisol than those living in the suburb or rural areas.
Green Spaces in Urban areas are just as important as the Woods or Forest
For those of us, that may not have access to woods and forests, gardens, parks, and street trees make up what is called an urban and community forest. These pockets of greenspace are vitally important because they are the sources of our daily access to trees.
If you are unable to get out into nature, why not try listening to our nature sounds and let your imagination take you there.
Here are some references on the interdependence of nature and health:
- Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies: Robbins J. 2020. “Ecopsychology: How Immersion in Nature Benefits Your Health”, YaleEnvironment360. https://e360.yale.edu/features/ecopsychology-how-immersion-in-nature-benefits-your-health
- Selhub EM & Logan AC. 2012. Your brain on nature. John Wiley & Sons.
- Li Q. 2010. Effect of forest bathing trips on human immune function.
- Environ Health Prev Med 15(1): 9–17.
- Li Q et al. 2008. A forest bathing trip increases human natural killer activity and expression of anti-cancer proteins in female subjects. J Biol Regul Homeost Agents22(1):45-55.
- Preuß M et al. 2019. Low Childhood Nature Exposure is Associated with Worse Mental Health in Adulthood. International Journal of Environmental and Public Health 16(10): 1809. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16101809
- Mao GX et al. 2012. Effects of short-term forest bathing on human health in a broad-leaved evergreen forest in Zhejiang Province, China. Biomed Environ Sci25(3):317-24. doi: 10.3967/0895-3988.2012.03.010.