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It may seem obvious that spending time in nature makes us feel good, but the benefits of nature on human health are much more than you may realize. With urbanization, high stress jobs, and advances in technology, both adults and children are starting to lose their connection to nature. Here are a few reasons why we need to re-establish this connection and make nature a priority in our lives.
There are many studies that support the idea that nature has a positive impact on our mental health. Through comparison to viewing urban and indoor settings, nature scenes have been shown to improve mental outlook, anxiety levels, self-esteem, and stress recovery. A reduction in the production of the stress hormone cortisol, and an increase in alpha brain wave activity have also been observed with nature exposure. Alpha brain waves are associated with increased levels of the brain chemical serotonin, the same chemical that many antidepressants and anxiety medications aim to increase. Alpha brain wave activity is also increased with meditation and is associated with a feeling of calmness, while decreased activity is associated with feelings of anxiety. Nature can also improve mental and cognitive function. Viewing a scene of nature or being in a greenspace has the ability to decrease mental fatigue and increase a person’s ability to pay attention.
Nature immersion can have a long lasting impact on immunity.This has been demonstrated by studying the practice of forest bathing or “Shinrinyoku”, a Japanese stress management therapy. Spending 3 days and 2 nights in a forested area, significantly increased the number of immune cells and decreased stress hormones. Because it is known that stress suppresses the immune system and that nature decreases stress, it makes sense that nature improves immune system function. Phytoncides, a volatile chemical released from trees, may also play a role in boosting the immune system. Phytoncides have antimicrobial properties and may have directly increased the number of immune cells when breathed in during forest bathing.
Viewing nature scenes and the presence of green plants not only reduces heart rate and blood pressure but is also associated with a lower risk of overall mortality from stroke, cancer, and various other sicknesses. Additionally, those in hospital have been shown to have improved recovery time when provided with green plants and a window with a view of trees and nature.
Material on this website is provided for informational purposes only. It should not be used as a replacement for medical diagnosis, treatment, or professional medical advice. Always seek professional medical consultation by a licensed medical or naturopathic physician for diagnosis and treatment of any medical condition. Please seek medical attention immediately if ever concerned.