Nature’s Healthcare System: 7 Amazing Health Benefits of Nature
We all enjoy a colorful sunset or walking through a beautiful park. But did you know that nature is hugely beneficial for your health? Here are seven ways that nature positively impacts our emotional, mental, and physical wellbeing.
1. Natural Stress Relief: In the hustle of today’s society, it’s more important than ever that we learn to manage our stress. Numerous studies link observing or participating in natural environments reduce blood pressure as well as the stress-related hormones cortisol and adrenaline.
2. Natural Immune Supporter: Spending time hiking in the woods or surrounded by plants and nature can naturally boost your body’s ability to fight infection and disease. In one study, women who spent two to four hours in the woods on two consecutive days experienced a nearly 50 percent increase in the activity of cancer-fighting white blood cells.
3. Natural Brain Booster: Nature can even increase your cognitive functioning. A study at the University of Michigan found that after walking for 50 minutes in nature subjects performed significantly better on memory-related tasks than did subjects who walked in an urban environment.
4. Natural Anti-depressant: Nature has a profound, positive effect on our mental balance. Going outside to even just walk around the block can be an instant mood-booster. Norwegian researchers conducted a study among patients suffering from moderate to severe depression. As part of their treatment regime, some of the patients participated in a horticulture program, which required spending time outside, connecting with nature, and gardening. Within 12 weeks, the patients that participated in the horticulture program experienced significantly reduced symptoms.
5. Natural Happy Pill: We could all use an extra dose of “happy” in our day-to-day lives. A recent study at South Korea’s Chonnam National University took fMRI scans of individuals brains after they were shown pictures of natural elements including mountains, forests, and other landscapes. These fMRI scans revealed heightened activity in the anterior cingulate gyrus (tied to positive outlook and emotional stability) and the basal ganglia (an area that’s linked to the recollection of happy memories).
6. Natural Energy Shot: Natural water features can also provide us with invigorating health benefits. A study by Indoor Air found that people breathing in negative ions for an hour, naturally found in the air near waterfalls, breaking waves, and river rapids, experienced their blood lactate levels drop 33 percent, which improved their overall energy levels.
7. Natural Recovery: Even the sight of nature impacts our physical wellbeing, especially when we are healing or in recovery. In 1984, Roger Ulrich conducted one of the fist research studies on the physical benefits of nature. In his study, Ulrich compared the postoperative recovery between patients that had a view of a tree from their recovery room to patients that were only able to see a brick wall through their window. The patients with a view of a tree had a shorter recovery period, had fewer negative evaluative comments form their nurses, took fewer drugs, and had less post surgical complications.
So the next time that you’re feeling down, overwhelmed, stressed out or under the weather, try stepping out your front door into nature’s (free!) healthcare system. While walking around your neighborhood or city block will give you an instant health boost, seek out your nearest natural environment and really immerse yourself in nature. Slide on a Mosquitno Band, and go for a hike, explore a nearby waterfall, or take a run along the beach. Your body, mind and spirit will thank you.