Get Outside- Nature has Healing Powers!
It is finally fall, one of my favorite times of year. The leaves have begun to change, the air has that wonderful earthy smell, the temperature is cool enough to wear your favorite sweaters and its hot apple cider time!
Guess what, now getting outside and going for a walk around your neighborhood, in the woods, at a national or state park isn't just fun and a physically healthy way, to spend the afternoon by yourself relaxing or with your family collecting acorns or leaves, Japanese researchers from Chiba University have found that it is clinically therapeutic. Well in that case, you have to do it!
In the early 1980s, the Forest Agency of Japan began recommending the practice of shinrin-yoku, which translates to forest bathing, to relieve stress. This prompted scientists to study the validity behind this argument, or whether it was merely a marketing ploy (much like when beef lobbyists brainwashed the publicin the 90s by statingthat you need to eat meat (specifically beef) to get the protein your body needs, but I digress...)
Forest-therapy experts (yes that is a real job) at Chiba University in Japan, found that people who spend 40 minutes walking in a cedar forest had lower levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, which effects blood pressure and immune system function (as well as gives you a flabby belly); they compared this to 40 minutes walking in a lab. Findings were surprising, or maybe not so surprising- spending time in the forest actually "induces a state of psychological relaxation."
Is it simply the act of walking in the woods, is it the aromatherapy of inhaling the aroma of the trees, is it being surrounded by the quiet atmosphere, or is it seeing nature passively at work? Or, could it be a combination of all of these factors- who knows, but ultimately the therapeutic benefits are amazing for stress reduction and increased relaxation.
Stress is linked to 95% of all illnesses to some degree including increased blood pressure and risk of cancer. So instead of needing to the doctor to treat illness, why not focus on prevention?
Reap the Healing Benfits of Nature- Get Outside!
It can lower blood pressure:
Research shows that spending time outside is good for the heart, and can be a simple, affordable way to improve heart health. 1 in 3 Americans suffer from high blood pressure- a June 2016 study found that nearly 10% of those suffering from hypertension, could get it under control simply by spending 30 minutes or more a week outside!
Exposure to nature can increase "awe":
The feeling of "awe" has a number of health benefits including reduced stress and increased happiness & generosity- according to 2015 University of California Study. "Awe" can be as simple as a beautiful sunset, towering trees with changing leaves, a meadow of flowers, a walk on the beach, etc. According to an April 2016 study of 44 cities, it was also found that urban areas with more parks (the "awe" within a city) scored higher on measures of community well-being.
It promotes cancer-fighting cells:
An April 2016 study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives reported that "women living in areas with a lot of vegetation had a 12% lower risk of death from all cancers compared with people in least green places." Cleaner air means healthier body. Forests and trees clean the air naturally.
It can help with depression and anxiety:
80% of Americans live in cities- and urban dwellers are more likely to have mood disorders than those who live in rural areas. However, the news isn't all bad- a study showed that walking for 90 minutes a week in a natural setting was enough to decrease the likelihood of ruminating- a hallmark of depression and anxiety.
It may help with ADHD symptoms:
Small studies, including several at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne, have shown that nature walks could be a potential natural treatment to improve attention. Additionally, those kids that played in the outdoors showed considerably milder symptoms than those who play indoors, in children who were both medicated and those who were not medicated. One University of Michigan study shows that people's (adults and kids) short-term memory improved by 20% after a nature walk- but had no effect when walking through busy city streets.
Just a bit of nature can be enough:
You don't need to trek far or be out in the middle of nowhere to get all of these benefits. A wooded area, a park, the beach, whatever you have near by is enough. Just get outside, send the kids outside to run around after school, go for a family walk in the evening or on the weekends, and take the time for yourself to go for a run or a stroll in a park. That old wives tale about the fact that kids need fresh air in their lungs to live a healthy, happy lifestyle is true. Thank you grandma, I am happy I listened :)