Connect in Nature: It’s Healing

It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air, that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit. —Robert Louis Stevenson

Why do we feel better when we’re in nature? Our connection to nature is greater and more powerful then you think.

We are a product of nature; through thousands of years of adaptation and endless interactions to the natural environment, we are intrinsically linked to a relationship with nature. A growing body of research is mounting of the positive effects of contact with nature on our physical, emotional and mental well-being. Think tree therapy.

Breathe, relax, wander, touch, listen and heal, welcome to forest bathing. Introduced in 1982 as a prescient move by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, coined shinrin-yoku the garden practice encourages people to visit and spend time in the forest. Current studies and research suggests spending time outdoors and in forest make us healthier by supporting increased cerebral blood flow, strengthening immune defense and decreasing stress levels.

Exposure to forests boosts our immune system. Spending time around trees or just looking at trees studies reveal will lower blood pressure reduces anxiety, depression and naturally gives that overall feeling of calm. How does this work?

While we breathe in the fresh air, we breathe in phytoncides, (wood essential oils) airborne chemicals that trees give off to protect themselves from rotting and insects. Phytoncides have antibacterial and anti fungal qualities, which help trees, fight disease. When people breathe in these chemicals, our bodies respond by increasing the number and activity of a type of white blood cell called natural killer cells or NK.These cells kill tumor- and virus-infected cells in our bodies.In one study, increased NK activity from a 3-day, 2-night forest-bathing trip lasted for more than 30 days. Japanese researchers are currently exploring whether exposure to forests can help prevent certain kinds of cancer.

Spending time in nature helps us focus. Nurturing and caring for a garden allows us to slow down and focus better and renew our ability to be patient. We are busier then ever with technological advancement and the demands of job, family and school. Keeping up with life is sometimes hard to do! A regular walk in the park or garden will calm the spirit and reduce anxiety and stress.

Children that spend time in natural outdoors environment have a reduction of fatigue, behavioral outbursts and have better focus. School recess couldn’t be more important, Studies show Juvenile diabetes rates drop when children spend less time on computers and watching TV and take to the great outdoors. It hard not to burn calories when you’re running around in nature, maybe that’s why our Moms kicked us outside when we were acting up inside the house? Just by walking around outside burns calories, reduces stress and lowers cortisol which is the culprit to diabetes.

Spring is here! What are you waiting for? It’s time to connect in nature. Turn off the electronics; get your walking shoes on and head over to a local park or nature trail in your community. Just 30 minutes of walking will boost your spirits and decrease your stress.

Anna Taylor