| LINDSEY WILSON
Summer is here and you just can’t wait to have your feet dangling in a body of water, soaking up the sun, and watching the clouds pass by. There’s something about the renewed energy of Spring that bleeds into the Summer season that makes everyone want to get outside and play, relax, or both!
Let’s face it, Winter and its early sunsets keep you cooped up indoors all day long - from the office, to your car, to your couch. (Did you know that the National Human Activity Pattern Survey1 reported that the majority of Americans surveyed spend 87% of their time indoors and 6% in an enclosed vehicle?) But when the seasons change and we get that extra daylight at the end of the day, we can’t help but want to soak up that extra time that nature gifts us.
Part of our seasonal ritual recommendations include grounding. Realigning ourselves with the Earth is one of the most cleansing and calming practices we as humans can experience. And as it turns out, our bodies benefit from bathing in nature. Even five minutes spent in a green space can affect your health in a positive way.
Let’s take a moment to explore the healing power of being outdoors.
When your brian gets overwhelmed with whatever task you have in front of you, one of the best cures is going outside. Nowadays, brain breaks are common practices for children in school. But they should continue to be part of our lives as adults. Us grown ups need breaks too!
Resting for a few minutes under a canopy of tree leaves, watching water flow by, listening to birds chirping and squirrels chattering, watching the clouds float by. Any moment of peace in nature refreshes your thinking juices. Your focus is renewed along with an increase in patience2. We can all agree that both of these aspects are important to productivity. But more importantly, as individuals who value and protect our peace, it helps us slow down to live in the moment. To declutter the brain.
In fact studies prove that children spending more time in nature are less likely to experience mental fatigue and reduced attention. Students who are diagnosed with ADHD demonstrated a reduction in symptoms. Research is now underway to investigate the effect of outdoor environments as a supplement for ADHD treatment3.
We all know that plants inhale carbon dioxide and exhale oxygen. But did you know they also exhale a protective chemical?
Phytoncides, chemicals exhaled by plants to protect from insects contain antibacterial and antifungal properties. These chemicals are what help plants fight diseases. When humans breathe in these chemicals, our immune system responds by increasing the number and activity of our white blood cells4.
Researchers found that hospitalized patients with views of greenery in their rooms - compared to those who had no view or an urban view - had a faster recovery time. They also had less complications after surgeries and took fewer painkillers. Overall, patients had a reduction in stress due to an unfamiliar environment, pain, or a disruption in their life routine. Stress that can get in the way of healing and cause a longer period of convalescence.
Mood & Mental Health
Brain power and immunity aren’t the only rewards your body and overall health reap from venturing into a forest or relaxing by the lake. Your mental health can find a soft place to land among mother nature as well. When your mental health is in balance, your mood is in for a boost too!
Whether you take your yoga mat or daily exercise plan outside or you choose to sit under a tree and watch nature happen, you’re likely to experience some fantastic health benefits5.
We know that chronic stress can lower the function of the immune system, so we are aware that lowering stress with a nature bath has compounded benefits. Researchers’ findings include extending time in a natural outdoor environment can have the following effects:
- Reduced blood pressure
- Reduced stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline
- Reduced anxiety and depression
- Reduced anger
- Reduced fatigue
- Reduced confusion
We also know that sunshine is great for improving mood, and can help improve symptoms of depression. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with mental disorders including depression and anxiety6. Your skin absorbs the sun’s light and converts it to Vitamin D - a crucial nutrient for your brain. Sunlight is a commonly known trigger for the production of serotonin and dopamine, which are your feel good, happy hormones7. A little sunshine every day keeps the blues away!
One of the most interesting findings through research is the effect of nature baths on blood glucose levels of diabetic patients. The study shows that the blood glucose levels in diabetics who are non-insulin dependent decreased after both long and short distance walks through a forested environment.
Researchers believe that immersion in a green space causes a change in hormonal secretion as well as autonomic nervous function. Additionally, there is reason to believe that nature walks improve insulin sensitivity8.
Connect With Mother Earth
She’ll love you back. After all, we receive all the vital aspects of living from nature - food, water, air. It’s only natural that our bodies would thrive in many ways after spending some time in green spaces.
Sit in silence near a tree or a body of water. Remove your shoes and wiggle your toes in the grass. Lay out in the sun and listen to the sounds of summer in the park. Take a minute to simply be and watch in wonder how nature can heal your everything.
- The National Human Activity Pattern Survey (NHAPS): a resource for assessing exposure to environmental pollutants | Journal of Exposure Science & Environmental Epidemiology (nature.com)
- The cognitive benefits of interacting with nature - PubMed (nih.gov)
- A Potential Natural Treatment for Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Evidence From a National Study (nih.gov)
- Effect of forest bathing trips on human immune function (nih.gov)
- What is the best dose of nature and green exercise for improving mental health? A multi-study analysis - PubMed (nih.gov)
- Vitamin D and Depression: Where is all the Sunshine? (nih.gov)
- What Are the Benefits of Sunlight? (healthline.com)
- Shinrin-yoku (forest-air bathing and walking) effectively decreases blood glucose levels in diabetic patients - PubMed (nih.gov)