Improving Health with Nature
Nourish your Soul Outdoors
Spending time in nature has long been known to rejuvenate the soul. In the modern era, where we are constantly moving from one task to the next and spending a good portion of our day looking at screens it's important to remember to take breaks, step outside and breathe.
The positive mental and physical health benefits of spending time in nature or green areas are well documented. Getting direct sunlight every day has a multitude of benefits. There’s even a word to define the study and practice of spending time in nature – ecotherapy. It’s no secret that our environment has a significant impact on our level of stress, which in turn affects our physical and mental health. Even if you live in the city, there are ways to get out and interact with nature.
Benefits of Spending Time in Nature
Boosts Serotonin – Sunlight affects the production of hormones in the brain. One of these hormones is Serotonin, which is responsible for stabilizing our mood, feelings of wellbeing, calm, and focus. People who don’t access enough sunlight have been found to have lower levels of serotonin which can contribute to feelings of depression. This phenomenon is well known by people who suffer from seasonal depression.
Boosts Vitamin D – Exposure to sunlight allows your body to create Vitamin D from cholesterol. It is estimated that over 40% of American adults are Vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D is vital for keeping healthy bones by allowing for the absorption of calcium and phosphorus and without enough of it, we can only absorb 10 – 15% of calcium compared with normal levels of 30 – 40% absorption.
Lowers Cortisol – According to a 2019 study, spending just 20 minutes in nature significantly helped lower the stress hormone cortisol which triggers our fight or flight response. 20 – 30 minutes showed the greatest reduction in Cortisol and longer than 30 minutes there was more reduction but less significantly. When cortisol levels are high you can experience things like high blood pressure, weight gain, fatigue, brain fog, and a weakened immune system. Lowering cortisol levels helps reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
Can Help Skin Conditions – We’ve long been warned about the dangers of prolonged sun exposure and cancer risk, but exposure to UV rays in small doses can actually improve many skin conditions. Sun exposure helps reduce inflammation in the skin which helps minimize symptoms of eczema and psoriasis. It can also aid in the reduction of acne.
Improves Cognitive Function – Studies have shown that people who regularly took walks in nature performed better on memory tests and had higher levels of attention and focus. Research published in Frontiers in Psychology showed that short-term memory and recall improved in people who were in nature, although they’re not quite able to identify why.
Better Sleep – Exposure to sunlight, especially early morning light (between 8 am and 12 pm) has the greatest impact on our circadian rhythms. People who are exposed to morning light tend to get to sleep easier and sleep longer than those who didn’t.
Healing – People that were exposed to nature were shown to heal faster after surgeries. Those with a tree outside their window recovered more quickly and requested less pain medication than those with windows facing a brick wall. Even just having one small potted plant in a hospital room seemed to make a noticeable difference.
Nature also impacts our spiritual health. Spending time in nature can be rejuvenating and nourishing for the soul. There may not be a scientific explanation for why we feel better when we are surrounded by nature, we just know that we do. It could be that greater force at work, an intuitive connection the earth, the trees, the animals, and everything we co-exist with. Being immersed in nature can elicit feelings of calm, connection, and wonder. Nature is inspiring. People who spent more time in nature noted higher levels of creativity and expression. Just spending time outdoors also encourages healthier habits and awareness and discourages destructive habits.
All around, nature fuels us in so many ways and significantly shapes our health, happiness, and overall wellness.
Ask yourself - How can you bring the outdoors into my life a little more often?
Get a plant for your work station
Find ways to work little walks into your day like parking in the farthest spot from the store
Have your morning coffee or tea outside.
Make an effort to witness sunset or sunrise at least once per week
Visit a ‘green area’
Take lunch outside
Look at the stars
Allow yourself 5 minutes to sit in awareness, without phones or distractions. Listen to the earth, try a little meditation or breathing exercise.
Breathing: 4 -7- 8 Inhale for a count of 4, hold for a count of 7 and slowly exhale for a count of 8. Repeat 4 times.