Walking in nature when sad or stressed is amazing therapy for the soul.
There is just something about being out in nature that is inherently healing.
Studies have shown that even spending just 20 minutes outside significantly
reduces stress hormone levels. [Frontiers in Psychology 2019]
In Japan, we have a word for this - “forest bathing” or “Shinrin yoku”. But getting the benefits from nature doesn’t have to be from a full forest – just being out in a yard, public parks, or green areas near work – even looking at a tree outside your window or listening to sounds of nature (like crickets chirping or waves crashing) may be recuperative.
I’d like to share 7 scientifically proven health benefits of why we should be spending more time in nature.
1. Reduces Stress
Being in nature reduces the stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, and lowers your heart rate and blood pressure.
A growing number of studies have shown that visiting green spaces and being exposed to natural environments can reduce psychological stress – we evolved in nature, and are naturally drawn to blue-green spaces, and being in nature contributes to your physical wellbeing. [Environ Health Prev Med 2010]
2. Improves concentration and memory
Taking a break in nature can improve your concentration. Nature gives your brain a break from everyday overstimulation.
In terms of memory, the University of Michigan showed that those who took a memory test and then walked in nature did 20% better than those who took the test and then took a walk around the city. [Psych Sci 2008]
3. Lightens feelings of anxiety and depression
Multiple studies have linked nature walks with improved mental health. Particularly walking in nature with others are linked to improved mental health and positivity, as well as lower levels of depression and feelings of stress.
According to one Finnish study, spending just 15 minutes sitting in nature helped people feel psychologically restored, with even faster results if they spent that time walking. [J Environ Psych 2014]
4. Improves creativity
Living in urban and suburban settings where we are constantly interacting with media and technology, our focus and attention is overtaxed, depleting our ability for creative reasoning and problem solving.
Whether spending time outside, just gazing at the clouds, or exercising outdoors, nature has a way of sparking creativity. In fact one study showed that hiking outdoors improved performance on a creativity, problem-solving task by 50%. [PLoS ONE 2012]
5. Increases your connection with others
Spending time in nature promotes a positive, connected relationship to nature and feelings of wellbeing, but it also helps you feel more connected to your community.
Being in nature fosters feelings of empathy, love and belonging. Engaging in natural beauty brings about contact, emotion, meaning, and compassion – and we know that connection to others is extremely important for health. [PLoS ONE 2017]
6. Promotes faster healing
Research has shown that patients that are exposed to more natural light heal faster from surgery and reported less pain than others.
Having a window view of trees or greenery, or even having a nature photograph in your hospital room is associated with faster healing, significantly less pain medication, and fewer postsurgical complications. [Health Forum J 1992]
7. Strengthens your immune system
In addition to reducing stress hormones, spending time in nature boosts your immunity.
A type of immune cell called a Natural Killer cell, which is important in patrolling the body to destroy virally infected cells as well as killing cancer cells increases in number and improves in function by spending time in nature. The effects are long lasting, and spending time in nature for 3 days had a lasting effect for 30 days. [Environ Health Prev Med. 2010]
How much time should we be spending in nature?
120 minutes/week (2 hours) has the most benefits, but even 15-20 minutes a day can give you benefits.
The saying, “Blue and green should often be seen” (colors of nature) can help keep this in our minds.
Ways to spend more time in nature
· Start your day early and watch the sun come up with a cup of tea or coffee.
· Eat your lunch or spend your coffee break outdoors
· Go for a daily walk
· Read your book outside, sitting under a tree
· Exercise outdoors - if you aim for the recommended 150 minutes of exercise/week outdoors, you can accomplish both health benefits at once.
I hope this inspires you to take a walk, sit under a tree and enjoy the outdoors!
If you would like to achieve your best health and mindset, I invite you to come and work with me! Follow me on social media @Dr Minako for more health tips. If you are a cancer fighter or survivor and are interested in immunotherapy, come visit us at the Tokyo Cancer Clinic.
The information provided here is meant for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be nor should be construed as medical advice.