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Naturally Good For You: The Benefits of Connecting with Nature

Written by Sally K, Sunday, July 2nd, 2017 in Fitness

After a hectic day in the office, you’re sitting at home trying to unwind. Your eyes find a picture on the wall – a snap taken on a recent holiday to the mountains; and instantly your mind begins to wander, leaving the stressful phone calls and meetings behind. You feel better. You’re not going crazy, this is a scientifically proven fact: nature makes us feel better. This is a phenomenon called ‘biophilia’, a hypothesis which suggests that humans have an innate attraction to connect with other forms of nature. There are several proven benefits to health and well-being associated with (connecting with nature), and recent studies have shown that simply viewing images of nature – as well as being physically out in it – is restful and nourishing for the mind.

Natural health

The positive benefits of interacting with nature are well researched, and the Japanese even have a special term for it -“shinrin-yoku” means ‘forest-bathing’. A study in 2010 showed that it promotes lower levels of stress hormones, lower blood pressure, and lower pulse than city environments. These effects can have a positive impact on those suffering from medical conditions or recovering from surgery. A study in Pennsylvania compared the recoveries of hospital patients in rooms facing a plain wall with those in rooms facing a small courtyard and found that those facing the courtyard needed less pain medication, were in a more positive frame of mind, and were ready for release a day earlier than those patients in the rooms facing a wall. Adding a few plants or natural images to your home can induce a similar healthy boost.

Let’s get physical

Exercise is known to be good for stress relief, boosting mood, aiding better sleep, and improving overall wellbeing. However, it might be time for you to step off the treadmill and head out into the great outdoors. There is evidence to suggest that in comparison to exercising inside, being out in nature for your workout brings more energy and feelings of revitalization, as well as greater reductions in feelings of tension and depression, demonstrating that getting out for a walk or run is a good holistic treatment for the body and mind as one.

Best for the brain

Spending time in natural environments can also help to improve willpower and focus by providing your brain with time to rest. Nature is engaging and stimulating for the senses, but in a low-effort way, and thinking about the environment around you means you are not thinking about stressful things. It has similar benefits to practising mindfulness, and has been noted to improve wellbeing in all ages, from children to elderly care home residents – two demographics who may struggle to interact with nature. As mentioned above, just looking at images of nature can bring some of these benefits, so think about adding pot plants and scenic pictures to your home and office to promote them.

Connecting with nature is clearly an important part of being human, and it can have a big impact on your physical and mental wellbeing; but in today’s busy urban society, it can be difficult. But if you can’t make time for a daily walk in the forest, print out a few photos of one for your desk instead and reap a few of the benefits anyway.

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