The Healing Benefits of Nature

By Avdeep Bahra, Occupational Therapist, Mindfulness and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) Practitioner

I love being in nature and have always returned home feeling calmer, happier and energized after spending any amount of time outdoors.

I never really researched these benefits, however curiosity got the better of me!  So I did a little bit of reading and found that I am not alone in experiencing these feelings!

I would love to share what I found and hopefully inspire you to connect with nature too!

I discovered that many researchers are now keenly researching how nature affects our brains and bodies.

Here are 5 main ways in which being in nature benefits us:

1.    Improved Mental Health

Being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, reduces anxiety, depression, anger, fear and stress!

A study conducted by researchers from the University of Essex and published by the mental health organization Mind found that taking a walk in nature reduced depression scores in 71% of participants. They compared the effect with a control group who also took walk, but in a shopping mall. They found that only 45% of the shopping center walkers had reduced depression scores, and in fact 22% of them actually felt more depressed.

2.    Enhanced Physical Health

Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, but it also contributes to your physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones.  Being in nature also provided the opportunity for exercise, even if a short walk. 

In a study conducted in Japan, participants were assigned to take a walk of equal length and difficulty either in a forest or in an urban center. During this time their heart rate variability, heart rate, and blood pressure was measured. The participants also filled out questionnaires about their moods, stress levels, and other psychological measures.

Results showed that those who walked in forests had significantly lower heart rates and higher heart rate variability (indicating more relaxation and less stress), and reported better moods and less anxiety, than those who walked in urban settings.

 3.    Grounding and Physical Health

Grounding or earthing is defined as placing one's bare feet on the ground whether it be dirt, grass, sand or concrete (especially when humid or wet).

It is known that the earth maintains a negative electrical potential on its surface. When you are in direct contact with the ground the earth's electrons are conducted to your body, bringing it to the same electrical potential as the earth. This improves the balance of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.

This in turn results in proper functioning of immune systems, circulation, and other physiological processes. It may actually be the most effective, essential, least expensive, and easiest way to receive antioxidants!

4.    Coping with Pain:

Because we are genetically programmed to find trees, plants, water, and other nature elements engrossing, we are absorbed by nature scenes and distracted from our pain and discomfort.  Nature can provide a wonderful way to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness in itself has been found to help with pain management.

In a study of patients who underwent gallbladder surgery - half had a view of trees and half had a view of a wall. According to the physician who conducted the study, Robert Ulrich, the patients with the view of trees tolerated pain better and spent less time in a hospital!

5.    Empathy, Love and Human Connection:

Studies that used fMRI to measure brain activity found that when participants viewed nature scenes, the parts of the brain associated with empathy and love lit up. However when they viewed urban scenes, the parts of the brain associated with fear and anxiety were activated. It appears as though nature inspires feelings that connect us to each other and our environment!

Can you relate to any of the above experiences too?

After reading about the many benefits, I realize there is a lot of truth in the feelings I experience after connecting to nature. Moreover, I feel more inspired to continue to spend time in nature!

If nature helps ones physical wellbeing, mental health, ability to feel love and connect with others – there is little reason to NOT be out there! 

I invite you to make time for a dose of nature for yourself too!  What reason do you have to NOT do the same?

Avdeep is an occupational therapist, mindfulness and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) practitioner that enables clients to overcome limiting thoughts, emotions and beliefs. She helps clients overcome issues related to self-confidence, self-worth, guilt, perfectionism or emotional pain. Through various techniques she empowers you get unstuck, rediscover your inner spark and inspires you to be true to who you are and what you want to do.

 Avdeep knows each person has the ability to take control of their wellness and is eager to empower clients on this journey.

If you are curious to learn more, contact her now.

www.avdeepbahra.com

 References:

New research shows benefits of ecotherapy for mental health and well-being

http://www.mind.org.uk/news-campaigns/news/new-research-shows-benefits-of-ecotherapy-for-mental-health-and-wellbeing/#.WKNqZLHMz6Y  

This is your brain on nature

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2016/01/call-to-wild/

The ultimate anti-oxidant: fight premature aging for free

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/11/04/why-does-walking-barefoot-on-the-earth-make-you-feel-better.aspx

View through a window may influence recovery from surgery

 https://mdc.mo.gov/sites/default/files/resources/2012/10/ulrich.pdf  

 

If you'd like to spend some time in a glorious natural environment, come to the Concentric Care Wellness Retreat in Andalucia, Spain!!!