The Healing Power of Nature

 

I just returned from an 11-day vacation out in the western part of the United States.  I visited Rocky Mountain National Park, The Grand Teton, Yellowstone, and Glacier National Park.  Each place, and the roads in between, were absolutely stunning and took my breath away.  

 

I left this trip with a whole new appreciation for Mother Nature.  My soul felt happier and my stress levels were the lowest they have been for a very long time.  On this vacation I saw the most beautiful mountains, rivers, lakes, hiking trails, and a lot of wild animals.

 

There is new research that supports the benefits that being out in nature has on human health.  One study found that people who have depression and high blood pressure could reduce the population prevalence of these illnesses by up to 7% and 9% respectively by spending time outside (1). This was seen when people visited outdoor green spaces for 30 minutes or more during the course of one week (1).  Other studies have found that interacting with nature is important to human survival, but also for increasing quality of life (2). Spending time in nature provides a range of measurable benefits including:

 

  • Positive effects on physical health

  • Psychological well-being 

  • Improved cognitive ability 

  • Social cohesion 

Let’s explore these benefits in a bit more detail.  There are many studies that show that being outside and among the trees provides people with numerous positive health benefits including (3):

  • Boosts the immune system-plants and trees give off a chemical called phytoncides which have antibacterial and antifungal properties.  When people breathe in phytoncides, their body responds by increasing their white blood cells which are part of the immune system. 

  • Lowers blood pressure-stress levels are lowered.

  • Reduces stress-nature helps to lower levels of cortisol and adrenaline.

  • Improves mood-people have shown decreases in anxiety, depression, anger, confusion, and fatigue.

  • Increases ability to focus, even in children with ADHD-“Spending time in nature, looking at plants, water, birds and other aspects of nature gives the cognitive portion of our brain a break, allowing us to focus better and renew our ability to be patient.”  In children who have ADHD, symptoms are reduced for those who spend time in nature.

  • Accelerates recovery from surgery or illness-studies show that post operatively, people who spend time outside have fewer surgical complication.

  • Increases energy level

  • Improves sleep

 My recent trip has sparked my desire to spend more time outside enjoying all that Mother Nature has to offer.  I have planned more hiking trips over the summer and fall and I have also made it a point to go to the beach near my house on a more regular basis.  

I do want to point out, you do not need to take a big trip or spend a lot of money to reap the benefits of being outside.  Find local parks, hiking trails, and beaches in your community.

 

As I spent more and more time enjoying the scenery of the various National Parks, I found myself being more present in the moment.  I typically am a type of person who is always thinking ahead and thinking about what I need to check off my to-do list. However, looking at the beautiful sites forced me to enjoy each moment.  It was very heartwarming and a very fulfilling experience that I hope to generalize to my everyday life. This will be a work in progress, but one I am going to try really hard to fulfill.  

Going forward my mission is to be more about being and less about doing.  I want to find a better balance between accomplishing things on my to-do lists with being present and enjoying the moments I have before me. 

 

My new motto:

Live Fully, Love Deeply, Laugh Often

 

 

 

About the Author: Leanne DiMaio earned her Master’s degree in Applied Clinical Nutrition from New York Chiropractic College in December 2017. She is currently working on her Doctorate degree in Clinical Nutrition degree at Maryland University of Integrative Health.  Leanne is passionate about helping others achieve their optimal state of health and wellness. She is currently earning clinical hours toward the Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) credential under Kim Ross's supervision.

 

References

1.  Shanahan DF, Bush R, Gaston KJ, et al. Health Benefits from Nature Experiences Depend on Dose. Sci Rep. 2016;6:28551. Published 2016 Jun 23. doi:10.1038/srep28551

2.  Keniger LE, Gaston KJ, Irvine KN, Fuller RA. What are the benefits of interacting with nature?. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2013;10(3):913–935. Published 2013 Mar 6. doi:10.3390/ijerph10030913

3.  New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.  Immerse Yourself in a Forest for Better Health. Retrieved June 22, 2019 from https://www.dec.ny.gov/lands/90720.html

 

 

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