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  • Writer's pictureLinda Peterson

The Nature-Health Connection

“Nature can bring you stillness, that is its gift to you.” Tolle

There is something about nature that touches the human spirit. From Hippocrates, The Buddha, Muir, Emerson and Tolle, there is enduring wisdom about the healing and restorative power that nature holds for us. Recent research has shown even more evidence of this immense power, the nature-health connection.

How do you define nature? Is it found in our magnificent national park system, the campground you go to on the weekend or the herb garden growing in your backyard? Or is it connected to the animals that bring joy to your life, the birds singing their morning wake-up song or that rock collection in your basement. The answer is YES! Let’s expand our thinking about what nature means to us and how readily available it is to all of us.

According to Richard Louv, we are suffering from nature-deficit disorder. Although not an official mental health diagnosis, we can certainly see it and feel it. We are less connected with the natural world than ever before, particularly our children. According to one study, the average American spends 93 percent of the time in enclosed buildings and vehicles. This lifestyle has led to an epidemic of inactivity, to many of our emotional and physical illnesses, and for some, a disconnection with their own place in the universe. Fortunately, a reconnection with the natural world has proven benefits for every aspect of our well-being.

Nature’s Impact of Mental Health

Ecotherapy, basically contact with nature, has been found to be as effective on depression as psychotherapy and medication in both adults and children. Even 30 minutes spent in a green space can reduce depression, anxiety, and stress. Stress reduction seems to be a key benefit by lowering the stress hormone cortisol. Research on the Japanese practice of Forest Bathing—quiet, mindful walking in a forest—has strengthened the evidence of the nature-health connection. Forest bathing research showed that due to a chemical released by certain trees, phytoncides, stress hormones were lowered, blood pressure was lowered, immunity was strengthened and there as a greater level of wellbeing reported.

Nature’s Impact on Physical Health

As stated earlier, we suffer from an epidemic of inactivity with the average person sitting a minimum of 11 hours per day. Add our nightly sleep hours to that and it is obvious we need increased movement. In addition to the increased movement we typically acquire from our time in nature, here are further benefits:

  • Boosts your immune system,

  • Lowers blood pressure,

  • Reduces stress,

  • Improves your mood,

  • Increases your ability to focus, even in children with ADHD,

  • Accelerates recovery from surgery or illness,

  • Increases your energy levels,

  • And improves sleep.

Nature’s Impact on Spiritual Health

Spending time in nature increases our sense of awe—those peak experiences when we remember that we are part of the life cycle and connected to something far greater than ourselves. Nature can awaken our sense of wonder and lead us to greater creativity, serenity, and peace. We can simultaneously feel humbled by the vitality and enormity of the universe and empowered by the wisdom that we are a part of this magnificence.

Tapping into the healing power of nature may be easier than you think. Even if you live in an urban setting or are unable to travel to a distant park or preserve, there are many ways to open your senses and enjoy the benefits from nature. One of the easiest ways is to locate a green space and go there. Turn off your devices and make this a healing time just for you. Just sitting in that space has benefits, but experience it all with a mindful walk, listen to birdsong and other sounds and scents of nature. If you are not a gardener or think you don’t have a green thumb, it is easier than you think. Start small with a windowsill herb garden or a patio tomato or go big and plant everything for your summer salads and salsa. Many resources are available in the community to help you get started.

If you feel your mind, body and spirit need healing and renewal, unplug and spend some quiet time in nature.

Blessings ~ Coach Linda

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Our providers enjoy sharing articles on a wide variety of health and wellness topics.  The information in these articles is intended for general information only, and should not be used to diagnose, treat or cure any condition.  Seek the advice of your medical provider or other qualified healthcare professional for personalized care regarding your unique needs and goals.

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