By Jo Cordell-Cooper*
I’M curious to know if I could prove to you that time in nature is good for your health, would you go outside more?
If you read the research that demonstrates that being in nature reduces stress, anxiety, and depression on a biochemical level, would it make you change the way you live?
The reality is our engagement in nature is very much imprinted by the way we lived as children, so if you enjoy time in nature it’s probably because that’s how you grew up.
Innately outdoorsy people know being outside enhances their health.
In this case, research proving so is irrelevant to their engagement.
For those that hover back from being a healthy and vital version of themselves, the research around being outdoors is heartening and a few simple changes worth considering.
Much research is taking place in the area of eco or nature therapy and it is clear you don’t have to be a mad keen hiker to experience the benefits.
Here are some of the common findings:
Nature walks for less than 90 minutes has been found to lower activity in the prefrontal cortex, the stress centre of the brain – when this part of the brain malfunctions people can experience a continuous loop of negative thoughts.
Other research has found times between 10 and 50 minutes beneficial – interesting to note that this was not hiking, but simply being in a nature like environment, meaning urban parks can also create measurable health benefits
Interacting with natural spaces and experiencing soothing sounds or silence can lower blood pressure and levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which calms the body’s fight-or-flight response.
Visually, nature can also have a soothing effect simply by having something pleasant to focus on like trees and greenery, coastal views,and even a beautiful bunch of flowers helps distract your mind from negative thinking – your thoughts become less filled with worry.
Aromatherapy (scent therapy) also has measurable benefits with subtle floral or wood based scents recording up to a 30 per cent reduction in stress measures – I have certainly noticed that if I have a stuffy nose a gentle walk around eucalypts can indeed unblock that.
The type of nature experience doesn’t necessarily matter.
What is vital though is that the experience resonates with you.
If you are approaching your outdoor experience with a sour outlook, then that is a pretty powerful and negative starting point.
If you are looking forward to that time away from the busy and stimulating urban environment, you will gain much more benefit – but that benefit will be measurable from a medical standpoint.
Interested in the facts?
Google forest bathing, ecotherapy or nature therapy – there is much to read should you need convincing.
*Jo Cordell-Cooper owns the award-winning business Jo CC Holistic PT, offers personal training, stress management strategies, preparation for hiking workouts, and adventure travel to multi-day hikes, locally and overseas. You can follow on Facebook at Holistic Personal Training for more healthy lifestyle tips and tricks.