The Healing Power Of Nature
Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones.
Helps Lower Blood Pressure
Spending time outside is good for the heart. Visiting green spaces may be a simple and affordable way to improve heart health. Fresh air is also a factor, since air pollution has been linked to a higher risk for heart attacks. Stress reduction also plays a part. It requires effortless attention to look at the leaves of a tree, unlike the constant emails at work or chores at home.
Makes You Want To Help More
Looking at a stunning waterfall or countryside can do more than enrich your Instagram feed. People who spent 60 seconds looking up at towering trees were more likely to report feeling peaceful, after which they were more likely to help a stranger than people who looked at a less awe-inspiring building.
Regularly experiencing moments of awe has been linked to lower levels of inflammatory compounds in the body.
People in cities with lots of green space were more likely to report having more energy, good health and a sense of purpose.
Promotes Cancer Fighting Cells
An April 2016 study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives reported that women living in areas with a lot of vegetation had a 12% lower risk of death from all causes compared with people in the least green places. When people walk through a forest, they inhale phytoncides that increase their number of natural killer (NK) cells, a type of white blood cell that supports the immune system and is associated with a lower risk of cancer. NK cells are also thought to have a role in combating infections and autoimmune disorders and tamping down inflammation, which contributes to a wide range of ailments, including heart disease and diabetes.
In a 2010 study, researchers found that people who took two long walks through forests on consecutive days increased their NK cells by 50% and the activity of these cells by 56%. Those activity levels remained 23% higher than usual for the month following the walks. Infusing people’s hotel rooms with phytoncides had some of the same anti-cancer-cell effects as those seen among people walking through forests.
Helps Ease Depression & Anxiety
People who walked for 90 minutes in a natural setting, such as a forest or a nature park, were less depressed and anxious and had lower activity in an area of the brain linked to depression than people who walked in an urban area.The exact mechanism of how nature helps mood disorders is unclear, but researchers agree that at the very least, time in nature tends to lift spirits.
Nature Helps With ADHD Symptoms
Small studies in kids with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have suggested that nature walks could be a potential natural treatment to improve attention. In one study, a team led by Kuo of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign had kids with ADHD take three 20-minute walks, without their medication, in different locations: a park, a neighborhood and an urban area. When the researchers tested the children afterward, they found that after a park walk, the kids were able to concentrate substantially better than after a walk in the other settings.
Nature gives the part of the brain that’s used in effortful concentration a rest. If you spend time doing something mentally relaxing, you feel rejuvenated.
People without ADHD symptoms can also improve their attention and concentration by interacting with nature, evidence suggests. One University of Michigan study found that people improved their short-term memory by 20% after a nature walk but had no changes after walking through city streets.
Even Fake Nature Has Benefits
Even if it's artificial, the images, sounds and smells of nature can have positive health effects. Listening to nature sounds over headphones, for instance, has been shown to help people recover faster from stress, which might explain why so many spas employ nature sounds in their treatment rooms.
So buy a plant, even if it's fake! Listen to nature sounds or hang up a scenic picture :)