I think most of us would agree that taking a walk in the woods is a calming, meditative thing to do, but have you ever wondered why? Today, scientific research is able to quantify both the physical and mental benefits that immersing yourself in nature has on your body. Sit back, relax, and imagine yourself surrounded by forest as I share some of my favorite research findings with you.
Trees Reduce Stress, Lower Blood Pressure, And Boost Your Mood.
- A number of studies show that simply sitting and looking at trees lowers your blood pressure and decreases the stress-related hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Interestingly, looking a images of trees has a similar, but far less dramatic effect. Using the Profile of Mood States test, researchers found that immersing yourself in the forest significantly decreased the scores for anxiety, depression, anger, confusion and fatigue. Go Trees!
Nature Helps You Focus
- The average person is exposed to roughly 5,000 advertisements a day. This, stacked on the amounts of work, family, friend, and school responsibilities can make for an overall disconnected daily life, something known as the Directed Attention Fatigue Phenomenon. 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.
Green spaces in urban areas are just as important as rural forests.
- Roughly 85% of the US population lives in suburban and urban areas, many of which do not have access to traditional rural forests. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Gardens, parks and street trees make up what is called the urban and community forest. These pockets of greenspace are vitally important because they are the sources of our daily access to trees.
Exposure to forests boosts our immune system.
- While we breathe in the fresh air, we breathe in what are called phytoncides. These are airborne chemicals that living plants emit to protect themselves from insects. Phytoncides have antibacterial and anti fungal qualities which help plants fight disease. When people breathe in these chemicals, our bodies respond by increasing the number and activity of a type of white blood cell called natural killer cells or NK. These cells kill tumor- and virus-infected cells in our bodies. In one study, increased NK activity from a 3 day, 2 night forest bathing trip lasted for more than 30 days. Japanese researchers are currently exploring whether exposure to forests can help prevent certain kinds of cancer.
“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean” – John Muir
Interesting right? Comment below what blew your mind the most, and be sure to follow and sign up to be notified when I post!