The Healing Power and Benefits of Nature
Nature makes us feel good. We know that taking walk to the beach after work and dipping our feet in the currents releases stress and rejuvenates us. A day hike deep into the forest can shift our senses into a heightened state of awareness and energy.
If you’re someone who lives with health challenges, have you never noticed that they seem to melt away when you’re in the great outdoors? Studies suggest that 120 minutes is the ideal dose to start to see dramatic health and wellness benefits. If you’ve ever wondered why nature makes us feel so good here are just some of the many ways nature changes the brain and body for the better.
Increased natural visual stimuli help to increase cognitive focus and wakefulness. The sights, sounds and colours that we perceive in nature are what our brains are wired for. For thousands of years, humans evolved to be immersed in nature. Humans had to be highly attuned to their environments to notice danger, food, shelter, safety, changes in the seasons and more.
When we are immersed in natural environments our senses kick into high gear, giving us a perceived heightened state of alertness. Certain terpenes and other chemicals in natural scents have been shown to provide a host of different benefits, from stress reduction to increased alertness, to improved immune function.
The city (town, or suburbs) is stressful. Whether you perceive them as stressful or not, science demonstrates that our biology does. Noise pollution and light pollution are rampant. Think televisions, other screens, beeps and honks, notifications, cars and buses. Stepping into nature gives our bodies a break from these taxing stimuli. Stress levels go down and we feel calm yet alert.
Nature: Air quality
We also experience improved air quality when we head into nature. Even if you live in a small town with good air quality, there will still be some level of pollutants from car exhaust or indoor air that contains chemicals from off-gassing of appliances, electronics, bedding, paint and more. When we step into nature we breathe exceptionally high-quality air which improves our overall health in many ways including improved lung health, detox of toxins, improved longevity and more energy. Rates of diseases such as cancer, stroke and heart disease also go down as air quality goes up.
Increased lux and natural light
Light is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. When we’re exposed to sunlight we receive a host of benefits that artificial indoor light cannot provide. This includes increased lux, the units of measurement for light. Indoor light produces anywhere from 500 – 1000 lux, and to a maximum of 5000 lux (although rare).
In contrast, the outdoor light level is approximately 10000 lux on a clear day. Science demonstrates that lux contribute to our feelings of wakefulness. When we experience the brightness of outdoors it helps our bodies and minds to feel alert in a way that indoor lighting cannot match. Being outside in natural light also helps to sync our circadian rhythm to that of the sun. Our bodies produce more serotonin and melatonin in response to bright daylight, especially in the morning. Serotonin helps us to feel happy and calm, as well as influences things like body temperature, the nervous system and proper brain function. Melatonin regulates states of wakefulness and sleep. It also plays an important role for hormone balance, blood pressure, eye health, brain health and more.
Nature for brain and body
Can science ever fully describe the full benefits of nature? There are so many other far-reaching benefits for our health, too many for us to capture in just one blog post. But if your one of those people who need some scientific motivation to justify a long walk in the forest, now you have many reasons to take that walk in the forest. If you care about your health and wellness, nature is an important part of that lifestyle.
See our Blog for more information about nature, plant medicine and health!