10 Ways Nature Heals and Nurtures
They say time heals all wounds, but for me and many others, nothing heals and nurtures like Nature. When was the last time you spent an hour or two, or a day, just being in the forest or at a river, with no distractions? There’s quite a bit of research being presented these days on just this topic. Science is now interested in something people have done for eons, and some of what the research shows can seem rather obvious, but some is a bit surprising. Here are 10 Ways Nature Heals and Nurtures, 10 reasons to get yourself out there.
1 ~ Stress Reduction: As you might expect, time in nature reduces stress. It not only helps to decrease heart rate and lower blood pressure, it can actually lower your night time cortisol levels. This leads to better, more restful sleep. In addition, time spent in natural light helps maintain a stable sleep pattern by regulating the production of Melatonin.
2 ~ Improved Mental Health: It’s a quick step from #1 to understanding how nature can also help to improve mental health—decrease depression and anxiety, and increase self-esteem. It definitely increases your Happiness Quotient, and for those struggling with more significant issues, it can be a very helpful addition to counseling or other treatment.
3 ~ Decrease in Mental Fatigue: Meditation and yoga and similar activities can be helpful in creating a restorative effect on the brain, and time in Nature can do the same. It turns out that even looking at pictures of nature can create this effect, more so with images which create a sense of awe and inspiration.
4 ~ Better Health: If time in nature includes activity…walking/hiking, kayaking, cycling or others, health benefits tend to include weight loss/management, better cardiovascular functioning, higher oxygen levels (which helps everything), etc. If that time is purely quiet and meditative, however, it can be just as beneficial by decreasing the effects of stress on the brain and body. Meditation indoors is highly beneficial, but adding the component of nature boosts the effect.
Benefits which may surprise you:
5 ~ Stronger Immune System: Being around living green things…plants and especially forests, allows us to breathe in special chemical compounds given off by the plants. These result in increasing “natural killer” white blood cells which help to fight off viruses, and developing more anti-CANCER proteins!
6 ~ Better Eyesight: These days we spend so much time indoors in artificial light, especially looking at one type of computer screen or another, that the incidence of near-sightedness has greatly increased. Spending more time in Nature away from these can decrease the likelihood of worsening eyesight, especially in children.
7 ~ Improved Concentration, Memory and Productivity: Certain studies have shown improved results on retention and problem solving activities and work performance, the more time spent outdoors leading to better results. Even looking at Nature images helps, though. And if kids, especially those with ADHD, are struggling, a good, solid dose of Nature time can help them to refocus and improve their concentration and performance.
8 ~ Increased Energy Level: Those who exercise tend to have increased energy levels overall. Being in Nature can create the same effect. Thus, exercising outdoors near or in natural settings can be that much more effective. Increased oxygen intake, which happens much more readily while in Nature, especially forests, leads to increased Seratonin. This affects mood, memory and social interactions. And if the sun is shining, there’s an added benefit of increased Vitamin D.
9 ~ Boost in Creativity: I know that the majority of my creative thoughts, including poetry and new children’s book ideas, come while I spend time in Nature. Nature has always been my best Muse. It turns out that this is the case with most people! Perhaps this is due to the decrease in arousal and frustration levels and distractions inherent in time outdoors. Nature helps us let go of stressors and things weighing us down, as long as the phones get left behind or at least set on ‘do not disturb’ mode.
10 ~ Last, and definitely not least, is one dear to my heart—Increased Appreciation of Nature Itself: The more time we spend in Nature the more we realize just how important it is, for ourselves and future generations. Those who routinely spend time communing with Nature are more likely to see the benefits of taking care of our planet and acting as good stewards and helping others to do so. This is especially significant with children. Those who are immersed in Nature routinely from a young age tend to develop stronger voices for protecting it.
Truly, Nature Heals and Nurtures. It’s great to be outside at sporting events or other activities, but there’s no substitute for quite time with the trees, rivers, mountains, desert or ocean. To improve your health, mood and productivity, get out and spend time in Nature. If you want to decrease stress or increase creativity or sleep or memory, spend more time outdoors. If you can’t get out for a while, at least take breaks from the computer screen and all of life’s pressures and browse some beautiful images of the amazing thing that is our Earth.