technology itself. But, it is vital to balance our lightning speed, plugged-in lives with a regular dose of slow-paced, relaxing, un-connected time, outdoors in nature.
Not surprisingly, research suggests that getting out in nature on a regular basis has a quite a notable impact on our health.
Health Benefits of Spending Time in Nature
Being in nature is incredibly therapeutic. The Japanese have done extensive research on the therapeutic effects of spending time in a forest. They even have a name for it - Shinrin Yoku - which means "Forest Bathing".
Trees and plants emit a substance called phytoncide, which is responsible for the aroma or the scent of a forest. You may have noticed that forests which have different concentrations of trees, smell distinctly different. This is due to diverse phytoncides emitted by different trees and plants. Not only does phytoncides from plants and trees smell nice, they have major health benefits.
The relaxing atmosphere of forest bathing, along with phytoncides released by the trees, have been shown to reduce stress hormones, lower blood pressure, lower pulse rate, and improve mood, focus & concentration, when compared to a city environment (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
The health benefits of phytoncides and forest bathing don't stop there. Forest bathing improves our immune system by enhancing natural killer cell activity, increasing the number of natural killer cells, and enhancing the anti-cancer proteins in lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell). Also, these immune strengthening benefits of forest bathing last for more than 7 days! This means that when you hike or walk in the forest, you garner health benefits beyond just the exercise from hiking (7, 8, 9).
I think that it is fascinating that something as simple and accessible as taking a walk through a forest once a week has such a remarkable impact on our health and wellbeing.
A lack of exposure to nature may have a bigger impact on our kids.
In his book The Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv coins the term "Nature Deficit Disorder". Although not a true diagnosis, Nature Deficit Disorder is a label that describes the deep detriment children experience from the lack of direct contact with nature, and unstructured play in the great outdoors.
Not only does nature benefit the next generation, getting kids outdoors will benefit nature. Kids will develop respect and awe for nature the more time they spend outdoors. Our planet needs a generation that looks out for it, rather than themselves.
What You Can Do
The solution is simple - get outside regularly. If you feel too busy to get out even once a week, make it a priority. Schedule it into your day planner, with pen (theres no turning back from ink!). Commit rain or shine!
I would Like to Hear from You!
Do you prioritize spending time in nature? What activities do you do outdoors?
Lindsay Rusk, R.Ac., fmp
Lindsay Is a Registered Acupuncturist, Functional Medicine Practitioner, Health Investigator, Paleo Enthusiast, and Blogger.
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