We live in an incredibly fast-paced, technology-driven world. It feels like we are always behind, and everything should have been done yesterday. Technological advances are taking leaps and bounds by the minute.
There is nothing inherently wrong with the speed of life, or with 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.
THE EFFECT OF A NATURELESS LIFE ON KIDS
Growing up, my sister & I went to a babysitter after school, where we usually had dinner. I remember asking our babysitter what we were having for dessert and her reply was always the same: “fresh air and exercise!” as she kicked us outside to play. Now that I am an adult, I know how lucky I was for that “dessert”.
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 (there is no turning back from ink!). Commit rain or shine!
Here are a few activities you can do outdoors:
- Go for a hike in the woods.
- Try yoga, tai chi or meditating in the park.
- Get a dog (they need daily walks).
- Go camping.
- Read, work or study at the park, in your yard, or in a hammock.
- Meet a friend for a hike, instead of a drink at the bar.
- Go fishing, or swimming at the lake.
- Start gardening.
- Take a wilderness survival course.
- Workout outside a few times a week, rather than in the gym.
- Join an outdoor sports group; soccer, softball, tennis, badminton, archery.
- Learn to forage for wild food. Not only will you get out in nature, you will come home with nutrient dense food for dinner!
- If you are artistic, pick up a hobby like nature photography.
- Bring nature to you, get a few indoor plants.
- Go skiing, snowboarding, or snowshoeing in the winter.
- Don’t forget to include your kids in your outdoor activities! Take them to outdoor playgroups, or to a park, or camping.
- Enrol your child in an outdoor school. (I recently found out about outdoor schools, such a great idea!)
- The options are endless!
I WOULD LIKE TO HEAR FROM YOU!
Do you prioritize spending time in nature? What activities do you do outdoors?
Lindsay Rusk Health is a dedicated resource for people who are interested in health and improving their health. Therefore, this post may contain affiliate links. These links add no extra cost to you. I recommend products and brands that I personally use for myself or my family. For more information, see my Terms + Disclosure.