Is nature really the cure for better wellbeing?

I don’t know about you but sometimes I just need to escape

Somewhere deep into nature. If I feel overwhelmed, stressed and unsure or have questions I need to find answers to, I always crave a peaceful place. My favourite places are either by the sea, walking on the beach and watching the waves. Or deep in a forest surrounded by trees and streams of running water. I don’t know what it is about nature but it just calms my mind and helps bring me some perspective and clarity.

I decided to do a little research on this and wondered if there was evidence of a connection between improved wellbeing and being surrounded by nature.

One online article  by the University of Minnesota states:

“Being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, reduces anger, fear, and stress and increases pleasant feelings. Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones”

It also states that:

‘The stress of an unpleasant environment can cause you to feel anxious, or sad, or helpless. This in turn elevates your blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle tension and suppresses your immune system. A pleasing environment reverses that.’

This kind of makes sense to me and is perhaps why I have sudden feelings to escape and be surrounded by nature. In the past feelings of stress, anxiousness or sadness can completely overwhelm and it creates a feeling of being trapped, almost claustrophobic. No wonder I want to run off to the sea side or put my wellies on and stomp around under the trees through the mud.  I am pretty sure I am not the only one who feels like this, am I?

I wonder why nature makes us feel this way?

Apparently, we are genetically programmed to find all elements of nature engrossing and we can become so absorbed by them, it distracts us from any pain or worries we may have. I can relate to that. Just watching the waves on the sea or looking at all the different plants and trees, being there in that moment, takes away all my other thoughts, it gives my brain time to rest and recover. It is said to make us more mindful in the moment and settle our overwhelm because we are thinking about the details we see and all the senses we feel.

What is Forest Bathing?

There are places all over where you can get involved in something called ‘Forest Bathing’. A traditional Japanese eco-therapy, which is to immerse yourself in the forest atmosphere. Just being in the presence of trees and nature can promote feelings of wellbeing.

The Telegraph reported last year that “Research has demonstrated that even as little as 15 minutes spent among trees can lower cortisol levels, boost the immune system and reduce anxiety

It recommends Britain’s most therapeutic forests to go and try out Forest Bathing, check out the article here.

The Mental Health Charity Mind, have an online booklet which is an introduction to eco-therapy, a range of nature based programmes that can help support your mental wellbeing. It discusses what it is, the benefits and how you can join in but also how you can do it on your own too. It is really interesting take a look here.

What studies have shown

Studies have also shown that even introducing small elements of nature in to our everyday environment, such as sounds, images or plants are associated with having a positive mood, a sense of vitality and wellbeing.

So maybe we don’t have to run off to the forests or the seaside every time we feel stress and overwhelm. Maybe adding small things to our environments such as buying fresh flowers or plants, or framing your favourite photo of a beautiful scene could be enough on some days.

As I write this now, I am listening to a YouTube video, which is the sounds of nature. I was a little stressed this morning as I have lots to do today. But as I researched this subject to write my blog, I thought I would change up my usual podcast or music that I usually listen to as I work and try something new. I actually quite like it. I can hear a stream of running water and birds tweeting, it’s quite a soothing background noise. I feel like I am sat in a lodge in the middle of a rain forest writing this whilst looking out into the lush greenness of the trees. Not sat in my office in York, with grey clouds and traffic whizzing by.  The sounds have taken me out of my environment and into a peaceful place, giving me a calmer state of mind.

I am finding the research around this subject fascinating and learning all about why my mood lifts when I am in my happy places in nature. It feels like it is so simple and obvious, yet the majority of us don’t make time for it.

I guess the most important thing is that we acknowledge our thoughts and feelings and then look at ways in which we can help ourselves and if a new plant or forest music works, amazing. If you need more, maybe take a couple of hours out and go on an adventure in a beautiful place and let nature look after you.

I would love to know if you resonate with this, do you love nature and how it makes you feel? Where are your favourite places to go and gain some calm and wellbeing.  Also have you ever practised Yoga in nature? Surely, that would be like a double whammy of goodness right there. I would love to know.

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