When was the last time you submerged yourself in the forest? If it has been a while, how have you noticed you have been feeling emotionally and mentally?
As humans become less connected with nature, we lose an essential health buffer. “There is mounting evidence that contact with nature has significant positive impacts on mental health,” said Mardie Townsend, PhD, an honorary professor at the School of Health and Social Development at Deakin University in Australia.
“It is associated with reduced levels of stress — which also has huge ramifications for physical health, reduced levels of depression and anxiety, increased resilience, increased engagement with learning for children and adolescents otherwise disengaged from the education system, improved self-esteem and increased capacity to engage socially.”
As for time in the outdoors, researchers from Nippon Medical School in Japan compared the effects of walking through a forest versus walking through a city. Their results show that “forest bathing,” as they call it, not only led to decreased stress hormones, but actually increased the natural killer cells of the immune system and the expression of anti-cancer proteins.
These effects may be linked with an inborn need of humans to connect with nature. The biophilia hypothesis by Wilson and Kellert claim that we “have an innate love for the natural world, universally felt by all, and resulting at least in part from our genetic make-up and evolutionary history.” Our separation from nature has been relatively recent. In the last 250 years, Townsend points out, and we have not adapted to this division.
She believes that the growing disconnection with our natural environment is exacerbating the escalating rates of mental illness and that mental health professionals should be prescribing time in nature as often as possible, as well as advocating on the policy level to help ensure access to green spaces for everyone.
Why are we do disconnected from nature? The answer is quite simple – we are exhausted and this exhaustion is coming from high stress, lack of quality sleep, too much time on our cell phones, and not valuing our worth in terms of doing what our body needs to be healthy.
As a coach, I here things like “it’s too early”, “I need my sleep”, “I am too tired” … but sometime we need to call ourselves out a bit and take a moment to think about how awesome you would feel after you submerged yourself in nature with a hike.
This weekend, we invite you to come join us for a hike in West Van at Lighthouse Park. It’s a beautiful and easy hike where you are surrounded by the forest and the ocean and breathtaking views. And remember, whether it rains or not, being in nature is healing.
The question for you today is … when is the last time you spent an 2-3 hours in nature? If it has been a while, or you cannot remember, sign up and join us this Sunday for a hike.