When was the last time you submerged yourself in nature? If it has been a while, have you noticed a shift in your mental and physical energy? Have you been feeling tired, sleepy, unmotivated? Have you noticed a change in your energy? The good news is nature is the fastest way to restore our bodies and simply feel better and here is why …
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 so 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.
Personally, I find it incredible how much better I feel from simple moments like a walk by the water, a hike in the mountains, or a snowshoe adventure with friends. It’s those simple moments that make the world of difference for me and my emotional wellness. I feel recharged and the weirdest thing happens – my brain feels activated and motivated!
If you live in Vancouver, a lovely nature adventure to do is Lighthouse Park in West Van. It’s a beautiful and a relatively 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.
Another activity I love to do is snowshoeing in the winter. Dog Mountain is a favourite spot on Mt. Seymour and if you have your own snowshoes – it’s free! On a clear Saturday evening, there is a good chance you will find me on the mountain.
So, the question for you today is … when is the last time you spent some time outdoors? If it has been a while, or you cannot remember, call up a friend and go explore the beautiful planet we live on. Your body, mind and soul will say THANK YOU!
Coach Rachel Seay