A walk in the woods can soothe the tired soul. Just ask the Japanese, who coined the term Shinrin-Yoku which literally translates to “forest bathing.” Research conducted across several Japanese forests found that practicing Shinrin-Yoku can lower cortisol, also known as the stress hormone.
There are actually many benefits of being in nature that you may not be aware of. If there’s no forest near you, no problem. You can reap also these benefits in a park or the beach.
1. It Reduces Stress
Few things can be more peaceful than a natural setting. While the modern world is full of noise, you’re likely to encounter nothing but soothing sounds in nature, whether it’s tweeting birds or ocean waves lapping against the sand. This is definitely one reason why surrounding yourself with nature can bring down stress levels quickly.
Removing yourself from a stressful environment and spending some time in a quiet natural setting can diffuse the pressure. Spending just 20 minutes a day in nature can significantly lower your physical and mental stress.
2. It Promotes Healing
Could a walk in the woods a day keep the doctor away? Research has found that hospital patients with a view of the outdoors tend to heal faster overall and even experience less post-surgery pain compared to patients without a scenic view.
Being in nature can also boost our immune system: a Japanese study found that women who spent six hours in the woods over a two-day period had a high white blood cell count. White blood cells help the body fight off infections including colds and viruses.
It may not be a cure for illnesses, but being in nature seems to provide added protection from getting sick.
3. It Improves Memory
Immersing yourself in nature may be better than any brain food. A study of people who took a memory test and then took a walk in a natural setting performed 20% better than another group who walked in an urban setting following the same test.
It seems that walking alone doesn’t affect memory, but walking in a beautiful location will. One theory about why this happens is because natural settings are less stress-inducing compared to busy city streets. Being bombarded by the noise of traffic, machinery, and people is distracting and can make it tougher to recall details.
4. It Encourages Exercise
Nature can help encourage you to be more active since a beautiful area just begs to be explored. Hiking, biking, walking, and swimming go hand-in-hand with natural settings. This can help you keep your weight in check and contribute to your cardiovascular health and physical strength.
Besides, exercise is more fun and easier to stick to when you actually enjoy it. You may also become inspired to try a new physical activity if you’re outdoors, such as paddleboarding or kayaking on a body of water, or mountain biking along a wooded trail.
5. It Helps You Feel More Optimistic
There’s something about spending time outdoors that can lift your mood and give you a more positive mindset. Scientists aren’t exactly sure yet how being outside can improve your wellbeing. One reason may be that spending time in nature can help you forget your troubles for a while.
It can also be awe-inspiring to see so much life taking place around you, such as insects foraging for food and seasonal flowers blooming. It’s a reminder that life still goes on, no matter how big a problem you’re facing. Wandering around in nature is a great way to bring down stress and anxiety levels.
What’s also interesting is that simply listening to nature sounds or browsing through images of beautiful outdoor spaces can have the same effect. So the next time you’re feeling down or stressed and can’t get outside, try searching for pleasant nature scenes online to gaze at for a few minutes.
6. It Boosts Your Vitamin D Intake
Many of us are not getting enough vitamin D, thanks to working long hours indoors. Yet vitamin D is important for bone health and helping to reduce the risk of getting osteoporosis, cancer, and other diseases. Although you can find it in some foods such as dairy products, the sun remains its best source.
Although the sun is not always a reliable source of vitamin D, spending outdoors in nature can help your body absorb more of it.
7. It Helps You Sleep Better
If the sandman has been elusive lately, a walk in the woods can help you catch your zzzzzs so you can feel your best.
A study found that camping helped people reset their internal clock that regulates the wake and sleep cycle. It seems that exposing one’s self to daylight and then the nighttime helped participants enjoy better sleep. They also went to sleep earlier.
But as the researchers discovered, it isn’t so much camping that helped people sleep better, but just exposing themselves to more daylight. If you’re spending long hours indoors all day at work, going for a lunchtime walk outdoors may be all you need to help reset your body’s circadian rhythm.
The exercise you receive from spending time in natural settings can also contribute to more restful sleep.
Remember These Benefits of Being in Nature
As you can see, there are plenty of benefits of being in nature. And the best part about being outdoors is that there you can usually do so for free. There are plenty of beautiful state parks and reservations that are free to explore, or only charge a small fee.
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