The Scientific Reasons Why Time In Nature Makes You Feel So Good
The answer to a focused mind, less stress, and better health might actually lie in getting out of the office, out of the house, and even out of the city. The Cusp wellness expert Reece Carter talks about the science behind why we feel better after some time in nature.
The next big thing in natural healthcare is heading out into nature. Back in 1982 the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries coined the term shinrin-yoku to describe the healing benefits of spending time surrounded by green, and since then the evidence for ‘forest bathing’ has started stacking up – and quickly.
Sure, it’s hardly a ground breaking concept that getting away from your daily stresses and going ‘off grid’ can be an exercise in relaxation – once you recover from the intense anxiety that accompanies not having phone service, that is – but we now have some very real, quantifiable evidence that your health improves from diving headfirst into the wild.
As little as 25 minutes spent walking in nature boosts mood and lowers frustration to the point where it is actually measurable by looking at the electrical activity in the brain. If you’ve got a little more time up your sleeve, three days in nature is enough to alter your levels of stress hormones: cortisol plummets and takes tension away with it, leaving you feeling relaxed and refreshed.
In particular, self-esteem and symptoms of mental illness improve. The benefits to a person’s mental wellbeing is becoming so clear, that state departments in New York and Victoria are now singing the praises of a little forest bathing.
Apart from the reduction in cortisol, which itself impacts the immune response, there is also a direct increase in white blood cells simply from inhaling the volatile oils that are released from trees. The oils of most interest are called phytoncides, and they boost an immune cell called Natural Killer (NK) cells.
These NK cells are responsible for the human body’s inbuilt defence against infections and cancers. And the best bit? The effect lasts up to thirty days after returning to the city. Think of it as the cheapest and most effective aromatherapy you can get.
Lower Blood Pressure
If you’re staring at your computer screen, tearing your hair out, and trying to remember what you were doing in the first place, then perhaps your lunch break is best spent somewhere green. Even as little as 20 minutes in a park has been shown to improve concentration. And if that 20 minutes doesn’t cut it, maybe it’s time for that long weekend away.
The next time you’re Googling getaways, maybe opt for some forest bathing time over a staycation in the city.
Call it what you want – forest bathing, shinrin-yoku, biophilia – the evidence is in: it will make you more relaxed, happier, and healthier.
Lead image: Reece Carter.
Reece Carter is a qualified Naturopath, herbal medicine expert and Australia’s very own ‘Garden Pharmacist’. From the planter box to the pantry and with a lifelong passion for all things green, this self-professed herb nerd has the answers.