Do you want to feel happier and healthier (who doesn’t!)? Keep reading.
What if I told you that there is a ‘drug’ that exists that is free, doesn’t require a prescription, is widely available, fun to take, has NO negative side effects and is scientifically proven to make you feel better mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically.
I’m guessing you’d be interested in finding out more?
The Nature Drug
You may be shocked and pleased to know that this marvelous magical medicine is actually spending time in nature. ‘What?’ I hear your cry, ‘why haven’t I heard of this before?’. Good question. And there’s a relatively simple answer: let me explain.
Currently, if you want to feel happier and healthier you can turn to two places:
- Huge drug companies and corporations who spend hundreds of millions marketing conventional drugs and vitamin supplements.
- The health and wellbeing industry, which is worth to the tune 3.7 trillion dollars globally, per year. This industry includes health foods, recipe books (diets) gyms, personal training/fitness, lifestyle activities (think yoga, pilates, mindfulness…), alternative holistic remedies and all the related gadgets/clothing/equipment.
Collectively these two giants use their considerable resources to bombard you with posters, promo videos, collaborations with celebrities and T.V. and paper adverts – all aimed at guilt tripping you into investing in your mind and body by buying their products. Pure and simply these companies are profit farming and you are the crop.
Nature simply can’t be monetized in the same way. Nature has no marketing department, no advertising budget, no special slogans and no catch phrases. It doesn’t lobby politicians, doesn’t have a social media strategy, doesn’t utilize ‘influencers’ and won’t ever advertise on any screen/paper/billboard.
Yet scientists have proven that it is a massively under-utilised wellbeing resource and spending time in it should be an essential part of living a balanced and hopefully long life. This is why I’m not only going to encourage you to spend more time in nature but also present to you some of the benefits you’ll receive.
You may still be skeptical and that’s fine, because I am now going to take you through a sample of the research that proves that nature is fundamentally ‘good’.
Why do people enjoy spending time in nature?
Before we dive head first into the science and findings, lets try a little experiment. I would like you to scroll down and look at the four images below. As soon as you see each one I would like you to say, out loud, the first word that comes to mind. Ready, steady, GO!
Well done if you actually said them out loud. Now I’d like you to quickly head to the bottom of the page and write your four words, in order, as a comment before heading back here for the findings (don’t peek until you’ve posted them). Have a look at what others have written whilst you’re there.
Now onto the science.
1. Nature will leave you happier and calmer.
Research has proven that looking at nature makes you happier. For example, one study showed people clips of a city, got them to answer questions then showed them a Planet Earth II episode and did the same again. This type of study has been repeated in different guises and the results are always the same and undisputable:
- When looking at nature people feel: a sense of awe, amazement, wonder; curiosity, interest and wanting to explore; joy, excitement and enthusiasm; contentment, relaxation and peacefulness; amusement and enjoyment.
- When looking at an urban scene people feel: nervousness, anxietyand fear; stress and overburden; anger and irritability; tiredness, fatigue and low energy.
2. Nature will boost your immune system
Imagine yourself walking along in an ancient forest; a dense canopy consumes the sky causing a dappled light to filter down to the shrubs and plants below. New research from Japan has proved that taking a stroll in these sorts of surroundings will boost your immune system.
Natural Killer Cells (NK Cells), a type of white blood cells that protect us from disease, increase by 40% if you spend 2 hours in nature for 3 consecutive days, with the increase lasting for 7 days (a month later levels will still be boosted by 15%). This effectively equates to a massive boast to your immune system. Furthermore if you sleep in a room with a humidifier laced with tree based essential oils, specifically from the Hinokin Cyprus Tree, your NK Cells will increase by 20%.
3. Nature will enhance your creativity.
“It is the marriage of the soul with nature that makes the intellect fruitful, and gives birth to imagination” – Henry David Thoreau
Throughout history the list of artists, authors and poets who turned to nature for inspiration is endless:LIST. And it would seem for good reason.
If you find yourself struggling with a challenging problem or need some gentle guidance for your next big work of art – take your work outside and walk in nature. Research has shown that by doing this you will benefit from a 50% improvement in creativity and innovative thinking. Cool, huh!
4. Nature will reduce your stress.
Even a short 15-minute walk in the woods causes measurable changes in physiology. Japanese researchers sent 84 subjects to stroll in seven different forests, while the same number of volunteers walked around city centres. The forest walkers hit a relaxation jackpot: overall they showed a 16% decrease in the stress hormone cortisol, a 2% drop in blood pressure, and a 4% drop in heart rate.
If this is what a 15-minute walk does imagine what a longer romp could do.
5. Nature will give your brain a much needed rest.
Modern life is busy; each of us has to juggle intense work lives, social media, screen time, socializing, family and 101 other minor tasks, often at the same time. What this means is that we spend most of our time consciously processing information, also known as top-down thinking – leaving our brains overworked and overtired.
Think of your brain as a muscle. Like any muscle it needs a chance to stop and recover. One way to give your noggin some respite is through meditation or mindfulness, not your cup of tea? Thankfully there is another way.
An America study found that spending time in nature will also give your brain a rest and will allow it to recuperate. Whilst the study wasn’t explicit as to why this is, it is thought that a combination of the natural light, shapes, sounds and smells combine to soothe our stressed out minds.
6. Nature will improve your vision.
Screen time and the time we spend inside under artificial light is on the rise, damaging eyesight. Specifically, cases of myopia (short-sightedness) is reaching epidemic proportions, particularly within children, with the rise being attributed the amount of time spent on our phones, computers and watching T.V.
To give you an idea of the scale of the issue, in Seoul (South Koreo) – a particularly tech addicted city, fifty years ago 10-20% of people were short sighted, now a shocking 96.5% of 19 year old men are.
Thankfully there does seem to be a number of potential solutions:
- Spend less time looking at screens (duh!)
- Spend more time in nature (again, duh!)
The reason that nature seems to help you protect and restore your eyes is anchored in a Japanese concept known as the Biophillia Effect. It goes something like this, we are inherently linked to nature and feel drawn to it because 99.9% of our evolution took part in it – our physiology is perfectly adapted to nature. Therefore our eyes are in harmony with what they see in nature: the curves, undulating lines, soft tones and pure gentle light.
In Taiwan they studied this concept with two schools over a year. One was told to continue as normal with their schedule, whilst the other was encouraged to get students out into nature during break and lunch. After one year the rate of myopia in the ‘continue as normal school’ was 17.65% and in the ‘outside play’ school is was just 8.41%. Other studies are ongoing…
7. Nature could have anti cancer effects.
The Japanese (are you seeing a pattern here) have recently been conducting research that seems to show an increase in anti-cancer proteins in people after spending time in forest areas. Initial findings suggest that the presence of Phytoncides, such as alpha-pinene and beta-pinene in forest air may lower the risk of cancer. Now that really would be amazing.
The study was based over a weekend with the participants spending 2 hours walking in a forest in the first day and a further 4 fours on the second. The increase in NK blood cells and anti-cancer proteins lasted a week. Scientists accept that the research is in it’s infancy – but with more time, peer reviewed studies and most importantly funding, they have no doubt that spending time in nature could become an important and medically accepted method for preventing the deterioration of our mental and physical health.
8. Nature will enrich your mental health.
Imagine you’re having a bad day. Your tube/bus is running late to work, your email inbox is full of unanswered enquiries, your boss is demanding a report that is only half finished, your boiler is acting up, you miss a call from the boiler repair woman and now can’t get back in touch, you don’t even understand how to complete the report…
Mental health problems are on the rise. According to the Institute of Directors the number of days taken off work with mental health problems has increased 25% year-on-year, and stress, depression and anxiety together rank as the largest reason for absence in the workplace. More than six in 10 of the UK’s working population say that they have had problems with sleep because of stress.
Stress, apprehension, depression and other mental health issues can all be reduced by including time spent outdoors, in nature, in your daily and weekly life. What’s more, the more wild/remote and the longer your spend in nature – the bigger the impact.
Don’t despair. there’s a simple solution.
Make a plan
Increase the amount of time you spend in nature. And whilst spending time in nature won’t solve all the negatives that modern life throws at you, it’ll make a sizeable dent in them.
So there you have it folks, nature is not only good for you but you could argue an essential ingredient for a wholesome and yummy life cake.
Do you want to benefit from the nature drug?
- Escape the city/town/the daily grind and go on one of our weekend 2-3 day escapes.
Finally, check below for some of the research behind these findings and some further reading. And please leave me a comment if you’ve learnt something new, expect my reply within 1-2 days.
- Nature can lower your blood pressure, fight off depression, beat back stress
- A forest bathing trip increases human natural killer activity and expression of anti-cancer proteins in female subjects.
- 11 scientific reasons you should be spending more time outside
- Effects of short-term forest bathing on human health in a broad-leaved evergreen forest in Zhejiang Province, China.
- Preventative effects of nature therapy
We’ll add to this list as we read discover more research. If you know of any, send it our way 🙂