You might already have experienced this wonderful feeling of being alone in nature. Completely at peace with yourself, feeling little to no stress. You’re just here, enjoying every little sound, every little smell, every little detail. You know that feeling we’re talking about, right?
We know you do. And we also know that you’re totally aware that spending some time in nature can truly benefit your mental and physical health. But if you’re like us, you probably didn’t know how concretely nature was impacting our bodies.
As we wanted to know a little bit more about the true impact nature has on our body, mind and soul, we dug a little bit more into the subject and found some interesting facts that you, nature lovers, might also find interesting. Because in the end, maybe our parents were right when they told us to go play outside when we were kids…
1- Natural Stress Reliever
One (if not the most) renowned impact that nature has on our body is its ability to relieve stress. Several scientific papers reveal that the type of environment we evolve in can have a significant impact on our bodies. Researchers from the University of Minnesota states that the stress of an unpleasant environment can cause you to feel anxious, helpless, etc., and ultimately, have a negative impact on your immune system. (University of Minnestoa, 2022)
That’s where nature comes into play. According to Harvard University, spending only 20 minutes in nature can help you lower the levels of cortisol, which is a hormone associated with stress (Harvard, 2019). So next time you feel overwhelmed by stress, invest in yourself and take that 20-minute break in nature.
2- Helps Regulate Blood Pressure Levels
There’s a reason why you might feel so relaxed while enjoying the outdoors. And this reason might certainly be related to the impact nature has on your blood pressure. Doubtful? Well, several types of research tend to demonstrate that nature might have a positive impact on lowering blood pressure.
Indeed, experts found overwhelming evidence that blood pressure levels decreased when participants were exposed to a natural environment, and that forest walking may lead to a state of physiological relaxation (Song et al. 2016). Which in the end, helps you achieve a more calming and relaxing mood.
3- Helps Improve Sleep Quality & Focus
This benefit might be a little complicated to “feel” during your outdoor adventures, but nonetheless, it can have a significant impact on your body and general health.
Several cultures around the globe already acknowledge the therapeutic effect of forest bathing on the human body. Forest bathing, or Shinrin-yoku, is indeed a very popular and important activity in Japan. It simply consists of being surrounded by trees and plants. That’s it. Only you and mother nature.
Several Japanese studies state that Shinrin-yoku can have, (and you’ve probably guessed it), a great impact on improving sleep quality, mood, and the ability to focus.
4 - An Ally for Your Immune System
We might not be able to speak to them directly or hear them clearly answer our deepest questions. But it doesn’t mean that plants and trees aren’t trying to connect with you.
In fact they may be connecting with us on an even deeper level: on the level of our immune system. That’s right. A study conducted in Japan shows that people who experienced a 3-day / 2-night forest bathing session had higher Natural killer (NK) cells in their bodies, which play a major role in the immune system (Jimenez et al, 2021). Even more surprising, these effects on the immune system persisted for 30 days after the trip. So, next time you’re simply wandering in nature, have in mind that the 2 or 3 hours you spent talking to trees might have a long-lasting impact on your body.
It has to be said that a significant group of experts tried to explain what exactly impacted our immune system while we're in nature. Even if experts are not settled on what could explain the increase of Natural Killer (NK) cells after some time in nature, some of them found a potential explanation.
According to them, being surrounded by trees and plants allow our body to be exposed to phytoncides, a substance naturally emitted by plants and trees and used in order to protect itself from harmful insects and germs (Jimenez et al, 2021). Being exposed to this substance regularly might decrease stress hormones in the human body and increase Natural Killer (NK) cell activity. A great way for plants and trees to connect with us, isn’t it?
There is no doubt that nature has a positive impact on our general well-being. There’s nothing like wandering in the forest, hiking a mountain, or feeling the smooth waves of the ocean to make you feel at peace. Soothed.
We now have a better understanding, from a scientific standpoint, of how our bodies react to nature. How nature can be a stress reliever, a blood pressure regulator, and a great ally to our immune system. Now that we are more aware of the importance of nature on us, it is entirely our responsibility to seek its benefits. I guess our parents were right all this time…