There is a growing body of scientific research which tells us that connecting with nature is good for our physical and mental wellbeing. Here are some of the benefits that can be experienced from time spent in nature…
- Reduce cortisol levels, cortisol is our main stress hormone.
- Reduce depression and increase happiness levels.
- Lower blood pressure.
- Feel more satisfied.
- Sleep better.
- Feel more energised.
- Reduce loneliness and feel more connected to other people and places.
- Boost your immune system.
- Reduce physical pain and inflammation.
- Increase creativity and memory.
There are several changes to our biochemistry which are thought to contribute to the positive impacts of time spent in nature.
- Some trees release chemicals called phytoncides which we inhale. This triggers NK cell production. NK cells boost our immunity, they help fight viruses and tumours such as cancer.
- Exercise increases oxygen levels in the brain which can boost serotonin, our happy chemical. Sitting in sunlight increases serotonin levels.
- There’s an anti-depressant microbe present in soil called Mycobacterium vaccae which can also increase our serotonin levels! It mirrors the same effect on neurons as anti-depressant drugs. We can inhale this microbe when we garden or spend time in woodland.
- Scientists have found that feeling more satisfied is related to the experience of ‘awe’. This can be awe from seeing a stunning mountain range and also from the details of a beautiful flower.
- Going out into nature in the daytime exposes us to blue light, especially when it is sunny. This tells our bodies to be alert and awake and helps programme our circadian rhythm so that we sleep better at night. Too much blue light in the evening can keep us awake, hence why it’s better to avoid screens in the evening or use a blue light filter.
- Being in nature is thought to regulate cytokine, small proteins used for cell signalling. Unregulated cytokine production is linked to auto-inflammatory disease (such as joint pain).
- Our cognitive functioning can change when we spend time in nature from a ‘directed’ or ‘hard’ attention to ‘soft fascination’.