ENJOY NATURE’S HEALING POWERS

With it almost being the middle of winter already, many people will be very aware of how cold it has been this year. However, this coldness should not discourage you from spending time outside in nature. So wrap up in some layers and head outside to experience nature, proven to be one of the most reliable boosts to both mental and physical wellbeing. Take a look for yourself:  

 

 1. Experience a mental boost  

We are constantly bombarded by information that can lead to mental fatigue, constantly demanding our focus and attention. Think of all the billboards, crowds of people, and traffic you experienced just on your way to work today. All of these are incredibly taxing mentally. Our brain needs energy to function and just like muscles, the brain can run out of energy if it is constantly in use. It is likely we have all experienced this feeling of mental fatigue — where your brain just does not seem to want to cooperate or work the way you want it to? Lucky for us, nature is both a painless and easy way to get your brain back into gear and working at its optimal. To restore focus and willpower, it is important to give your brain regular recovery time – just as you allow your muscles to rest over night after exercise fatigue. Immersing your brain in restorative environments, even as simple as pictures of nature or seeing a natural scene through a window, has been shown to restore mental energy, concentration and attention. Studies have also found nature can sharpen your thinking and creativity; individuals performed more accurately when repeating a sequence of numbers after going for a walk in nature and boosted their performance on a creative problem solving test by 50% after immersing themselves in nature. If you need more of an incentive, 20 minutes spent outside can wake you up as much as one cup of coffee. So ditch the coffee and instead opt for heading outside to start your brain the right way in the morning.  

 

 2. Stress Relief

Feelings of stress are not uncommon. Our lifestyles are often very hectic and allow this stress to go easily unnoticed. Heading to the trees is one way to solve this problem. In fact, studies have found that when individuals spent two nights in forest settings, they had significantly lower levels of cortisol than those who spent the same time in the city. Having a view of nature from your office space is also associated with both lower stress and higher job satisfaction, so next time you feel overwhelmed, engage in some forest therapy. A mental break to relax and de-stress such as going for a quick walk or looking at some nature scenes is a sure-fire way to destress that can have a positive impact on our thought patterns.  

 

Spending time in nature can boost your mood and can ease mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. Walks in the forest are associated with decreased anxiety levels and bad moods. Spending all of your time inside your office within the concrete jungle can become boring and monotonous. Rather, our brains require novelty and new environments. Be curious and explore the natural environment near your office – tune into colours, sounds, textures, smells and let your brain fully tune into the present moment.  

 

3.Reduced Inflammation 

The body has many clever processes, one of which is producing inflammation to respond to threats such as exposure to sickness. However, when this inflammation process goes into overdrive, just as the computer fan on your laptop goes into overdrive when processing lots of inflammation, this can be linked to a wide range of issues such as depression. One way to keep this process in check is to spend time in nature. In fact, students who spent time in the forest had lower levels inflammation that those who spent time in the city, whilst elderly patients who experienced a week-long forest trip also experienced a similar reduction in inflammation. Spending time outside is also linked to boosting your immune system – what you rely on to fight off serious illness, colds, flus and other ailments. Forest environments are very beneficial for human immune function.  

 

It may be easier to spend every minute wrapped under plenty of cozy blankets during these cold months. However, nature can do incredible things for our bodies so we can all benefit from heading outside and embracing the cold. Spending time outside is a therapy with no side effects, readily available and can improve cognitive functioning and over-all wellbeing at zero cost.