Nature Therapy

Nature Therapy

Go outdoors and connect with nature

We all need to do more getting outdoors and connecting with nature!

Because of how we live there is a massive disconnect with nature. Science is showing us the spending just 2 hours in nature can reduce our stress by up to 800%, so that seems like a pretty significant reason to spend time more time outside

 Here are some ways that can you can get outside and take in some nature therapy wherever you live.

Forest Bathing

As a Scandinavian, I know that the forest is a place to unplug, feel calmer and even to awaken my spiritual side. Forest bathing or shinrin-yoku is a Japanese practice of going out into the forest to improve health and for wellbeing. It was promoted in 1982 by the Japanese government to encourage people to immerse themselves in nature.  Trees have healing properties¹ that enhance our moods. Forest bathing has been found to relieve stress, by activating the parasympathetic nervous system. It is thought that the phytoncides released by the trees help improve our airways and our immune response

The way to practice forest bathing is to stop and using all our senses become attuned to forest life:

  • The colors of the foliage
  • The sounds of the forest
  • The texture of the bark, and feel of the ground underfoot
  • The smell of the flowers and the undergrowth

 

Barefoot Walking

Summer, of course, is a beautiful time to feel the freedom of kicking off your shoes. But maybe it’s something we should be doing more often irrespective of the season even if it’s only indoors. Merely walking barefoot offers so many benefits that often get overlooked. And it means we have lost much of our connection with Mother Earth.

Making an effort to spend more time barefoot can provide many benefits. Studies have shown that walking barefoot can reduce our cortisol levels. People who went barefoot in a study reported they feel less stressed and anxious. Slipping off your shoes may even help you to sleep better. Researchers published in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health, that walking barefoot can decrease the white blood cell count. The study showed an increase in red blood cell count, indicating a positive immune response.

All of which sounds to me like some great reasons to wiggle your toes and feel the earth beneath your feet.

 

Gardening

Gardening helps people who experience stress, anxiety or depression. It can improve communication with others, lift people’s confidence and ability to concentrate.
I enjoy gardening because it makes me “feel good.” I can spend ages gardening without needing to check my phone, just in touch with nature.

Thrive UK have produced an excellent leaflet on how gardening helps your emotional wellbeing called Gardening: The Feel Good Factor which contains some great ideas to get you started. Their top five tips are:

  • Gardening is great physical exercise and gets you out in the fresh air
  • You can work at your own pace and get a sense of achievement from the results
  • Regular gardening can bring a new structure to your life
  • Joining a gardening club helps you meet new people
  • Gardening is fun and allows you to express your creativity.

Foraging

As a Swede, I’m excited that autumn is coming and there is, even with the dry summer we’ve had, an opportunity to go out into nature and forage. Some of my earliest and happiest memories are of foraging with my grandmother along the hedgerows and in the forest for berries and mushrooms.

When we’re looking intently for the natural food, we are often entirely in the here and now connected with the great outdoors. Foraging is an exercise in concentration and mindfulness, away from digital distractions where we need to pay attention and use our memory skills. Moreover, there are the added benefits of enjoying some seasonal wellbeing treats and research published in the scientific journal Neuroscience even shows that there are friendly bacteria (Mycobacterium vaccae) in soil that can help lift our mood.

One certainty is we all benefit from spending time in nature. Being in the fresh air, whether that is a forest or garden, is one of the best things for our health.

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