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How can nature improve your health?

Have you ever had someone tell you to “get some air” if you are feeling annoyed, stressed or anxious? I know I have. And if you’re anything like me, you probably rolled your eyes at the thought of how doing something so simple could possibly fix the problems you’re having.

That was until I learned of the value that getting outside and connecting with nature can bring. And it isn’t just your mood it can help…

Many of us know that spending time in the natural world can make us feel better. The Japanese have known this for centuries. They have been practicing the art of ‘shinrin-yoku’, commonly known as forest bathing long before science had proven its benefits. 

Forest bathing simply means spending time in a natural setting and focusing on all of the sights and sounds around you. Studies conducted in recent years have proven the benefits of spending time in nature, and the results are astonishing.

Not only can immersing ourselves in the natural world do wonders for our mental wellbeing and creativity, but it also has significant health benefits ranging from boosting our immune system to increasing our body’s production of Natural Killer (NK) Cells.

This is a result of an organic compound produced naturally by trees, known as Phytoncides. According to a study conducted by The Forest Bathing Institute, exposure to this compound resulted in up to an astounding 50% increase in the number of NK cells that are responsible for fighting off cancer and infections.

But that’s not all, spending time in nature has been proven to significantly improve your mental health, reduce blood pressure, help you sleep better, supercharge your immune system and improve your cognitive functions.

Improve Mood and Reduce Stress Levels

Throughout our evolution, our bodies developed several survival mechanisms as a result of constantly being under threat. Our ‘fight or flight’ response is one such mechanism that was essential to ensure that we lived another day.

Although the chances of getting attacked by a lion are now very low, our brains just haven’t caught up…

During everyday activities such as meetings, deadlines and the constant bombardment of stimulus from our phones, our body releases cortisol – the same stress hormone that put us in survival mode all those years ago.

Fortunately, there’s a solution:

Spending time in nature has been proven to lower blood pressure and significantly reduce our cortisol levels, helping us feel more relaxed. What’s more, these calming benefits last well beyond the time we spend outdoors.

Research has also shown that nature can act as a natural anti-depressant, due to good bacteria known as Mycobacterium Vaccae, which live within the soil. These microbes were shown to significantly boost our immune system as well as enhance energy levels and promote positive emotions.

Supercharge Immune System

In addition to this friendly bacteria helping us fight off threatening illnesses, the mood boost alone that nature provides can do wonders for your body on a cellular level. 

The positive emotions we experience in nature can increase levels of anti-inflammatory cytokines - tiny proteins that play a vital role in regulating immune response and controlling inflammation.

Boost Problem Solving and Creativity

While we often think of logic and creative skills as distinct categories, they are intrinsically connected. Sometimes problems require innovative solutions - there's little doubt Einstein would be as influential as he was if he couldn't think outside the box.

As it turns out, being immersed in nature has been proven to help us crack creative blocks and access solutions more easily. Research conducted by the universities of Utah and Kansas demonstrated this by studying the impact on creativity and problem solving by performing various tests before and after spending a few days in nature.

The results were astounding:

Immersing in a natural setting can significantly boost creativity and problem-solving by up to 50%. 

Improve Sleep

We all know sleep is important. It helps our brains work properly, balances our hormones and is essential for the proper function of our immune system.

However, according to the Sleep Health Foundation, up to 45% of Australians suffer from inadequate sleep and its associated consequences. Sleep deficiency can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke.

Among other things such as exercise, meditation and a healthy routine, multiple studies conducted by Dr Qing Li at the Forest Bathing Institute found that nature can improve both the duration and quality of our sleep.

By spending an hour walking in the forest in the morning and afternoon, the study group showed a significant improvement in average sleep time – increasing from 383 minutes per night to 452 and lasting days after they stopped spending time in the forest.

Forest Bathing at Home

The list of benefits goes on: lower blood sugar, improved memory and increased cardiovascular health are all side effects of regularly spending time in a natural setting.

Fitting this into your schedule is important for your overall health and wellbeing. However, most of us just don’t have the time.

Thankfully, many of these benefits can be achieved by filling your home with houseplants!

Through our plant subscription box, you can begin to create your own indoor forest, where you can begin to experience some of these benefits from home.