Why nature is so good for wellbeing

Why nature is so good for wellbeing Image

It’s something that we all sense, even those who love city life – nature is good for us. It’s why every city keeps their large parks, despite the fact they could easily make way for buildings.

It’s also the reason so many city dwellers head to the countryside or coast whenever they can. It’s therapeutic in so many ways.

That’s something that is increasingly being backed up by research findings and science. For instance, University of Essex researchers in the UK discovered 75 percent of a group suffering from depression felt less depressed after a walk in nature.

Nine out of ten of the group said their self-esteem was boosted. The researchers also found that 94 percent of people with mental illnesses thought being in nature resulted in a more positive mood.

Nature therapy

It’s no wonder that contact with nature is being steadily more used as therapy by mental health professionals. It’s even gained a name – ecotherapy.

Perhaps nature is so therapeutic because it’s where we are designed to be. It’s only in relatively recent times in humankind’s history that towns and cities have existed.

Greens spaces fill us with a sense of belonging. A bit like a child craves the calming hugs of their mother, so we need the comfort of Mother Nature.

But there’s also the fact that in urban areas we have to stay more alert. Our minds are taking in more things and so often we are in fight, flight or freeze mode.

Being in nature lets us switch off. Our inner chatter shuts up for a while.

We can be relaxed and totally absorbed in the moment. The quiet and stillness around transfers into us.

Perhaps we see also that nature thrives without struggling. It is a lesson for our lives.

Natural light helps, not only with letting our bodies get more vitamin D from sunlight. But also for people with seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression considered to be caused by a lack of light.

In fact it has been shown that natural light has immediate positive effects on blood pressure, the immune system and it lowers our stress levels.

Forest bathing

Nature’s abundance of trees is also transformational. Being among trees tends to allow people to feel more grounded and at peace.

In Japan there is a word for this feeling — shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing. Japanese researchers discovered that a forest walk improved blood pressure, the effectiveness of the immune system and heart rate. They also found that just looking at a forest view for 20 minutes created a 13 percent lower concentration of the stress hormone cortisol.

Let’s not forget that our ancestors worshipped nature. It’s thought that is the basis of bringing pine trees, holly and mistletoe into our homes as decoration at Christmas.

Many of today’s medications are derived from trees. Aspirin is based on the painkilling qualities of willow bark; cinchona tree bark contains quinine that’s in anti-malarial drugs;  and tea tree oil is used for skin infections.

More hospitals around the world are incorporating green spaces in their designs or ensuring there are views of nature to aid patient recovery.  One well-known study looked at patients who underwent surgery in a suburban hospital in Pennsylvania.

Patients were in almost identical rooms except that half of them had a view of trees while the other half had only a window view of a brick wall. Physician Robert Ulrich, who conducted the study, found that patients with the tree view tolerated pain better, appeared to have fewer negative effects and spent less recovery time in hospital.

Environmental health

An unpleasant environment can cause us to feel anxious, fearful or even helpless. This raises blood pressure and heart rate, increases muscle tension and suppresses the immune system.

A pleasant environment reverses that. This was shown when University of Illinois researchers studied a large housing estate and discovered that residents there with trees nearby felt safer, socialized more with neighbors and experienced 52 percent less crime.

Of course we often take walks when in nature. Walking in any environment is beneficial to the heart and our muscles.

But scientists have found that walking in nature improves our emotional wellbeing too. A Stanford University study revealed that people who walked in green spaces reported less negative thoughts and felt more self-confident.

A growing number of therapists think our modern-day disconnection with nature is a factor in some mental health problems. 

But by being in nature we are reminded of our true source. Many problems are put in perspective when we gaze at such as the wonder of a mighty old tree, the immensity of a mountain, the endlessness of a starry sky or the stillness of a lake.

Our location in Florida was chosen with all of this in mind. Situated on a 200-acre lake, we are also next door to a State Park, with miles of hiking trails and beautiful scenery. 

Florida’s incredible year-round sunshine makes it like a tropical island for many people. It’s a state that evokes calm and peace, and helps people get away from their worries.

A large part of our treatment means ensuring that our guests get some health-boosting exercise. This is important as research indicates that exercise can increase the amount of new nerve connections in your brain.

This helps heal any damage that certain addictions may have caused. Exercise causes the release of dopamine, serotonin and endorphins – chemicals known to help us relax and feel happy.

As well, because there’s little point in being in a wonderfully healthy environment if not eating healthily, we serve only the finest fresh and nutritious food. Our gourmet chef has cooked in renowned venues around the world.

We always eat in a relaxed environment that only enhances the delicious taste of the lovingly prepared meals. Healthy snacks and fresh fruit is available all day long.

Whatever your mental and emotional concerns are and whether they are for you or someone you care about, our experienced team can help. Please contact us today for a confidential chat to find out more.

About Adam Nesenoff

Adam Nesenoff has been working in recovery for over ten years.

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