Spending time outdoors in nature makes people happier on all levels: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I remember many times when I was younger, quite simply taking myself off and out into the hills for a walk if I was angry or in a bad mood. I absolutely knew that it would take about ten minutes for me to calm down and feel really peaceful and centred again. So much so, that I could return home and calmly deal with the situation without further upset. I am not unique in this regard. Nature absolutely helps people de-stress.
Before being very specific about the benefits of a Nature Therapy Walk, I want to list some of the scientifically tested and proven benefits of nature therapy (which are, by default, also benefits of a Nature Therapy Walk) as follows:
- Increased happiness, self-worth and self-esteem;
- Reduced negatives such as: stress, anger and depression;
- Greater acceptance: nature is impartial and doesn’t judge;
- Greater socialisation: individuals share, chatter, learn to cooperate, accept and tolerate others;
- Increased mobility: you have to move to get out there and participate in nature and so physical exertion is required which improves health;
- Increased mental stimulation: nature often invokes memories and helps spark ideas and new thoughts, helping with clarity of thinking leading to goal-setting;
- Necessary physical contact: whether we walk in a wood, touch a leaf or feel the sun and wind on our skin, nature is a sensory experience and as such we easily develop empathy with it;
- Greater physiological benefits: regular gentle exercise helps reduce blood pressure and improves cardiovascular health;
- Greater psychological benefits: through increased acceptance, nature helps to similarly engender greater levels of trust, respect, love, worth to name but a few;
- Self-actualisation: experiences in nature offer many the opportunity to enjoy a peak experience, feel connected to something bigger, the universe and even the divine.
Over and above these elements, Dr Qing Li’s (the shinrin-yoku forest bathing guy) research reveals that exposure to plant chemicals known as phytoncides also:
- Significantly increases the number of NK (Natural Killer) cells, NK activity and anti-cancer protein activity which all boost the immune system;
- Significantly decreases stress hormone levels (increases parasympathetic nervous activity);
- Significantly lowers blood pressure and heart rate.
Walking in - or general exposure to - nature enables everyone to access and thus benefit from all of the above.