There is one prescription for better health, and the great news is – you don’t need a doctor for it.
Numerous studies confirm one thing: people are happier and healthier when they spend time in nature. The options are countless, depending on your geography, fitness level, and the season of the year. Some people hike, others bike, and some consider barbecuing to be a national sport. Whatever your choice of outdoor time, you can be sure that it keeps your physical and mental wellbeing in check.
If in doubt, look at Japan. The Japanese have always prided themselves on having the largest number of thriving centenarians in the world. How? A proper, balanced diet is one thing, surely. But in Japan, people also swear by the health benefits of the so-called ‘forest bathing’ (shinrin yoku), which means ‘the pleasures of getting lost in the woods.’ Several studies confirm that spending time amongst trees can boost your energy levels, reduce anxiety, strengthen the immune system, and enhance the quality of sleep.
But if you still need some convincing to set your foot out of the door, we have listed six proven benefits of being outside in nature.
1. You will quickly hit the Vitamin D targets.
Vitamin D is not called ‘the sunshine vitamin’ without reason. It is the cheapest supplement, as it is produced naturally in your skin in response to sunlight. Scientists are positive that good vitamin D levels have protective effects against many ailments, from osteoporosis, cancer, and depression, to heart attacks and strokes. However, as people’s lives became more and more sedentary and indoor-bound, most civilized nations, Americans included, don’t have enough vitamin D circulating in their bodies. Solution? Even 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure on your arms and legs a couple of days per week should be enough for your body to make up for all the deficiencies.
2. You will be sharper than a goldfish.
Did you know that humans have a shorter attention span than an average goldfish? It takes us about 8 seconds to get excited about a text, a movie or a picture, or to quit and move onto something else. A goldfish has an attention span of 9 seconds, while a sparrow can stay focused for 3 minutes. In his book, Last Child in the Woods, author Richard Louv, who coined the phrase ‘nature-deficit disorder’, has argued that kids focus better after being outdoors. A further study published in 2008 confirmed that children with ADHD got higher scores on a test of concentration after a walk through a park than after spending some time in the urban space or indoors.
3. You will kick the blues
Being part of nature is ingrained in our human DNA. This theory is called biophilia, and it means that we are drawn to natural environments like open, grassy landscapes full of other living creatures. Even a simple 50-minute walk in nature lowers the production of stress hormones such as cortisol, alleviating anxiety, depression, and reducing rumination – the string of negative thoughts. There is a new field of psychology inspired by the healing powers of nature. It is called ecopsychology and ecotherapy.
4. You may heal faster
In 2005, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh noticed that spinal surgery patients experienced less pain and stress during their recovery if they were exposed to natural light. Additionally, Dr. Qing Li, professor at the Nippon Medical School in Tokyo, discovered that trees and plants emit aromatic compounds called phytoncides. When inhaled, they put us in a good mood, just like aromatherapy.
5. You will spend less on medical bills
There’s an old saying that goes: “An apple a day keeps a doctor away.” We could update it with “An apple and a walk a day” phrase. Many studies have proven that spending time in nature not only helps our moods but our bodies too. One sizeable British study collected evidence from 20 countries and 140 research projects involving over 290 million people to check whether nature indeed provides a tangible health boost. The University of East Anglia researchers compared the overall health of people with little access to green space to those who had the highest exposure. What they found out was astounding. Living close to natural green spaces and enjoying ample time in nature seemed to protect against many serious diseases, including depression, diabetes, obesity, ADHD, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and many more.
6. You will sleep like a baby
Light is life. Waking up with the rising sun and going to bed not long after it’s dark, can balance our hormones and help to set our sleep cycle right. Going out for a walk, a gentle jog, or a simple yoga session out in the sun will set us up for an energized day, which in turn, helps to sleep tight at night. If you cannot venture out far, or if you live in the city, try to find some pockets of stillness close to home. You can look for a small grassy patch and walk on it barefoot. The Earth’s surface helps to give us a negative grounding charge and allows our electrical energy to balance out, which also lets us wind up quicker in the evening.
What to watch out for
Nature is fantastic, but you also have to meet it prepared. All the little bugs and crawlies that our kids adore to watch in books can prove a massive annoyance (and a health risk too!) when out and about on walks, picnics, and barbecues. Fortunately, there is a relief, and it is both effective and safe. SallyeAnder’s “No-Bite-Me” bug repellent products keep all the feisty bugs – black flies, mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas– at bay. The all-natural bug repellent line consists of a fragrant “No-Bite-Me” Soap that you can use in the morning for all-round protection, as well as a non-toxic and DEET-free “No-Bite-Me” Cream. Like all of our products, these too are 100% natural and chemical-free, and use only organic herbs and essential oils, making them safe and effective to use on everyone, from newborns to adults. Even pets!
Additional benefits? The bug-repelling soap can also be used as a shampoo bar, and the cream is perfect as an after-bite relief to soothe an itch. Oh, and these won’t harm our beautiful lakes, streams, ponds, and septics. When out and about, always remember to protect yourself from the sun with sunglasses, a hat, and a natural sunscreen, SPF40, or higher. And don’t forget to stay hydrated. Happy nature-bathing, everyone!