Lately nature therapy has been growing in popularity. However, it has been around since at least the 1980s and probably since dawn of time. We just didn’t prescribe nature as a treatment method before this.
So you’ve been seeing a lot about it and may be wondering what it is. Nature therapy is simple. Go out into nature; parks, forests, gardens, or the wilderness, soak up and enjoy your time there and feel better.
Well, if you don’t have the option to spend a bunch of time in nature on the reg, perhaps you think these claims are all some hippy dippy nonsense. I’m sorry to say, you’d be wrong. Nature therapy has been proven to be beneficial by the science community as well as all the hippy dippy gurus out there.
I can tell you from experience that there is nothing quite as good as spending some time out in the fresh air and “getting away from it all”. It’s even better than cake, yeah, it’s that good.
So let’s dive in.
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What are the benefits of nature therapy?
Decreased levels of Cortisol
Cortisol is that pesky hormone that keeps life feeling overwhelming and frustrating. It’s your main stress hormone and it can wreak havoc on your professional and personal lives.
A study showed that people who engaged in 2 days of forest bathing (more on that in a moment) had lower levels of cortisol in blood and urine samples.
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Lower Pulse Rates + Blood pressure
That same study performed in Japan on forest bathing showed that blood pressure and pulse rates decreased after those 2 days.
High blood pressure leads to all sorts of medical issues like heart attacks or strokes. So obviously, its no bueno.
Increased Parasympathetic Nerve activity
Your parasympathetic nervous system essentially controls all of your non-conscious body functions. It’s job is to conserve energy and is often called the rest and digest system. It manages your digestive system’s health and functionality as well as helps regulate your heart rate.
So this is a good thing to increase. You know how when you’re stressed and haven’t been taking enough time for self care, your digestive tract is the first to let you know if it’s thoughts on the subject? If you don’t, you’re lucky. For the rest of you, you know what I’m saying. Your gut tries to kill you when you’re struggling. And your toilet becomes your best friend. Or you have to wear your Thanksgiving pants because you’re bloating like it’s your job.
Increasing that parasympathetic nerve activity saves you a lot of grief. Your gut is happier (and more functional) and thus, you’re happier. Thank you nature therapy!
Decrease Sympathetic nerve activity
By contrast, your sympathetic nervous system controls the fight or flight response. While this response is extremely useful, it has its time and place. And for many of us its time is constantly and its place seems to be everywhere. Well that’s not a great thing for our long-term health.
Nature therapy helps reduce the sympathetic nervous system’s activity, which means you’ll feel calmer and less anxious because your body is recognizing not everything is a threat. More nature = less adrenaline.
Theories of Decreased risk of early death
There are theories that nature therapy can help reduce the risk of early death. Of course this one hasn’t been 100% proven, however, I think it merits some recognition.
There are some preliminary studies that people who spend time in nature have fewer cancer cells in their bodies (ps we all have cancer cells in our bodies – cancer becomes and issue when there’s wayyyy too many cancerous cells).
Being out in nature also encourages things that we all know for being good for our health. It encourages activity and curiosity, reduces attention fatigue, and of course there is the whole thing of fresh air. Fresh air means better air quality, which means it’s healthier to breathe it in. So thank your trees for that.
Mental Health + Nature Therapy
Increased levels of concentration + focus
Feeling burnt out and can’t focus for more than 2 seconds? Nature. Yep, that’s right, after spending time in nature people show increased levels of concentration and focus.
I don’t know about you but I know that if I can focus I can get quadruple the amount of work done. Which means I have more time for naps, snacks, and nature which are all wins.
Pro Tip! Utilize 10 minutes on your lunch break to go outside, and take a walk. Bonus points if you can walk in a park. Your afternoon will feel a bit more productive and you’ll be able to keep the 2pm slump at bay.
Increased levels of creativity
Calling all creatives! Why not pull a Ralph Waldo Emerson and escape to the woods for 2 years, 2 months, and 2 days?
Okay, yeah that may not be realistic but it would be a dream for any introverted creative person. Spending time in nature has been shown to increase levels of creativity. I have found that nature has cured me of writer’s block dozens of time and always helps me gain new perspectives on problems.
Maybe nature is just where the muses hang out. But if you’re in a creative slump, strap on your hiking shoes, grab some snacks and go get inspired. And then feel free to thank me later.
Want to feel happier? Go outside. Nature therapy is a great way to quickly boost your mood. Perhaps it’s the exposure to sunshine and vitamin D or maybe it’s just because your away from your annoying coworker.
I know that I’m always happier when people leave me alone so maybe it’s not shocking that nature is the bomb.
Just think about when you were a kid. Playing outside with your friends was always the best way to spend your summer days. Whether you all were exploring your town, playing at the pool, or just having fun playing in someone’s yard. Those were the happiest days. Recreate them, go outside + play.
Mental time out
Nature therapy gives your brain a break from critical thinking and problem solving. As we discussed it also decreases your fight or flight response which gives your brain some peace from constant anxiety.
You aren’t being bombarded with requests, stimulation, unnatural lighting, or urban stressors when your spending some time connecting with nature.
Many of our brains are like sleepy toddlers….they just need a break and a nap from a long day of stimulation from the world.
Mindfulness meditation practice
I saved the most important benefit for last! We all know that you’re here on The Fulfillment Pill to learn to incorporate more mindfulness into your daily life. Well nature therapy is a 100% a mindful meditation practice.
Mindfulness meditation is focused on being aware of all your senses and aware of your thoughts, emotions, and any tensions in your body. Bringing awareness to these things help you process difficult things, slow down + feel less overwhelmed by stimuli, and release negativity that’s weighing you down.
Nature therapy is mindfulness. Nature engages all of your senses automatically. You feel the trees and the earth around you. You hear all of the singing birds, chirping crickets, and the rustling of the trees. Your nose fills with the smell of damp earth, fresh leaves, and probably enough pollen to require you to carry your very important allergy meds. You’re surrounded by greenery or hopefully something just as beautiful. And you can almost taste the wonders of the world around you – or you could just be smart and taste the snacks you should always carry with you. #priorities.
You are left with your own thoughts, whether those are comfortable or not and you don’t have to be disturbed with the expectations, needs, or requests of others. Giving yourself some peace and time to enjoy your own company is great for personal growth. Nature is just a great setting to do that in.
Read more about enjoying your own company! The Benefits of Alone Time + 50 Self-Date Ideas
Types of Nature Therapy
There are several ways to reap the rewards of nature even if you can’t always escape to the mountains every weekend.
I find green therapy interesting also super easy. Simply by being around greenery has been shown to give several of the benefits of nature therapy. This is great if you’re stuck in a super urban setting. City parks, community gardens, houseplants, even looking at photos of nature (though this last one has very marginal effects compared to actually being with real life greenery) all help your physical and mental health. Which is a great excuse for you to buy even more plants.
Call me an old lady, but I love gardening. Getting dirty, feeling the earth in below my feet, and creating something so beautiful a AND edible….it’s just the best thing in existence.
Trees are friends. Forest bathing is a nature therapy method started in Japan and is my favorite way to spend my time. Trees are magical and give us so much that we take for granted. Even spending 10 minutes in a forest can help you feel the effects of nature therapy. It’s been found that those who spend 2 hours a day on average in the woods, are healthier, happier, and feel more fulfilled in their lives.
Theories on why nature therapy helps so much
When you get dirty, you are exposed to potential illnesses and pathogens. By being exposed to those your immune system gets stronger. A stronger immune system means a healthier life.
Negative Ions are Absorbed
I have absolutely no idea how this works or if it works but it is a huge theory in the spiritual community. It is also the reasoning for daily grounding. Grounding is simply standing outside (on something natural like grass or dirt) for at least 10 minutes to feel more connected to the earth. I don’t know if the ground sucks out our negative charges, but I know that I enjoy walking around barefoot every morning.
Getting back to our roots (pun intended)
We came from the forests in Africa and like other apes have always thrived in forests and nature. So much so that we chose to “conquer” nature and develop all our fancy civilizations.
But nature knows better. You can’t just break up with her. You’ll never find someone as amazing as she is in our urban jungles, so like all pitiful exes, we are crawling back to nature.
Nature is our home. Home feels good.
More clean air means better brain functionality. Better brain functionality means better functionality in general.
Gettin’ that D helps with numerous health factors as well as improving mood, well being, and sleep. I know some of you have your mind in the gutter so I definitely mean Vitamin D….from sunshine….obviously.
Our world never turns off. Never. With the internet + technology we’re totally screwed if you ever want a moment where things aren’t moving a million miles per hour.
I love technology (seriously, I built this business with technology + without the internet I’d be screwed), but our brains aren’t capable of handling so much constant stimulation. Depression + anxiety levels are increasing exponentially and it is thought that being constantly connected is part of it.
If your brain has no time to relax away from the stimulation, how can it effectively know what stimulus is threatening or not.
Nature though, reduces that stimulation, either because you have no cell service, or hopefully because you left your phone at home.
And my personal theory….faeries + witches.
I would like to propose the theory that nature is filled with faeries and witches that feel bad for us heathens slaving away in society. Their domains have been filled with magic and happiness and we feel that magic when we join them in their homes.
This one is the coolest theory that my 8 year old self came up with forever ago, so it’s the one I’m going to stick with.
If I haven’t convinced you of how amazing the benefits of nature therapy are, I should probably just quit trying. Nature is a glorious thing that gives wayyyy more back to us than we give to it.
Our physical health is important and we’re finally recognizing the importance of our mental health and nature takes care of both.
So what do you think of nature therapy? How can you use it to save your sanity?
And now that you know the benefits of nature therapy, perhaps your curious how else you can help yourself create a happier, less stressful, more intentional life.
Well, The Fulfillment Pill is dedicated to helping you create that life for yourself. So, if you haven’t already, sign up below for access to our super duper awesome resource page and weekly notes from us chock full of goodies to create a mindful and joyous existence! Do it…you know you want to…