Usually when I get stressed or upset about something, or just feel like I need to take a break from what ever I am doing, my automatic reaction is to go out in the woods or by the sea. That is where my thoughts get back into place and things return to their right scales. When it comes to walks in the green, I love the smell of forest, flowers, nettles, the delicate little sounds of life, and all the magnificent detail in nature. However, it has only recently occurred to me that these trips are not only enjoyable, but improve my health on so many levels.
It has been known for a while that even a short walk in nature has beneficial effects on mental health. It reduces stress and even helps to overcome depression. When it comes to physical health, the exercise (walking) is of course important, and especially if carried out every day, for example on ones way to work. (Did you know that the small acts of everyday life that count as exercise – walking to work or to the shops, taking the stairs instead of the elevator – can actually have a greater impact on your physical health than exercising as a hobby a few times a week? Another funny fact I remember is that people who fidget a lot – tapping ones fingers on the desk at school, shaking ones leg – are usually slimmer.) The most baffling news for me was, however, the extent to which walks in nature can improve ones immunity system!
According to a study carried out by Tari Haahtela and Ilkka Hanski’s research groups (University of Helsinki, Environmental biodiversity, human microbiota and allergy are interrelated, 5/2012), there is a correlation between the bacteria on human skin and mucosa and the biodiversity of the surroundings of the person. This bacteria is extremely beneficial, protecting a person from inflammation, sickness and allergy, but it needs a contact with nature to stay rich and functioning. Therefore, your daily stroll through natural environment can be more important to your health than you think.
If you aren’t lucky enough to live in the middle of nature, I advice you to do what it takes to get in contact with nature more regularly – find a place to go for a walk in, bicycle to work, alter your route to work so that you get to cross through a forest or a park… It is easier than you think and will definitely pay off. A moment of recharge, calm and beauty. Whether it is Spring or the rainy days of Autumn, whether it is a bright and sunny morning or a dusky evening, nature is always beautiful.
What do you do to get into contact with nature?