Nature Nurture

The Japanese use the phrase, Shinrin-yoku. Translated literally, it means “forest bathing” which is the idea that spending time in nature is a healthy practice.

Yosemite in November

Yosemite in November

Glancing back over my past 12 months, my family and I did a good job embracing the natural world. While it’s something that we always enjoy, eight years ago during my cancer diagnosis, I first became aware that it’s a recommended strategy for healing and for coping with illness. As with many synchronicities, that first awareness triggered a plethora of reinforcing articles in my path.

Spending time in nature does indeed make us healthier. It lowers our stress which can be found at the root of many illnesses. That lowering of stress triggers a number of other benefits such as lower blood pressure, an increased feeling of vitality and boosts the growth of white blood cells. This, in turn, improves our physical health and also our mental health

Numerous studies explore the connection between time spent in nature and well-being. One study has proven the hypothesis that wilderness excursions cause increased feelings of happiness. Another study suggests that presence in nature increases energy and fights off exhaustion. It appears that there is more than one reason for this result. Naturally occurring substances called phytoncides are produced by plants to fend off the growth of bacteria and deter invasive insects. Exposed to phytoncides, these chemicals are scientifically proven to emit active substances which prevent them from rotting or being eaten by some insects and animals. In humans, the number of NK or natural killer cells increased significantly.

Similar research has shown that individuals consistently feel more energetic when they spend time outdoors in nature and it is replicated when they imagine themselves in similar settings. Hence, the notion of meditation and recreating an outdoors setting is of significant health value.

As a parent, I inhale this research! For children and young adults, outdoor play is seen to increase fitness levels, vitamin D and to lower the chance of nearsightedness. In addition, it may reduce ADHD symptoms, increase performance on standardized tests and optimize critical thinking skills. Finally, similar to adults, children’s stress levels diminish in a natural setting as do the chances for anxiety or depression. Fresh air and sunlight eliminate the incidents of seasonal affective disorder and the overall mood elevates.

The bottom line is that we become healthier, nicer people by taking opportunities to spend time in nature. Are there ways that we can foster this in the work environment? Can you take a walk with a colleague versus being holed up in a conference room? Is there a nearby park that might work for an occasional staff meeting? How about a team building session of kayaking or a day-hike?

Verde River near Clarkdale, AZ

Verde River near Clarkdale, AZ

Whether with a group or on your own, there’s ample evidence to suggest that we all benefit from being outdoors. Take a bath in the forest, find a mountain train or just get out of the building and into the outdoors!

 

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38 Comments

  1. WOW! That’s rad. I’ve been meaning to get active…maybe a hike is what I should include in the ‘get-active-list’ Passing it on to a friend who is a hiker and would love this piece of info. 🙂

    Reply
    • And the surprising thing is that getting active is a side-benefit. This is just about being outdoors in nature (or meditating on nature if you’re up for it).

      Reply
  2. I thoroughly agree with this assessment, Tammy! We get out as often as possible. And when we can’t actually physically get out, we pull up Google terrain maps of our favorite places and wander around a bit, planning the route for a trip we’d love to take! ;->

    Virtual hugs,

    Judie

    Reply
    • I love the idea of pulling up Google Terrain maps if you can’t get out. You are so “with it”!

      Reply
  3. Sally

     /  January 27, 2015

    Wonderful article on embracing nature and wellness. While in India, the GURU I was studying under, enjoyed giving classes in the gardens and encouraged us to meditate and do hearings, out in the nature. Mind, Body and Soul, all benefit . Thank you for reminding folks the power of this gift.

    Reply
  4. Reblogged this on My Little Organic Garden and commented:
    Here is a great post from Tammy on her Agrigirl blog about the benefits of being out in nature.

    Reply
  5. Great article and so very true. I love my time in nature.

    Reply
    • I love that there is such evidence that it’s good for us in all ways. Makes me want kids to climb more trees.

      Reply
  6. Such a perfect phrase – “Shinrin-yoku” – I will use it often! When my girls were young, we lived in a community that was surrounded by 365 acres of state forest land, and had a pond in the back yard. They spent hours outside playing, and we did a lot of family hiking. They still speak fondly of those times and how they loved having the freedom and time to explore nature.

    Reply
    • What lucky children they are! I think that it would do wonders for so many kids to be able to do this also.

      Reply
  7. Yes! Nature nurtures!

    Reply
  8. I love the idea of forest bathing! poetic and true. thanks for the reminder to continue fostering our connection with the natural world.

    Reply
  9. Pretty amazing that you have a post about Nature Nurture–I’m in the midst of building out my new website and my list of content categories includes Nurture as one of the topics where I’ll focus on nature. I’ve shared several articles on “forest bathing” over recent months as I build toward the launch of my Shinecast project. Time in nature is one of the key components of a healthy, happy life and I’ll be emphasizing nature on one of the Shinecast channels.

    Thanks for writing your post! Very timely! (And I hope you’re well!)

    Reply
    • Hey Sheree, nice to see you here. I need to pop over and see your new site. Glad that you and others are taking up this issue. Seems relevant in so many ways.

      Reply
  10. Sarah Haynes

     /  January 27, 2015

    Some of my landscape architect colleagues have really embraced this fact and put it into their work. Frederic Law Olmsted knew his stuff!

    Reply
  11. Great approach to living life at its fullest, and healthy living.

    Reply
    • It is something we never thought about growing up and now that people no longer do it, we need to think about it!

      Reply
  12. I would very much agree with that Japanese saying. I always feel better after a day in the outdoors. It’s so invigorating and yes, it does lift your mood. I had no idea of all the health benefits you’ve listed so that’s very good to know xx

    Reply
  13. I love the out doors and even when I can’t spend time outside due to inclement weather I gaze at the mountains that surround us. Great post Tammy 🙂

    Reply
    • Thanks Tandy. Loved that the gazing does good also. Even the idea of watching pleasing outdoor images on a monitor – although non of us needs more screen time.

      Reply
  14. Oh so true!

    Reply
  15. The phrase “forest bathing” is so wonderful. I don’t get out of town as much as I’d like, but I do “garden bathing” every morning when I tend to my vegetables and flowers. How can a nice fluffy kale plant make me so happy?

    Reply
  16. Great post Tammy! Love the term “forest bathing”

    Reply
  17. I love the outdoors too Tammy. Finally got my psoriasis more under control with diet after years and year of problems. I find nature so beautiful to photograph as well. I didn’t realise you had cancer. I have a memoir blog which I have put you and a small group of people into as I’d like to read your blogs more often. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  18. This is the link https://northernlegend.wordpress.com/ – I feed it to my main blog as well, but this one is much more family stories past and present.

    Reply
  1. Bringing the Outside In | Agrigirl's Blog

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