My family and I just got back from 2 weeks away at our little cottage far up north. No television, no internet, no cell service. Instead, my family and I took advantage of the surrounding lakes, hills and forests as an opportunity to enjoy nature. I can truly say we were all more relaxed and happier. I believe in the connection between nature and health.
Many studies have shown that nature acts as a stress buffer and promoter of health – mental health in particular. Researchers from the United Kingdom, Japan, China, and the US have connected parks, gardens, green areas, and forests with lower mortality from cancers, circulatory diseases, stroke, and other causes.
You don’t have to have a cottage or even be outside all day to enjoy the benefits, but even an hour a day spent in some sort of green space can be beneficial for your overall health.
Here are 6 ways that nature can help your health.
1. Better overall health and quality of life – A Danish study that looked at associations between green space and health found a link between distance to green space and health-related quality of life. The researchers believe that green spaces may help manage stress.
2. Boosting your immune system – In a 2011 study, researchers found that visiting a forest – but not a city – enhances natural killer (NK) cell activity. Moreover, further visits to the forest maintained a higher level of NK cell activity. Natural killer cells are a type of white blood cell that’s a key component of a healthy immune system.
3. Lowering stress and blood pressure – Studies have found that spending time in forest environments helps to lower the stress hormone cortisol, blood pressure, and heart rate.
4. Increasing physical activity – A 2012 study discovered that having green space nearby leads people to be more physically active, even if they’re not using that green space for their physical activity.
5. Boosting mental health – Distance to useable green space also has another advantage: it’s thought to provide a boost in mental health, being associated with decreased anxiety and mood disorder treatment.
6. Better cardiovascular health – Have green space in one’s neighborhood is linked to better cardiovascular health, according to a 2013 study from New Zealand.