Forget fancy health tracking gadgets, expensive health foods and luxurious treatments. If you want to enhance your health, happiness, and mental and physical wellbeing, there’s no need to spend all that beer money you’ve saved going alcohol-free. The ultimate health practice is free and available to all of us; the wild, wonderful and softly fascinating world of nature.
From enhanced memory, focus and concentration, to reduced feelings of depression, and stress, spending time with mother nature has some pretty serious healing powers when it comes to our mental wellbeing. ‘Nature –connectedness’, that is, the psychological term for the beneficial connection we experience with nature, has also been found to significantly enhance our emotional wellbeing too. A recent study found that those who are more connected to nature tend to experience more positivity, vitality, and life satisfaction compared to those less connected to nature, and another found that spending time in nature cultivates more positive emotions.
Go for a bath
But it’s not only our mental wellbeing that benefits from spending time in nature. Studies have found that the Japanese practice of Shinrin-yoku has the ability to boost physical immune function too. What’s Shinrin-yoku I hear you ask? It translates beautifully as ‘forest bathing’. The simple act of taking some time out to surround ourselves with nature; to stop doing and just be, using all five senses to experience all the sounds, smells, sights and textures of the forest for a while. It’s also been suggested by researchers to be used as a potential practice in a clinical remit to reduce stress.
But what if you already spend time in nature, yet aren’t feeling the benefits? It could be that you are distracted by technology or conversation as a form of entertainment and therefore not immersing yourself fully in a sensory way. Turning your phone off, and leaving music, podcasts and audiobooks in your pocket instead of in your ears, could help. As practiced in forest bathing, using mindfulness via all five senses enables us to connect with our natural environment in a deeper way. Studies have also found that a pathway to ‘nature –connectedness’, can be found through contact, emotion, compassion, meaning, and beauty. So, if you want to enhance your nature connectedness, an easy way is to focus on the beauty of nature. Using that beauty as inspiration for creativity, be it painting, journaling or story writing, can help us to find and deepen that connection.
And the most interesting part? A study at the University of Michigan found that you don’t even have to like your time spent in nature, say, if the weather is cold or you feel bored, to enjoy the health benefits.
Take off your shoes
Going barefoot can also help you connect to nature in a more mindful and sensory way, taking us back to a time before the luxuries (and stressors) of modern day life. More than that, this practice, otherwise known as ‘earthing’ can help improve posture, reduce inflammation in the body, and stimulate reflexology points. Taking 5-15 minutes to walk around your garden barefoot of a morning with a cup of tea, or in the park at the weekend, and the beach are all great ways to start reaping the benefits of ‘earthing’.
Get wildly creative
And if you want to improve your creativity, live on the wild side and go camping. A study at the University of Kansas found that after spending a few days immersed in nature, creativity was boosted by a huge 50%. Why? The researchers believe that tuning out of our electronic devices and into nature not only allows our brains the space to be creative, but also refreshes the mind and provides alchemy from the stress and pressures we encounter day to day.
Lack of green space?
Whilst having a whole forest to bath in might be wonderful, if you live in a city or a town and don’t have a forest to call your own, even the smallest of natural spaces can benefit our health. Urban green spaces can have a profound effect on our wellbeing too. A famous study even found that a view of a natural setting from a hospital window enhanced patient’s recovery from surgery.
3 small ways to spend more time with nature
Drink your morning coffee in the garden. Pop on a jacket, grab a blanket, even an umbrella if you need to, and spend the few minutes it takes to drink your morning cuppa, listening to the morn time birdsong. A moment of serenity before you start your day; this is a habit you’ll quickly not be able to live without.
Take a break at work and mindfully check-in with the weather outside your window – be curious and watch the small details – leaves fluttering, branches saying on trees – the colour of the sky, the way the animals react. How does it make you feel?
Pick some wild flowers or foliage. Gather a bunch of wild greenery, be it long grasses, wild flowers, weeds or branches, be drawn simply to that which fascinates you, bring them inside, pop them in a vase and adorn your home with nature’s beauty.
An entrepreneur and former senior oil broker, Ruari gave up drinking after excessive consumption almost cost him his marriage, and worse, his life. Going alcohol-free improved his relationships, career and energy levels, leading to him founding OYNB to provide a support network for others.
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