Nature Therapy

During bottomless coffee and brunch at The Bro’kin Yolk, an old friend and I reconnected over some serious life discussions, when we got on the topic of Nature Therapy and the effect nature has on our well-being.

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A beautiful hike last summer at The Royal National Park in Australia.

What is Nature Therapy you ask? “Nature therapy seeks to improve immune functions, prevent illnesses, and maintain and promote health through exposure to nature, with the consequent attainment of a state of relaxation” according to a meta-anylsis conducted in 2016 [1].

In this article, they discussed how humans have transitioned into more urbanized areas compared to our ancestors. Due to industrialization, we have moved out of our natural environments and into cities, surrounded by man made infrastructure, which can cause new age stressors in our everyday lives.

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I was intrigued by this concept of nature and the “healing properties” it possesses, that I decided to conduct my own research to shed some light on why we need to get outside and into nature.

Before even reading any of these articles, I have always felt a sense of relief when in nature. After a good sweat and a day spent outside, a metaphorical weight has been lifted. I feel such a strong connection to my body, my awareness and my surroundings when I’m out in nature, something that rarely happens in the city. Often times I don’t even realize i’ve driven home after a long day of school and work. My body is in autopilot.

Nature Therapy is prescribed in countries like Japan and South Korea. Instead of being prescribed medication, they are being “prescribed” nature.[2]

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After reading numerous studies, the benefits from nature  were astonishing.

Here are 5 interesting facts about Nature Therapy:

1. Nature therapy is beneficial for individuals from all walks of life. Veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), children with behavioural issues,  individuals with psychological discourses, men and women in rehabilitation or suffering from depression, anxiety and trauma, all showed improvement either mentally, physically or emotionally when exposed to nature.

2. Exposure to nature could benefit our society[3]Today there is a huge disconnect between people and nature. This disconnect could produce feelings of detachment to our ecosystem. Nature can be a way to expose and educate individuals, resulting in greater cooperation and sustainability. The article suggests a possible decline in crime as another benefit of nature and education.

3. “Shinrinyoku” or forest-bathing, has been shown to increase immune function in the body[4]This particular study found that after just three days in nature, there was in increase in Natural Killer cells and activity (which induces tumor cell death) in the blood through an increase in anti-cancer protein expression.

4. Nature therapy can help build stronger relationships and self-confidence[5]When hiking with a partner, family or group, naturally relationships will develop. In a case study done in the United States, a young high school student, from a low socio-economic background, was able to build self confidence, lose weight, make new friends and demonstrate leadership qualities during a summer backpacking trip. I work in numerous schools around Calgary and have seen the substantial differences in students who were given time to play outside, rather than being inside.

5. Viewing natural landscapes have been shown to produce positive affects[6]Even by just viewing an image of natural landscapes or looking out a car window to a natural landscape has been proven beneficial. Natural landscapes help to “reduce stress, improve attention capacity, facilitat[e] recovery from illness, ameliorat[e] physical well-being in elderly people, and behavioural changes that improve mood and general well-being.”

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I have cited and added a reference list to all of the sources I gathered information from below. I hope each and every one of you reading will take time to gather your own research and develop your own opinions on this matter. Nature Therapy resonates strongly with me as I have personally felt the mental, physical and emotional impact of nature in my life. I want to learn more and do more. It’s time to get outside and take control of your life… or maybe let nature take the reigns for a bit.

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How has nature affected your life?

References

  1. Physiological Effects of Nature Therapy: A Review of the Research in Japan
    by Song, Chorong; Ikei, Harumi; Miyazaki, Yoshifumi
    International journal of environmental research and public health, 2016, Volume 13, Issue 8
  2. http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-33368691
  3. Cooperation is in our nature: Nature exposure may promote cooperative and environmentally sustainable behavior
    by Zelenski, John M; Dopko, Raelyne L; Capaldi, Colin A
    Journal of Environmental Psychology, 06/2015, Volume 42
  4. Forest Bathing Enhances Human Natural Killer Activity and Expression of Anti-Cancer Proteins
    by Li, Q; Morimoto, K; Nakadai, A; Inagaki, H; Katsumata, M; Shimizu, T; Hirata, Y; Hirata, K; Suzuki, H; Miyazaki, Y; Kagawa, T; Koyama, Y; Ohira, T; Takayama, N; Krensky, A.M; Kawada, T
    International Journal of Immunopathology and Pharmacology, 04/2007, Volume 20, Issue 2
  5. Ecotherapy: A Counter to Society’s Unhealthy Trend?
    by Sackett, Corrine R
    Journal of Creativity in Mental Health, 06/2010, Volume 5, Issue 2
  6. Health effects of viewing landscapes – Landscape types in environmental psychology
    by Velarde, M; Fry, G; Tveit, M
    Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 2007, Volume 6, Issue 4

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