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Ever notice how when you go and sit at the beach, or find yourself surrounded by trees, or maybe after a long day of hitting the ski slopes, you find yourself taking deeper breaths and feeling more relaxed and at peace? Being outside and surrounded by nature has a soothing and healing effect, a phenonenon gaining more and more credibility among science researchers who study mood. In fact, research gathered from the New Zealand Health Survey found that living somewhere with a view of the ocean is associated with improved mental health.1
A study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that spending time in nature can decrease obsessive and negative thoughts compared to those who lived in urban settings. The research also found that those who walked for 90 minutes in a natural environment setting reported lower levels of rumination (overthinking or obsessive thinking) and reduced neural activity in the part of the brain that is related to mental illness.2
Recent research has also found that creative problem solving can be improved greatly by disconnecting from technology and allowing yourself to reconnect with nature.3
Take Your Shoes Off
Another avenue to explore when looking to reconnect with nature is earthing or grounding. This involves placing your feet directly on the ground, whether it be grass, sand, dirt, without shoes or socks, completely barefoot. Earthing is based on the theory that the Earth carries electron-rich negative charges, which act as a source of antioxidants and free-radical destroyers.
Grounding can promote feelings of well-being, enhance overall health, reduce pain, improve immune responses, and positively affect various circulating chemical factors related to inflammation. Grounding also appears to improve sleep, reduce stress, and reduce blood viscosity.4
What Else Can Nature Do For My Health?
While we already know that getting outdoors can leave us feeling more Zen, what you might not know is that being outside can actually benefit your health in many other ways.
Research has shown that taking nature walks outside can enhance mental health, as well as significantly lower levels of depression and feelings of stress.5 Walking is a great outlet for those looking to boost their mood naturally, as it is inexpensive and accessible to pretty much anyone.
If you find yourself not being able to focus for long periods of time, then planning an outdoor escape could be the remedy for you. According to a study published in Psychological Science, being involved with nature allows your brain to take a break from everyday overstimulation, which can have restorative effects on your brain and its attention levels.6
If you are looking to boost your immune system, then be sure to take a break in the sun for a bit. Vitamin D, which our bodies can make when exposed to sunlight, up-regulates your body’s ability to deal with infections, as it produces over 200 various peptides that deal with combating colds. Vitamin D is also responsible for producing cytokines, small proteins that optimize the immune response.
If you can’t physically get outside, then do your best to look at some beautiful nature scenery. A study published in the Korean Journal of Radiology found that people who were shown pictures of scenic and natural landscapes had heighted activity in areas of the brain that were associated with recall of happy memories.7