As a way of de-stressing, many people feel an intrinsic call to spend time in nature, and this makes good sense. Our brain and body are in the main hard-wired to connect with the laws of nature. The changing of the seasons, the rise and setting of the sun are natural processes that our DNA is programmed to respond to, not with the 24/7 hectic work schedules many people in today’s world live by.

A walk in the forest or bush the Japanese call “Shinrin-yoku”, which is their term for “forest bathing”. It is known to benefit our physical and mental health because we inhale beneficial bacteria, plant-derived essential oils and negatively charged ions via the forest air.

Our emotional state is enhanced also, as research has shown that physical activity, especially in forest areas, by the sea and other nature environments is an excellent way to de-stress and bring some balance back into our daily lives. The activity also creates a state of Eustress where the ‘happy hormones’ such as endorphins are released into our system and we become proactive in creating a state of wellbeing by natural means.

Researchers from McGill University in Canada found that those who lived in cities during the first 15 years of their life also had increased activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, which helps to regulate the amygdala. This means that those individuals who grew up in an urban environment had a greater sensitivity to stress.

Other research has shown that even viewing images of natural scenery activates brain areas associated with empathy and altruism. In contrast, viewing urban scenes triggers blood flow to the amygdala and this is where our fear and stress is recorded.

A wealth of research points to the calming and healing effects of nature on the human body and mind. Research has found that people who took a 90-minute walk in nature several times a week reported lower levels of mental illness such as stress, anxiety and depression than people who took a comparable walk in the city.

Those people who live in a greener environment and use it on a regular basis report fewer health complaints and better mental health. The green space can be city parks, farming areas, forest or any similar area. All have been found to be equally beneficial.

In 1973 on commencing my Chiropractic study in Toronto, Canada, the Dean explained to us in our first Chiropractic Principles class…“The healing power of nature, vis medicatrix naturae, has traditionally been defined as an internal healing response designed to restore health.”

Almost a century ago, famed biologist Sir John Arthur Thomson provided an additional interpretation of the word nature within the context of vis medicatrix, defining it instead as…

“the natural, non-built external environment. He maintained that the healing power of nature is also that associated with mindful contact with the animate and inanimate natural portions of the outdoor environment.”

A study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health highlighted the need for residents of urban environments to find relief from urban stressors, preferably by having access to outdoor open spaces.

Researchers explained…The study focused on the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, which handle stress either by triggering the “fight-or-flight response” or by enhancing physiological calm, respectively. Students wore sensors to track their heart rates and other functions and then viewed photos of green or urban spaces. The photos were shown both before and after the students conducted a serious of difficult math problems designed to raise stress levels.

When photos of green spaces were seen after the math test, the parasympathetic nervous system was activated and lowered heart rates. The researchers concluded…

“This study indicates that five minutes of viewing urban green space can support recovery from stress as shown in enhanced parasympathetic activity. These findings strengthen and deepen the growing evidence-base for health benefits of green space in the living environment. In particular, the present findings point to the importance of visual access to green space in providing readily available micro-restorative opportunities.”

If you would like to immerse yourself in two days of creating your own unique Stress Management Toolkit with tools and strategies that build your resilience and teach you how to convert ‘bad stress’ into ‘good stress’, then join us in Brisbane on 22 & 23 October for the Stress to Strength Experience Workshop. We have a fantastic team of qualified Stress Management Practitioners who will guide and mentor you through the processes. Plus you’ll have lots of fun and go home relaxed and de-stressed.

To join us, register at www.stresstostrength.com/experience/

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