However time immersed in the natural world is essential to our wellbeing too. Whether it’s a quick stroll around the block or an afternoon in the hot tub, here’s how your time outdoors could be benefiting you…
Time amongst the trees has a proven positive impact on reducing stress levels and lowering blood pressure. Research undertaken in Japan reveals immersing yourself in the natural world significantly reduces stress levels and wards off depression.
Sun beams break through the trees
According to David Strayer, Ph.D., a professor of Cognition and Neural Science at the University of Utah, "Modern multitasking over-taxes brain areas that are involved in suppressing distractions, thinking creatively, and developing a sense of identity." Strayer discovered that a mere four days backpacking in nature improved people’s creativity by 50%.
A father sits in a meadow watching his child play by a cabin
What we listen to has a huge impact on our health and wellbeing. Studies undertaken by leading sound expert Julian Treasure, chairman of The Sound Agency reveal the benefits of natural sound, as well as silence. An example Treasure cites is that humans find bird song reassuring. We intrinsically feel that all is good in the world if the birds are singing.
A woman listens to the sounds of the forest
Our sense of smell is closely linked to the parts of the brain responsible for processing emotion. The scents we inhale have an immediate and profound impact. Trees and plants emit phytoncides – a volatile organic compound and wood essential oil. Inhaling phytoncides slows down breathing and reduces anxiety. Residents of some east Asian countries partake in ‘Forest Bathing’ or Shinrin-yoku, an experience which allows us to be engulfed by, and breath in, the healing powers of phytoncides. Find out more about Forest Bathing at Forest Holidays.
A group of adults practicing Forest Bathing
Research undertaken by the University of Exeter’s Medicine School details the essential role water plays in our psychological well being. Negative ions are natural antidepressants and found in bucket loads near water. As such walking trails beside lakes or along river banks are recommended for their benefits to emotional health. While those brave enough to take a dip will experience blood vessels dilating in cool water all of which encourages the body to expel toxins and release feel-good endorphins.
A family look onto a stream running in the forest
According to research undertaken by Professor Roger Ulrich at the Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, the countryside has a positive impact on convalescence, or, illness recovery time. Ulrich’s research indicates that even a view of trees from a hospital window improves rates of recovery.
A spring forest scene with bluebells and a den built from branches
In 2009, the American Medical Association adopted a resolution in support of controlling light pollution and claimed that "many species (including humans) need darkness to survive and thrive". Dark skies at night are conducive to the natural functioning of our body’s biological clock which is set by the nocturnal release of the hormone melatonin. One of the impacts of reduced amounts of melatonin is increased amounts of oestrogen, the hormone linked with breast cancer.
Michelle Obama has declared it her personal mission to get more children playing outside via her ‘Let’s Move Outside’ campaign. While US journalist Richard Louv, who studies the links between family and nature, has coined the phrase ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ in describing the growing disconnection between children and nature. The outdoors is a rich environment for young children to immerse themselves in. Whether they are climbing trees or threading a daisy chain, playing outdoors emphasises experience above technology. It boasts children’s fitness, development, confidence and fuels their imaginations. Find out more about how a daily dose of nature can support your health and wellbeing.
A mother and daughter enjoy a walk with their dog through the spring forest
For years organisations such as the Brathay Trust in Cumbria have worked with teenagers in the outdoors as a means of encouraging them to fulfil their potential. Good outdoor education has been recognised by Ofsted as contributing to improving pupils’ lives on a personal, social and emotional level.
A family enjoy walking through the autumnal forest
Our world shrinks as we grow older. As it does all the physical, emotional and social benefits of the outdoors diminish in our lives. The connection between less time outdoors and the acceleration of dementia is considerable. The multiple authors of an Open University research paper entitled The impact of early dementia on outdoor life: A ‘shrinking world’? claim that “maintaining outdoor activity is likely to be an effective preventative measure in extending the period of good quality living”.
A family spend time on the shores of Loch Long
From growing a herb patch on your windowsill to splashing in the puddles on your street, there’s lots of simple ways to get your daily dose of nature. And if you need any more inspiration on outdoor activities keep browsing the Forestipedia blog!
If you feel inspired to get outdoors, take a look at our last minute breaks for your chance to escape to the forest.