Nature as Fuel for Our Well Being

If you haven’t been feeling like yourself, you might need to get outside. In the modern world, we are all too often surrounded by four walls, and they are often made of concrete. The air we breathe is usually recycled by a heating and cooling system. Humans need to have time outside, where we can breathe in fresh air, escape the confines of four walls, and listen to the sounds of nature.

Even though humans build massive structures for work, life, and play, we are truly connected to nature. In a journal article published by Frontiers in Public Health, the role of nature in human health was studied. The researchers found that nature offers plenty of health benefits, especially relating to “neurological and circadian rhythms relating to exposures to natural sunlight.” Researchers also found that walking in the forest can actually reduce blood pressure. The researchers found that humans have an “adaptive synergy with nature.”

Nature is fuel for the health and well being in several ways. Being out in nature not only reduces blood pressure, but it actually creates more energy. In an article, in the Journal of Environmental Science, researchers found that when people are able to spend time outside, they become more energized and their vitality increases. Nature truly does act like food, it provides energy, but it does more than that. It calms the body at the same time. When people are able to spend time in environment they often return to the workplace invigorated and fresh. This feeling cannot be replicated in any other way. It can only come from time in nature.

In a Japanese study conducted in 2011, over 400 middle-aged people were taken into forests throughout Japan. When people were able to spend time just sitting in the forests, their physiology reacted in positive ways. For example, people who sat in the forest saw a decrease of more than 12% in their cortisol levels and their heart rates dropped by almost 6%. These decreases were due to a drop in stressful feelings. The relaxed state was evident by the increase in parasympathetic nerve activity – which increased by 55%.

These physiological readings were compared to readings gathered while the same people were in the cities, surrounded by concrete and treated environments. When the Japanese in the study spent time walking in nature, their physiological readings were similar to when they were sitting in nature. Interestingly, the lower numbers and relaxed feelings remained for about a month after the people stopped spending time in nature. With studies like this, it is clear that people benefit physically and psychologically from spending time in nature – away from the stresses of the urban jungle.

Nature is incredibly important to sustaining human life. For example, humans must drink water, which comes from nature. The food with the most nutrients also comes from nature in the form of leafy greens, vegetables, and fruits. Plants are pollinated by bees that are also fed by the same plants that they care for in the natural world. Many of the best medicines are also found in nature. Willow bark was used as a painkiller by ancient people. The salicylic acid from willow bark helps reduce inflammation. Morphine is another drug that comes from the natural world – specifically from poppy plants grown in a few countries.

Along with food, water, and medicine, nature helps regulate the environment. The green plants and trees use photosynthesis to exchange carbon and oxygen. Rain-forests, the ocean, and other ecosystems help keep air breathable for the humans who live on Planet Earth. Without nature, humans would not survive.

But, the natural features of forests, deserts, and other ecosystems do more than providing and sustaining life for humans. Nature helps humans improve their well-being and overall health. It provides inspiration for art, from paintings to poetry and everything in between. Consider how the Garden of Eden as the idea of paradise. Consider how many religions consider all living things to be sacred. Consider Mother Earth and how beloved, respected she is.

So, when you are feeling low and your indoor life is suffering, go outside. Take a hike in the woods. Kayak down a winding river. Find a way to fuel your well being away from concrete, air conditioning, and car exhaust. It doesn’t take much time mingling underneath the canopy to rejuvenate, refresh, and renew your health, mind and body.