As quarantine starts to become our new “normal”, we get more and more used to staying at home ta all times. We don’t feel the need to go out, as we now can shop, work out and even get piano lessons – all from the comfort of our house. Our kitchen can become a restaurant and our living room can become a cinema.
But humans aren’t made to spend all of their time sitting in a concrete box. Our cells need us to move, our lungs need to breathe fresh oxygen, and our minds need nature to thrive. In the last century we started to disconnect and separate ourselves from nature and from that moment the cases of depression, heart disease and numerous other health conditions began to rise. This is no coincidence.
Several recent studies have shown that a lot of medical symptoms related both to lifestyle and diseases, can be treated by encouraging individuals to interact with nature. Furthermore, forests and other natural environments can play a significant role in the prevention of mental and physical diseases.
These studies claim that participants exposed to the forest environment showed a significant reduction in blood sugar levels and blood pressure, which are both incredibly important for our well-being. Furthermore, walking through the forest had a positive effect on participants’ immune functions, and made favorable changes in the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines and C-reactive protein, which are responsible for the process of inflammation. Another study claims that walking in nature reduces arterial stiffness and improves pulmonary functions, even in participants of older age. Likewise, it lowers the levels of cortisol – a stress hormone, which in excess can lead to several dangerous health conditions.
It is also important to mention the remarkable influence of nature exposure on our mental health. Studies have reported the improvement in the management of psychological symptoms including anxiety, depression, mood disorders, burnout syndrome, lifestyle-related stress, and the improvement on the overall quality of life. So called “forest-bathing” or “forest therapy” also improves the quality of our short-term memory and sleep.
In short, there is numerous evidence that shows the benefits of nature exposure on our wellbeing, but science is just proving what our ancestors have known for millennials. When we come back to our natural habitat, our bodies respond with great relief and they begin to heal themselves from numerous health conditions. Therefore, in a time when our health and immunity is more important than ever before, the amount of time we spend in nature is crucial.
I am aware that it might be hard to go out for a walk right now, as many of us are currently undergoing the coldest months of winter, however, cold exposure can be of huge health benefits as well, so don’t let the temperature stop you from taking responsibility for your own wellbeing. And as my grandfather likes to say: there is no such thing as bad weather – only inadequate apparel.