The last year and a bit has been, well, odd. The certainties of life have been torn asunder for many. The commute. The office. The gigs. The cafe visits. The nights out. Scores of things we take, or at least took, for granted were whipped away almost overnight in a race against infection.
Yet, one thing that has never gone anywhere, though at times has been harder to connect with, is nature.
The greenery, the trails, the gentle wind, the lapping of the waves against the shore and the sounds of animals going about their daily grind oblivious to the human pandemic to name but a few. Nature is all around us. And it’s almost ubiquitous presence makes its benefits intermittently invisible.
Studies and articles in places like Stanford, Yale and Harvard are booming. With literally thousands in the last 10 years extolling and evidencing the virtues of nature on our health and wellbeing, both in body in mind.
Movement is good for the body. Whether running, walking or bouncing on a space hopper. It’s all good. Doing it in nature even more so. It’s like a two for one health pill.
The evidence shows just 20 mins in nature a day – whether sitting still or moving – significantly reduces the levels of cortisol in the body, a key stress hormone. The brain scans show a more settled mind, ready to deal with complex challenges and be creative as opposed to a brain that is in survival mode as we lead our often frenetic, action focused, to do list obsessed lives.
Things like blood pressure, anxiety levels and variable heart rate all improve in a natural environment. As if the forest is a silent therapist who we only need to look at in order to release our tension. It’s not speculative or intuitive, it is evidenced in studies and research.
And, there is serious emerging evidence that the air, the aerosols given off by trees in particular, that we breathe in natural surroundings have a further beneficial impact on the immune system. Creating a spike in NK cells in the body which is a key part of our natural defences.
And it’s free right? We don’t all have easy and direct access to nature. But where we do we should use it, cherish and embrace it. And protect it. It’s not just good for the environment to have green spaces around. It is good for us, as humans to have places to escape to. Places where we can recalibrate and reboot from the incessant lives many of us lead.
Next time you are feeling uptight. Next time you are feeling stressed. Next time the headache is coming on. Don’t reach for wine, paracetamol or the comfort food. Or all three. Slip on the gutties and get out into nature. You will move, you will breathe and you will detox. And it will be free and beautiful.
Nature is ours to enjoy and protect. Our green spaces are important and should be guarded with an unashamed zeal. Access to them to should be for all. And all of us should access. I’m off for a walk and some of mother nature’s finest medicine.