As larger numbers of the population begin to question traditional healthcare, a return to nature seems to provide the most beneficial way of regaining a healthier and happier life. There are even those who believe that getting outdoors and reconnecting with the natural world can provide an ailment for many of the conditions that now debilitate them. Does it work? Or is it just a placebo effect? A look at recent research and the ways in which people are finding happiness in nature may provide a startling answer.
Can nature heal our bodies?
Families have always looked on camping trips as a way to bond and even therapists have sent troubled teens on wilderness retreats to help build character and instill a sense of teamwork. From there, wilderness therapy has evolved into something purposely retooled for helping everyone from children to adults heal psychological and physical problems.
Seeking to either authenticate this form of therapy or disprove its effectiveness, studies have been conducted on how reconnecting with nature can affect the human body. The first such survey was conducted in 2002 by Dr. Steve Aldana, a Brigham Young University researcher. Working strictly with teens, Dr. Aldana wanted to discover how teens functioned in the real world, after returning from a wilderness retreat. He tested the subjects upon arriving at the retreat and again, six months after the teens returned to their homes.
The Brigham Young University researcher found that there was a marked improvement in the adolescents. Specifically, he found that 91.4% of the subjects’ attitudes and ability to function in society had significantly improved.
What can reconnecting with nature do for you?
A look at some obvious and not so obvious benefits of outdoor living may shed light on why reconnecting with nature can lead to happier and more relaxed people. One of those more obvious benefits comes with the inhalation of more pure oxygen. When we’re close to nature and drawing breath from the oxygen released by the plants around us, our lungs work more efficiently. By giving our cells a boost, our bodies can be cleansed.
Additionally, the vitamin D delivered to our bodies by the sun will also strengthen our bones, while also enhancing our nervous and immune systems.
Something we may not consciously think about is the way that just being outdoors helps to relieve stress and puts our minds at ease. Whether we’re sitting in a garden, walking the dog, or going for a bicycle ride, the very act of being outdoors relaxes us and boosts our emotional health.
Some ways anyone can reconnect with nature
Reconnecting with nature is more than just being outside, even though just sitting someplace away from the hustle and bustle does have its benefits. To reconnect with nature means to literally do just that. Touch it. Appreciate it. People have reported feeling a surge of joy and relief by removing their shoes and socks and sinking their bare feet into fresh grass in a park or the water on the ocean shore. If going barefoot is impossible, touch a tree or smell a fresh flower.
Taking things a step further, consider playing with nature. Some activities to consider: gardening, building sand castles, swimming, etc. Pretty much anything that lets you get your hands dirty will cleanse your spirit.
You can also infuse your home with nature. Buying or picking fresh flowers for your home or collecting crystals and seashells are just a few ways to give your home a more natural feel.
Greeting the natural world upon waking is a great way to start your day. Just opening your window and breathing in the fresh air can help declutter your thoughts and prepare you for the day ahead. Enjoy the smell of the flowers, the sounds of the birds chirping, and the sight of the morning horizon.
These are just a few ways in which we can reconnect with the outside world. Getting away from the concrete and steel jungle, even for a short time, can have immeasurable benefits on our minds, bodies, and our hearts.
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