Nature Escapes – How to be happier and healthier with nature

Too many of us spend a large part of our lives sitting at our desks on our computers, watching TV, browsing our smartphones, looking at screens. We rarely get out into nature much. Even those of us who do get the chance, quite often we are lost in our thoughts, concerns and worries. And while we may realise this isn’t healthy, we think we don’t have the time, the energy, or know how, to make a positive change.

IFTDays Finland 2018

I love being in nature…

I love being in nature and like to think I walk in nature more than most. I thought I had a balanced, healthy lifestyle. However, I didn’t realise how nature-deprived I really was until last summer.

In August 2018 I spent a week at a venue in Southern Finland at a nature-connection conference. One of the most spectacular places I have ever visited. Forests, lakes, fresh air, wonderful people, delicious healthy food, access to forest bathing (shinrin-yoku) walks & talks as well as wild swimming & lakeside saunas. An abundance of wildlife and wilderness right on my doorstep for a week.

It was bliss.

For Six days, nature allowed my body to relax and my mind to be at ease. I came home after my escape into nature feeling rejuvenated, re-energised and buzzing with lots of creative ideas for business and life in general. I also discovered many of the latest scientific studies about the health benefits associated with nature connection.

Did you know that just listening to nature sounds like birdsong, the wind in the trees and the protecting us from ever-changing sounds of water, drips, drops, ripples, splashes, lapping waves, trickling streams, all stimulate our nervous system? Providing a sense of being chilled and relaxed, while protecting us from the fight/flee stress response so many of us feel in our everyday lives.  

Traditionally January is considered the best time to commit to some healthy changes in your life. So, here are my 7 top tips to encourage you to commit to more nature escapes for a happier and healthier 2019:

1. Invest some mindful time in nature.

Take 20 minutes a day in nature—walking, gardening, sitting, or meditating. Without you knowing it, you will get exposure to unseen elements that are positively affecting your brain and body, like essential wood oils called phytoncides that improve your immune system, reduce blood pressure, lift your mood and relax your body.  Whatever you choose to do, be in nature mindfully. Investing time in nature, engaging all your senses, observing your surroundings without judgment, and appreciating everything around you will bring your body and mind into a state of calm – natural mindfulness.

2. Take a plant to work.

Put a plant in your office or wherever you spend a lot of time. Studies show that a plant in a room can improve cognition, energy, and can even decrease pain. In this latter case, studies found that placing a plant in a hospital room reduced hospital stays, decreased the need for pain medication, and reduced the negative comments nurses put in patient’s charts. Top indoor office plants

3. Find a room with a view.

Studies show that individuals have more energy and better cognitive abilities at work, when they have a view of nature instead of the urban concrete jungle. A similar study showed that patients in hospital with a view of nature healed faster and felt less pain post-op. If possible, try to spend most of your time when in your home or office in the room that provides you with views of greenery. If this is not possible, you can hang photos of nature and add a photo of nature that you love as a screen saver on your computer or smartphone. This works too. Discover 13 Science-Based Reasons That Suggest Viewing Nature Scenes Can Improve Your Health

4. Connect with nature through food.

This one is a bit obvious, but if it doesn’t come from the earth, your body will not react well to it. Think about bringing nature into your body, especially if you can’t get out into nature on a regular basis. Eat foods that are naturally available rather than processed. Look for fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, lean and hormone-free protein, plus wholesome grains. Even better, plant your own vegetables if you can—you’ll get the combined benefits of eating healthily, spending time in nature, and getting some exercise.

5. Bring nature to your fitness routine.

When you exercise outdoors, you get the benefits of being in nature like any other time and you also get the benefits of being able to enjoy the process a little more. For instance, jogging through the woods often results in more personal-best times. Psychologically joggers feel more satisfaction, more enjoyment, and less frustration when compared to the open laps, or running in the streets. Jogging in the woods decreases perceptions of fatigue and physical symptoms that might otherwise interfere with exercise. According to studies, running in nature rather than a treadmill, for an equivalent duration, is associated with less fatigue, diminished anxious thoughts, less hostility, more positive mental thoughts, and an overall feeling of invigoration.

6. Plan your life around nature.

Studies show the closer you live to some greenery, the better your health and the lower your stress levels. Green space can include parks, gardens, or even just a grassy area. You don’t have to drive miles to a forest or climb to a mountaintop. Explore your own neighbourhood and find where the parks are or start in your own garden.

7. Go on a digital detox nature retreat.

Escaping into nature, relaxing, away from your digital devices and screens, eating healthily, and sleeping deeply, is a great way to feel rested, renewed, and back on track. Many of our top hotels and venues are catching on to the healing power of more nature connection. Retreats and other nature for wellbeing experiences are becoming more available. If you have been on a digital detox, an unplugged weekend, or a nature connection retreat at a wonderful venue, please tell us about it by sharing your experience in the comments below.

IFTD 2018 Forest Friends, Finland

This year I will be detoxing on more escapes into nature. Look out for my next blog when I will be sharing my experience at an eco-lodge near Cusco in Peru and my return journey back to Finland for another IFTDays in the wilderness.

Ian Banyard is a nature connection guide/trainer, creator of Nature Connection World and the author of Natural Mindfulness ~ a guide to the healing power of nature connection

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