Nature isn’t only pretty to look at. It can also play an important role for your physical and mental health. Studies have shown nature activities can help you be less stressed, healthier, and happier.
However, many people suffer from a nature deficit disorder, which can lead to or worsen a variety of health issues such as anxiety, high blood pressure, diabetes, and insomnia. If you suffer from nature deficit disorder, it might be time to invest in nature-based activities.
Welcome to another installment in my “What is Ecomedicine?” series, part of my goal to create a compendium of well-researched scientific blogs on the various kinds of ecomedicine or nature therapy out there. Since there are so many kinds of ecomedicine out there, I want to help you find what you need to begin to feel better—with actual scientific facts about what works and what doesn’t.
If you believe you could benefit from more time in nature, I challenge you to try one of these five nature activities this week:
- Yoga in nature
- Forest bathing
- Surf therapy
Nature Activity 1: Gardening
Gardening isn’t just necessary for the health of your plants; it might be necessary for your own health as well. Gardening helps improve appetite, blood pressure, focus, verbal expression, sleep, mood, memory, strength, agility and balance. It can diminish pain, apathy, agitation and aggression in patients. And gardening provides sensory stimulation, distraction, and pleasure—not to mention a healthy dose of Vitamin D!
Want to learn 3 other ways gardening is good for your health? Check out my previous blog all about gardening.
Nature Activity 2: Hydrotherapy
Hydrotherapy (or “water cure”) refers to the therapeutic use of water to stimulate the body’s healing force. Many beneficial changes take place in the body in response to warm or cold water hydrotherapy. Some of those benefits include lowering heart rate and blood pressure, increasing circulation of antioxidants in the blood, and reducing levels of free radicals. It also increases production of anti-inflammatory agents in the body, reduces pain, spasm, or tension, and provides relief from depressed or anxious emotions. Hydrotherapy may also help to detoxify metals, pesticides and herbicides, and other toxic buildup from improper diet and lifestyle.
So how exactly do you use hydrotherapy? Is it as easy as taking more baths or showers? Not exactly. Check out seven ways to use hydrotherapy to promote better health.
Nature Activity 3: Yoga in Nature
What if I told you that a daily downward dog in the park could help you reduce your stress, heal your depression and PTSD, and even lower your blood pressure, manage your symptoms of chronic diseases like COPD and Parkinson’s, and help you sleep better?
Whether you have just a passing familiarity with yoga or you’re meeting with your mat daily, you probably have an inkling that yoga is supposed to be good for you. But you might be surprised by just how good it can be—and how many wildly diverse health problems it can be a palliative for. Yoga can be a valid therapeutic technique for dealing with problems like depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, PTSD, Parkinson’s, and even cancer.
Nature Activity 4: Forest Bathing
You might have heard about forest bathing before and know that it’s supposed to be good for your health — but you might feel a little in the weeds on the particulars. How, exactly, is walking around a bunch of trees supposed to be just as good as medicine for your body?
Forest bathing, also known as forest therapy or shinrin-yoku, is a concept that originated in Japan in 1982 and was inspired by Buddhist and Shinto traditions. It involves immersing oneself in nature for its many physical and mental health benefits, using all five of one’s senses. Sometimes it’s combined with guided activities and meditations; sometimes it simply involves slowing down to take a meditative, deliberate, slow walk under a canopy of trees.
Nature Activity 5: Surf Therapy
What if I told you that catching a wave isn’t just a great way to hang loose—it’s also a bonafide therapeutic technique that can help reduce symptoms of depression, stress, PTSD, and more? Surf therapy uses the physical activity of surfing as an anchor to the healing process and like many other kinds of nature therapy, it can be utilized both as a stand-alone intervention and as an addition to other more traditional approaches like psychotherapy or medication.
Gardening, hydrotherapy, yoga in nature, forest bathing, and surfing are great nature activities to combat the many health problems caused or worsened by a nature deficit disorder. However, if you want to dive further into this topic, consider downloading my free ebook! The ebook discusses how nature can help you be healthier, happier, and less stressed this week and includes over 10 more nature based activities to try, including specific activities and guidelines for different health conditions.
Scheduling one or two nature based activities into your busy agenda is a great commitment to your current wellbeing and the longevity of your health.