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7 health benefits to be gained from interacting with nature

Strolling through a forest, walking along the shore of a beach or lying on the grass to watch birds in flight has a therapeutic effect. Natural spaces provide incredible opportunities to recuperate from mental fatigue and connect in a renewed way with our surroundings. Several scientific studies have now shown that experiences in nature can benefit the psychological and physical well-being of people.

By Ladera Sur.

Nature also provides opportunities to play outdoor sports, develop our social life, alongside innumerable benefits for people’s physical and emotional well being.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP), have corroborated the human health benefit from contact with nature in several studies.

Semi-rural areas, metropolitan parks, along with protected natural spaces near cities, have a great capacity for reducing stress, cortisol levels, anxiety and depression, as well as reducing the risk of a host of associated pathologies such as type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The benefits of nature are so valuable and varied that new disciplines have been created that seek to combine traditional medicine with interaction with nature. In the East, for example, the practice of Shinrin-yoku (a Japanese term that can be translated as “forest bathing,”) has been spreading rapidly for the past three decades. A new discipline called forest medicine has spring up. It consists of taking walks in the forest on a regular basis to improve health.

We leave you with this list therefore of 7 benefits that contact with nature provides to people’s health.

1.- Reducing stress and maintaining daily well-being

Regular exposure to nature has a positive effect on mood, concentration, self-discipline and stress. This is supported by a study conducted by The Countryside Charity in England, which found that 95 % of people interviewed said that their mood improved when they spent time outdoors. They felt less depressed, stressed and nervous, and more relaxed and balanced. Another study published in the scientific journal, Frontiers in Psychology, showed that spending time in contact with nature is related to positive mood, psychological well-being and vitality. Simply put: people who spend more time in nature tend to be happier.

Health benefits
2.- Lowering blood pressure, heart rate and cortisol levels in the blood.

Some studies have pointed to relaxation as well as recreation in nature as contributing to lowering blood pressure, reducing nervous system disruption and improving the function of the immune system. These activities can also reduce the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature birth and premature death.

3.- Boosting the immune system

Significant research has shown that spending time in nature protects against various diseases. It relaxes us and acts as an energy booster that helps protect us from cardiovascular, respiratory, mental and muscular diseases.

4.- Combating depression and anxiety

Precisely because contact with nature reduces the secretion of cortisol and improves mood in general, taking a walk in nature is a practice that is especially suited to people suffering from depression or anxiety. In fact, a study conducted by the University of Michigan showed that after a 50-minute walk in nature, people with depression improved their self-esteem and cognitive capacity. It should be noted that scientific analyses in this field highlight that the effect is greater if some physical activity is performed, which also improves the quality of sleep.

Health benefits
5.- Improving life expectancy

Several studies show that contact with nature improves people’s life expectancy. Just a small increase in nearby vegetation contributes to a decrease in mortality, according to a study conducted by researchers at the Institute for Global Health in Barcelona (ISGlobal).

6.- Mitigation of heat stress, reduction of exposure to air pollutants and reduction of noise stress

Nature regulates atmospheric temperature by providing shade, evaporation and transpiration. It also reduces exposure to air pollution, providing clean air. Additionally, it dampens noise pollution, with vegetation absorbing or diffracting it.


7.- Creating opportunities for learning, personal development and self-esteem

All of the above points suggest that nature benefits us as individuals, but more and more research is showing that it also has a positive effect on society as a whole. A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that people who spent 60 seconds looking at very tall trees were more likely to help a stranger and be politer than the other half of the test participants who looked at an equally tall building for one minute. It is also worth noting that there are several studies that indicate that nature deficit has a serious impact on our well-being, as it has been associated with depression, loss of empathy and lack of altruism.