Your Prescription: Nature
11 October 2019
When you think about it, the amount of time humans have spent in urban environments is relatively small – just a slice of the two million years we’ve existed on Earth. And now, research is showing that removal from nature could be having significant effects on our health and wellbeing.
Aside from studies linking green space to a decrease in crime and an increase in positive community relationships, researchers are finding more and more connections between nature and our everyday health. In fact, research from the University of East Anglia (using data from more than 290 million people) showed that populations with higher levels of green spaces reported better overall health. That means an effect on everything from blood pressure and stress to type II diabetes and sleep. Exposure to nature has also been shown to boost natural immunities by up to 50 percent – a boost that scientists say isn’t just a fleeting increase, but a long-term effect.
Now, doctors have found a quantifiable amount of time in which you can start feeling the wellness benefits – 120 minutes, according to a paper published in the Journal of Scientific Reports. That is a little more than 17 minutes per day. The study, which examined nearly 20,000 people in England from 2014 to 2016, found that spending as little as 2 hours per week in nature left them in better health and improved wellbeing, as opposed to people who did not go out at all.
To that end, forward-thinking spas and wellness centers are putting scientific knowledge to use, building and designing innovative spa treatments that incorporate the nature that surrounds them. In addition to incorporating aromatherapy and local surroundings into spa treatments, OneSpaWorld offers spa-goers the option of wellness wanderlust at many of it spas across the world, including drum circles in Bali, a tour through lavender fields in France and an immersive rejuvenating mud experience at Vietnam’s Thap Ba hot springs.
For those who want to experience the benefits on a more regular basis, experts say even just the visual effects of nature can be an instant mood lift— a boost accomplished by something as simple as moving your desk to a window view. As Dr. Jason Strauss, director of geriatric psychiatry at Cambridge Health Alliance told “Harvard Health,” “Nature can have a powerful effect on our mental state and there are many ways to tap into it.”
INCORPORATING NATURE INTO YOUR DAILY LIFE
- Walk. Nature walks have long been proven to boost mood and bring cardiovascular benefits. Take a five- or ten-minute stroll with your partner, children or even dog to get a quick dose of sunshine.
- Look. University of Illinois nature researcher Ming Kuo recently told NPR that she walks to school each day with her head literally in the trees, focusing on the tree canopy that leads her way.
- Garden. Even something as simple as a houseplant has been shown to relieve stress and remove toxins from the air. Experts point to Boston ferns, azaleas and snake plants as good choices.
- Escape. Plan vacations (or even a quick weekend trip) to nature-centric destinations such as luxury camping experiences, cruises to beautiful beaches or even green-focused spas.
- Relocate. Look for outdoor options inside your daily (or weekly) schedule. Seeking out an outdoor yoga class or moving a lunch date to a patio table are simple ways to sneak in a bit of fresh air.