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Walking in Nature - Medicine for the Soul

March 25, 2018

Most people are likely to only get between 3 and 5 weeks of paid annual leave, so making good use of this time to relax and unwind is crucial to one's wellbeing. Plush holidays where you can “have it large”, drinking cocktails by the pool and crazy nights out partying can be lots of fun, but we all know that these types of holidays can leave you feeling more depleted and depressed than before you left, making you need another holiday to get over your holiday after you get home! Furthermore, simply by living in an urban environment without access to the natural world, we are actually increasing our risk of depression, stress and anxiety disorders. So, lets explore what a nature holiday can do for you - mind, body and soul.

 

 There’s nothing quite like being deep in a forest, completely separated from society and technology. It provides an overwhelming sense of tranquil and self awareness. Those wonderful sounds, of your own breathing, your footsteps, the wind rustling though the trees and the movements of woodland creatures are all food for the soul. Taking group nature walks is wildly associated with a whole host of mental health benefits, including decreased stress, boosts of confidence and improved overall mental health. The positive effects on one's mood can be especially prominent amongst those who have recently experienced a traumatic life event like the death of a loved one, the breakdown of a relationship or a serious illness.

 

In a study conducted by a group of scientists in Japan, they monitored the effects of a practice that the Japanese refer to as “Shinrin-yoku,” which literally means forest bathing. The study involved field experiments in various forests across Japan, with a total of 280 participants. This experiment studied the mental effects on two groups. The scientists would send one half of the groups into the woods, and the other half into a busy city. The very next day, those who spent time in the city would be sent to the woods and vice versa. At the end of it all, the scientists found those who spent their day in forests had “lower concentrations of cortisol, lower blood pressure and heart rate, and reported to feel little or no stress.” It was clear to see that the participants were predominantly more at ease when they were in a natural environment as to the opposed staying in a busy urban city. So, if and when you’re feeling down or a little stressed, go for a walk in a natural environment or better still, seek out a group of nature lovers, it will boost your mood and lower your stress levels.

 

We all come together as lovers of the great outdoors - hikers, mountain bikers, beach walkers, divers even those who have never partaken in outdoor activities. But we all find a sense of inner peace when we are exposed to the wonderful serene environments mother nature has to offer. Magical things happen when like-minded people get together with a common purpose or goal. A certain group energy takes over, deep engaging conversations take place and new close friendships and connections flourish quickly and often continue beyond the nature excursions. In fact, it has been proven time and time again that people who appreciate nature and make the effort to spend time in it, are happier in their home, more creative in their work life and healthier in mind, body and soul.

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