Unplug: Nature is The Key to Positivity
Think back to when you were a child. It’s a late summer evening, dinners almost cooked; you try to squeeze in those last precious hours of daylight outside. Sadly, this is not a common way to spend the twilight hours, instead a lot of the hours are lost behind a screen. In today’s fast paced technological world the average American spends 87% of their lives indoors, 6% is spent in automobiles, and the last 7% is spent outdoors. So, instead of reaching for a coffee, or turning on a video game why not go for a hike, decrease the risks of depression, open a deeper understanding of one’s own self worth, and connect back into the earth so many before us enjoyed.
Around the world multiple studies have come to the conclusion that being in nature, greenery, and more specifically forests, helps remove stress and improve health. The term shinrin-yoku was coined by the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries and highly recommends spending time bathing in the forest.
So Why is Time in the Forest Good For Me?
The forest improves your immune system: Take a deep breath next time you’re in the middle of the woods. Sit, and think, “What am I inhaling?” Mainly, oxygen and other compounds, but more specifically phytoncides. Phytoncides are airborne chemicals that plants give off to protect themselves from herbivores, and insects. They also hold antifungal, antibacterial properties to help them ward off disease. When humans inhale these Phytoncides it increases the production of a certain white blood cell called natural killers or NK. These NK cells fight off tumors, and other virus-infected cells. According to the Japanese study referred to earlier, after a prolonged time spent bathing the forest increased NK activity lasted 30 days after leaving the forest. More studies are going on currently to follow up on how forests affect certain kinds of cancer.
Spending time in the forest lowers blood pressure, and encourages a positive mood: When one spends time in nature, either exercising or just relaxing and looking at trees, reduces stress related hormones, cortisol, and adrenaline. Just looking a photograph of trees has the same, but less dramatic effect on the body. Studies have also undergone on urban areas with trees, and show no decrease in the stress-related effects. Getting out and immersing yourself into nature at least 3 times a week has been tested by the Profile of Mood States test to help increase a positive mood, and fight depression, anger, confusion, and fatigue.
Focus is increased after spending time in the forest: Our everyday life has many things we have to divide our attention over. Spouses, friends, pets, children, family, work, automobiles, and school are just some examples of how much we have to focus on each day. Trying to focus and give attention to these over long periods of time can cause a mental drain, or a phenomenon known as Directed Attention Fatigue. When you get a chance to unplug from the everyday worries then you give the cognitive part of your brain a chance to rest and be better prepared for the challenges you have to focus on.
Time in nature helps fight ADD in children: The part of the cognitive system in the brain, affected by Directed Attention Fatigue, is also responsible for Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD). Studies show that children with these conditions who spent a prolonged amount of time in nature had a decrease in related symptoms. More and more children are being opened to the power of nature for free with no side effects.
So Why Should I Go on An Adventure?
With the monotony of everyday life ever present not much can rip us from the technological world we’re plugged into. When unplugging and being faced with only nature as your entertainment you learn to be more present to what is going on inside and outside of yourself. Weather you’re going on a solo hike around your town, or rafting down the wild river nature will improve your health! So grab your hiking boots, put on your wetsuit, or just grab your favorite novel and a pillow so you can get outside, go play, and be happy! Don’t forget to come down to Southwest Raft and Jeep to join in on our adventures in the great outdoors this summer!
Written by Camille Stuff