Your Immune System Health and Nature: Learn the Benefits of Nature on Your Health and Wellness
A babbling brook, a wide-open greenspace, flowers blooming, birds chirping, the smell of fresh air – this is nature. Now, think about how you feel when you think about nature.
Calm, relaxed, free, happy. Essentially the opposite of how you feel when driving your car in rush hour, when sitting in a two-hour meeting, or when rushing out the door.
Research is telling us that being in nature benefits your immune system health, physical health, and your overall well-being. In fact, we know so much about the benefits of nature on health that doctors worldwide are writing nature prescriptions.
For us, at AHCC Research, this tells us one thing – we want to get outside more and we want you to do the same.
The Research on Nature and Health
Numerous studies tell us that nature has only positive health and wellness benefits. The benefits of being outdoors in nature range from reducing anxiety, lowering stress levels, helping us to move more, to boosting immune system health.
When thinking about going outside for a walk at lunch or when debating taking your kids for a hike this weekend, remember the following research on nature and health:
- Forest Walks for Immune System Health: Japanese researchers studied the impacts of nature or forest bathing on the immune system and specifically on natural killer (NK) cell activity. In this study they measure the NK cells of participants before and after being in nature. The research showed that the number of NK cells increased immediately after forest bathing and that this immune system boost lasted for seven days.
- Being In Nature Makes People Feel More Alive: research by U.S. and Canadian psychologists shows that when people are exposed to nature through photos, visualization, or by going outdoors, energy levels and feelings of aliveness increase.
- Nature Benefits for Mood and Depression: Stanford University researchers have conducted multiple studies looking at how nature impacts anxiety, depression, and mood. Using brain scans, researchers concluded that exposure to nature helps change the brain for the better, reducing anxiety and depression.
Nature Helps Us Recover from Pain: studying patients who had surgery, Roger S. Ulrich, measured how having a view of trees from their hospital bed impacted pain and recovery levels. This study showed that patients who had a view of trees healed more quickly, had shorter hospital stays, and less pain than patients who had only a view of a wall.
Couple this small sampling of research into the impacts of nature on health and wellness with the growing practice of doctors prescribing nature to patients with a range of health concerns:
Park RX America: a non-profit organization whose mission is to decrease the burden of chronic disease, increase health and happiness, and foster environmental stewardship, by virtue of prescribing nature during the routine delivery of healthcare by a diverse group of health care professionals.
Healthy Parks Healthy People: works with partners and interdisciplinary teams in the sectors of public health, medicine, conservation, and recreation to put a spotlight on the role of parks as social determinant of health.
Walk With A Doc: with a mission to inspire communities through movement and conversation, Walk With A Doc, connects people with a doctor who leads a walk at a comfortable pace.
Now, do us a favor, close your eyes and visualize a garden in full bloom. How do you feel?
It takes only 20 minutes of being outdoors to reap the health benefits of nature on your immune system health and overall well-being.
7 Tips on How to Bring More Nature into Your Life
We understand, life is busy, you live in a big city, and easy access to greenspace is shrinking rapidly. This makes it hard to get even just 20 minutes of nature in your day.
To help you bring more nature into your life, try these seven tips:
- Decorate your office or cubicle walls with photos of nature. Choose your favorite nature scenes and hang some photos on your cubicle wall, in a frame on your desk, or on the wall in your office boardroom.
- Position your chairs, couch, bed, and other furniture so you have a direct view of the outdoors. If you work from home, place your desk in front of a window. The sunlight and outdoor view are very refreshing and energizing.
- When you go outside, leave your phone at home or if you have to bring it, put it in your pocket on silent mode. This short period of disconnectedness helps lower your stress levels and recharge.
- Put your shoes on and go for a walk. Even if you can’t get to a park, just get outside and walk. Breathing in the fresh air and moving your body does wonders for your immune system and mental health.
- Forest walks are becoming popular. Do some research and look for a forest walk near you. Go with a friend and enjoy the guided nature walk experience.
- Give yourself an excuse to get outside – taking photos, sketching, gardening, or taking the kids to the park. When you have a reason to get outside, it’s much easier to make it a daily habit.
- When the weather allows it, eat outdoors. At work, look for a picnic table or other area where you can sit outside and enjoy your lunch. In the evenings at home, eat supper on your back deck, patio, front step, or in a local park.