The Health Benefits of Connecting with Nature

The Health Benefits of Connecting with Nature

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Body and Soil Are One

There’s an ancient Korean proverb that says “Shin to bul ee - body and soil are one”. Although our bodies come from the earth and return to it eventually, there is a much deeper meaning here: it refers to the fact that we are, and always should be connected to the earth and to nature.

With the ever-increasing speed of urbanization, globalization, population growth and our new-found chronic screen addiction, we need this advice more than ever. We need a nature revolution.

By spending so much time indoors and inactive, humans are actually brewing up new diseases all the time.

We’re so distracted and pulled in to the day-to-day of city life, and it’s getting harder to pull ourselves out. City-dwellers can’t even see the stars anymore. Yes, we have parks, and yes, we have trees, but how often are you actually indulging? When is the last time you felt the grass on your feet, climbed a tree, or bathed in a stream?

There is no denying that #theOutdoors is trending on Instagram, and outdoor adventure is alive and well in many places, but a substantial majority are missing out on the health benefits of nature.

Effects of Nature on Mental Health: Clear your mind and get happy

I just returned from a few days of camping in the woods. My partner was surprised and kept mentioning how great I was doing, handling my stress levels as we snaked through the traffic-jammed streets and the messy construction zones of Montreal and it’s boroughs; We were going camping.

Just spending time in nature can have some incredibly positive effects on your mental health. In fact, there is a direct correlation between nature connectedness and happiness. As nature-connectedness increases, so does mood, cognition, vitality, and life satisfaction.

Many of these effects are caused by contact with certain bacterias not found in city settings. Some of these bacterias are known for fighting illnesses like chronic fatigue syndrome, anxiety, and depression.

A peaceful meadow. Fresh air: A health benefit of nature.

Breathing that fresh tree-filtered air, and experiencing the quiet hum of nature can be a remarkably effective way to rid your body of stress. Clear your mind, get happy and get a enjoy a mental performance increase while you’re at it.

Nature and Physical Health

The benefits from just being out in nature are very hard to match while in the city. Along with the mental health boosts that come with nature connectedness, the physical benefits are nearly unmatched by city-living.

A day trip to a forest park can boost your immune system (nature can even fight cancer!). Living close to nature can fight obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and asthma. By spending so much time indoors and inactive, humans are actually brewing up new diseases all the time.

Nearsightedness (AKA myopia) is caused by our lack of horizons. Since we spend so much time inside, our eyes never get the chance to practice their distance vision, causing that function of our eyes to actually deteriorate.

A healthful hiker at the top of a viewpoint.

These benefits are not even directly related to people living IN nature. I’m talking about an abstract connection; some people are greatly affected by the positive influence just by living close to nature, if only for a minor connection.

Get Into Nature and Reap Those Natural Benefits

Whether you’re into actively enjoying nature, or passively, everyone and anyone can absorb the goodness it has to offer. There are several activities, not known to the average human, which I find particularly interesting and are incredibly beneficial.

Forest Bathing

There is a form of Japanese medicine which they call Shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing. It means taking in the forest atmosphere, and is well-known for its role in preventative health care and healing, with calming, rejuvenating and restorative benefits.

Grounding or Earthing

Essentially, grounding is walking around in nature with no shoes on. I think the feeling alone of bare feet on cool grass on a hot summer day is a benefit enough, but studies show many many lasting effects. This is well-known to build up your body’s epidermal flora, and provide both immune boosting and antibacterial benefits. Basically, the good bacteria from nature sets up shop on your skin. When you come in contact with bad bacteria, like viruses, or other such pests, the forest bacteria will fight off the bad guys, leaving you safe and healthy.

I’ve recently started trail-walking in my bare feet when we’re on accessible trails on our forest walks, and it feels incredible. It really does make me feel much more connected to nature.

Just Go Outside

So next time you’re feeling down, just go outside and hug a tree. It’s scientifically proven to make your feel better (not exactly). There are so many outdoor activities where you can enjoy and build your connection with nature.

It’s so important we teach our children to value nature as much as we all should. It’s so important that we do not lose this necessary connection with nature, no matter how far down the rabbit hole we go, or how immersed in virtual reality we become. After all, Nature made us who we are as humans, and I think that deserves a little more respect.

Just go outside.

What’s your favorite way to connect with nature?