For many of us, the idea that something as simple as exposure to nature can have any effect on the stresses that punctuate our daily life may seem far-fetched and fanciful.
The notion that plants, animals and landscapes can somehow create real and measurable healing seems a little too unrealistic to be true. And yet this is exactly what researchers continue to find, with astounding implications.
Study after study has found that those who spend time in nature report improved mental health, reduced stress levels and elevated mood. Mental health charities and medical professionals are increasingly prescribing nature as a partial treatment for depression and anxiety.
But the benefits don’t stop at our mental health. Our stress levels have a profound effect on our physical health too, changing the way our bodies function when it comes to physical healing and fighting illness.
Access to nature has also been found to increase longevity, produce healthier babies in pregnant women, lower blood pressure, and fight obesity.
You don’t even need to be deep in a forest or sitting on a beach to reap the benefits, simply looking out of the window at trees has been found to decrease the number of days patients stay in hospital before being discharged.
In fact, recent studies have even found that simply watching nature programmes on TV can have a beneficial effect on our mental health.
Digital nature has been found to have similar benefits to the real thing, so watching videos and looking at pictures of natural scenes can help too.
There are even apps that can deliver the health and wellbeing benefits of nature via your smartphone, such as Noisli, which has a range of nature sounds for relaxation and focus, and Head Holiday, which turns your phone into a VR view so you can experience 360 degree nature videos as though you’re actually there.
So don’t wait until you’re already down, or unwell, start incorporating nature into your daily life today. If you’re fortunate enough to live close to green spaces, canals, rivers or coastline, schedule some walks as regularly as you can.
If you have a garden or outdoor space, make it a daily ritual to spend some time outside doing nothing in particular other than relaxing. And if you don’t have any outdoor space, get a few house plants and make them prominent in your living space.
This concept seems so simplistic that you may feel it can’t possibly hold any value, but when poets and scientists agree on a single concept such as the healing power of nature, it’s safe to say there may be something in it.