It seems a simple concept.
We know how great we feel after a day spent walking the nature trails or soaking up the sun barefoot on the beach. We are outdoors, in the fresh air and our skin kissed with the warmth of the summer sun. It’s hard not to feel great.
What if we could enhance this?
As an avid nature nerd, I have spent the last 2 years exploring studies of nature therapy to understand what it is that creates this magical shift within our bodies and minds. Sharing many of the science-based facts on my guided hikes; I always explain to my clients that it’s not necessarily what I am telling them, but experiencing this new-found knowledge that creates the transformation.
So what is it about being in nature that can restore our mood, refresh our state of mind, rejuvenate and improve our energy?
We have always had a deep connection with the natural world around us. The scent of the forest or salty waves of the ocean, sounds of the birds and the fresh clean air all provide a sense of comfort for our primitive mind. Instinctually there is a feeling that arises within us that provides a sense of elation, a sense of beauty and mystery of the world in which we live in. We have all, at one time or other, watching the sunset over the horizon and marvelled at the beauty. This innate sense is what is considered our sixth sense.
Our senses connect us to the present moment; this is where we can escape the rumination of the past and anxiety or stress of future events that we create in our minds. To be present and aware through our sense of touch, taste, smell, hearing and sight, helps us to achieve a balance in the state of mind and physiologically, our bodies function better.
When we are in nature, it is easier to slip into this elevated state of mind. Whether it’s the cool breeze of any early morning training session or a hike in the national parks, our senses anchor us to the environment.
Research from the University of Essex in the UK has found that exercising outdoors makes us happier, improves our quality and length of sleep and provides longer-lasting energy than when we exercise indoors. The studies show that we feel better about ourselves when we are in the natural environment and the effects are felt immediately.
Oxygen-rich environment– no air conditioner or heater/ artificial airflow. We are surrounded by life-giving trees and negative ions that help to improve immunity, muscle repair and boost energy plus many more health-promoting benefits. (check out the blog for nature therapy)
Mindfulness – acceptance for conditions. When we expose ourselves to different conditions and practice acceptance such as a cold water swim or light rain/ wind, we are essentially strengthening our resolve. This translates to many other aspects of our lives.
Cold exposure/ Water therapy –added benefits of a beach training session and post-workout with a swim/ dip in the ocean and you will see improved performance, aided muscles recovery and anti-inflammatory response. Our body’s burn up to 30% more calories when exposed to the cold either water or winter and promote deeper breathing – moving stagnant air from the depths of our lungs (we often shallow breathe when we are anxious).
Senses- when we are intimately connected and exposing our senses to the natural world, we feel alive, receptive and restored; improve mood, immune boost, helps with focus, concentration, and cognitive enhancement.
Perspective- the beauty of nature is to be marvelled at and when we can shift perspective (push-ups on the sand anyone?) the change of location from a sweaty gym session can provide the perspective shift that we need to move past stagnancy.
Location- changing up the locations of your training can enhance performance. A training session at the beach will challenge you as you push through the sand, working to improve coordination, proprioception and agility. A hiking session will utilise every muscle in your body in order to cover the terrain providing enhanced cardiovascular workout.
Colour therapy – blues and greens of nature are intrinsically tied to our primitive mind and induce a calming effect on our nervous system. We relied on the colours to guide us to water and food when we lived on the land, vibrant hues of green and blues meant that there was a good source of water nearby and essentially food. This meant that we needn’t worry where our next meal came from. Whilst this isn’t a concern for our modern world, our brain still reacts to these cues.
Enjoyment- When we are in a beautiful outdoor space moving our bodies naturally, we experience more enjoyment. When we enjoy something we are more likely to remain motivated and commit to experiencing it more often.
Share a group training session with likeminded people and you have the added benefits of community connection. As humans, we thrive on connection with others. If there is one thing that we can take away from 2020, it’s that as a community we need connection; not only with each other but with nature.
Amanda will be running outdoor training sessions in addition to regular hikes and events. Adventure coaching will commence in 2021 for those with aspirations to explore the best that nature has to offer!