We all know the feeling, having spent the days by the beach or in Nature.
We feel tired but rested, rejuvenated and euphoric. We sleep better after a day spent outdoors. Our moods are remarkably better. Stress and anxiety melt with cumulative exposure; nature provides a powerful impact on our well-being.
What is the power of trees? Why are we so intrinsically connected?
In our modern world it’s all about connectivity BUT are we really to connected and to what?
What effects if this having? Tablets and Smart phones are relatively young. We are only starting to recognise the issues of exposure, beyond what we can see is the concerning measure.
We are in an epidemic of mental health issues. Some Stats;
· Beyond Blue research shows that 1 in 3 women and 1 in 5 men suffers anxiety at any one time in their lives.
· In 2017, suicide was the leading cause of death among people aged between 15-44 years, and the second leading cause of death among those 45-54 years of age.
· An average of 8 people take their lives each day in Australia.
The conversation has started but we need action.
The action needs to start at home. What are you doing to move outdoors, away from screens? What about your kids? Do they have screen time limited and sent outdoors to play in the colder weather?
As a society, we have grown too ‘comfortable’ and these devices have enabled this shift in behaviour. They are designed to attract and maintain attention with flashing lights and interactive noises. The result? Addictive behaviours and a rise in anxiety depression and stress, not to mention the expanding waist lines and disease....
Add the adult life stressors of work, family, relationships and we can see that dangerous path we have taken leads to a very slippery slope. Sadly, suicide remains the leading cause of death for Australians aged between 15 and 44. There is a simple solution to start the change.
There needs to be a shift. A remarkably big one, back to nature.
** Quick exercise. As you read this take a look at your phone settings and see how long you have spent on Social Media today. If the answer scares you , or you are guilty of saying you never have time, set a timer on your phone to alert you when you have reached a certain period of time, say 1 hour a day. Bringing awareness to how much time you spend on these zappers of energy will scare you, BUT this enables you to take action and change.**
How much time do you spend on your phone? Take the test..
To truly nurture our well-being, we need to experience the messy, hard, uncomfortable, different, cold, wet, and difficult. This enables us to find ways to challenge, overcome and build self-efficacy skills that translate and echo positively into many any areas of our lives.
So what do trees have to do with this? How can they help?
It starts with our senses. Natural spaces play to our smell, sight, hearing, tastes, touch and feelings.
The chemicals releases from the trees, phytoncides, are the natural oils within the plants that act as the trees defence system from bacteria, fungus and insect infestation. When we inhale these oils, we are essential breathing in anti-oxidants, a natural aromatherapy that provides a boost to our immune system.. Aroma-therapy!
Essential oils are known to alleviate feelings of stress, anxiety and depression and when we are in Nature, particularly on a windy day, we are exposed to a higher number of these chemicals. As the weather gets warmer, the more chemicals are released into the air. Evergreens like Pines however are a great source of these chemicals year round.
Results of studies conducted in Japan(Nippon Medical School) found exposure to these phytoncides;
· Significantly increased numbers of NK (natural Killer) cells and activity as well as enhancing anti-cancer proteins
· Significantly decreased the levels of stress hormones
· Increased the hours and quality of sleep
· Decreased scores (POMS test) for tension, anxiety, hostility, fatigues and confusion
· Stimulates a happy disposition
· Significantly lower blood pressure and heart rate (reduce risk factors for heart disease)
· Increase heart rate variability
· Suppress sympathetic nercous system and increase parasympathetic nervous system into balance, creating feelings of comfort and relaxation. (flight-fight>rest-digest)
Smell is our most primal sense that we have in our body.
It is interconnected with all our bodily systems and can yield positive effects over body and mind. It has the power to reset our nervous system.
In a study at the Departments of Psychiatry at Mie University in Japan, found that the phytoncides, D-Limonene, a citrus fragrance is more effective than antidepressants for lifting moods and ensuring emotions well-being in patients with mental – health disorders.
Studies are showing significant results in the power of essential oils in hospitals and incorporated into workplaces, have an enormous effect of reducing workplace tension, stress and anxiety.
Taking a walk in Nature, taking in all the different smells that are carried through the air will have a remarkably calming effect. Trees hold the power to heal and a minimum prescription is required.
2 hours in nature has an effect for 2 weeks!
To explore more how our senses can help heal us holistically, explore nature trails on my upcoming hikes. Next week discover how the receptors on our body and our touch sense, can create a deeper connection to nature and cultivate more calm.
Some resources references in the above post are from the below book and Australian websites.
Shrin-Yin Yoku- The art and science of forest bathing- Dr Qing Li