nature-based therapy forest bathing

The Mental and Physical Benefits of Nature-Based Therapy

nature-based therapy forest bathing

Many doctors now prescribe ecotherapy as part of a holistic treatment plan. If you have a condition, your care provider may advise you to spend more time outdoors. These settings have miraculous healing capabilities. Here are five mental and physical benefits of nature-based therapy like forest bathing, gardening or swimming at the beach.

1. Increases Physical Activity

Nature will inspire you to engage in it and integrate some movement into your life. When you go to the beach, you’ll likely swim or walk on the shore, even if you’re tired or are not in the mood to do anything.

Why does this happen? One reason experts cite is the hypnotic benefit of nature, which is best explained in the biophilia hypothesis proposed by Edward O. Wilson.

The theory states it’s innate for humans to seek connections with the environment and other life forms. When you see a forest, you instinctively walk or move through it, mindfully immersing yourself in nature using all your senses. You’re almost hypnotized to connect to fulfill this intrinsic need. That’s why you’re compelled to increase physical activity when you’re heading to a park.

2. Help Manage Chronic Conditions

Nature’s magnetic ability to inspire movement can help you prevent or manage chronic illnesses. Long-term conditions requiring treatment for at least 12 months — like diabetes, cancer and heart diseases — are often genetic, but your lifestyle also contributes. Thanks to the community park in your neighborhood, you can take a morning run or walk with your pup to curb your risk for these illnesses.

In one study, people who walk in green areas reduced their incidence of cardiovascular diseases by 4% and their risks — like obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure — by a whopping 9%. Combining physical activity with nature can do wonders for your health.

3. Enhances Immune Function

Another impressive benefit of nature is its immune-boosting property. Conifers — a group of plants that include pines, cypress and spruce trees — release chemicals known as phytoncides. While they use these to protect their flowers, fruits or leaves from insects, these substances have stress-relieving and antibacterial properties. When you inhale them through forest bathing, the body responds by increasing the activity of natural killer cells that fight virus-infected cells.

In a study on 55 cancer survivors, the group who inhaled phytoncide for an hour a day, five days weekly for eight weeks significantly decreased their cortisol and epinephrine levels. The latter is a hormone that plays a role in the fight-or-flight mode. In addition, it boosted their immune cells, relieving previous cancer patients of mental stress.

4. Improves Overall Mental Well-Being

One study revealed people with a stronger link to nature had lower stress levels than those who stayed indoors regularly. They also visited public green spaces more frequently, proving increasing your time outdoors and interacting with nature can protect your mental health.

5. It Boosts Creativity

Nature is a major source of inspiration for professionals. Have you noticed how those people who work from their laptops are more productive when they work with nature in their view? It’s because the outdoors is full of elements designed to boost your problem-solving skills, innovation and productivity.

In one study, 23 individuals had a three-day forest therapy workshop to evaluate the impact of nature on creativity. Researchers found participants increased their creative performances by almost 28% and confirmed ecotherapy can help with higher-level mental functioning. If you’re thinking of writing a novel, soaking in nature may help you come up with a good story.

Increase Your Time Outdoors

The only downside to spending time outdoors is the potential sunburn, but there’s a remedy for it. The point is being near nature can benefit your mental and physical health. It can strengthen your immune system, inspire you to move and reduce your disease risk. There’s no reason not to make it a routine and incorporate it into your lifestyle.

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