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Boost your well-being in nature

Forests and greenery make us less stressed and can even serve as an important part in treatment for burnout, depression and anxiety.

There are probably many of us who feel full of positive energy, refreshed, more at ease and relaxed after being out in nature – and it’s actually not just a feeling. The positive impact of nature on our health and well-being has also been proven in several research studies. For example, it has been seen that blood pressure drops in nature (Hartig Terry, 2003) and that the amount of stress hormones in the blood decreases (Norling & Larsson, 2004).

Since the beginning of the 21st century, so-called nature-supported, “green”, rehabilitation of people with exhaustion syndrome or stress-related mental illness has also become increasingly common.

People who spent at least two hours per week in nature improved their mental and physical health compared to people who did not spend any time outdoors in nature. “

In a study in Nature Scientific Reports (White et al., 2019), researchers from the United Kingdom have shown that people who spent at least two hours per week in nature improved their mental and physical health compared to people who did not spend any time outdoors in nature. Another study from the University of Essex has shown that as little as five minutes of exercise in nature can provide improved self-esteem and a better mood.

In the international research project Blue Health, the researchers investigated the links between urban blue spaces, climate and health. Among other things, they have seen that there is often a better environment near water, such as less pollution and more sunlight, that people who live near water tend to be more physically active, and that water seems to have a psychologically strengthening effect.

 

Water seems to have a psychologically strengthening effect.

 

The 72h cabin study

In 2017, Visit Sweden and stress researchers Walter Osika and Cecilia Stenfors from Karolinska Institutet conducted the 72h cabin case study. In the study, five people from different parts of the world and with different professions were allowed to experience the Swedish nature up close for 72 hours, and then let experts measure their well-being. During the stay on the island of Henriksholm in Western Sweden, the participants lived in specially designed glass cabins to get as close to nature as possible.

All participants had lowered their stress levels, by as much as 70%, and blood pressure and heart rate also dropped.”

The participants, a French taxi driver, two British media workers, a German police officer and an American event coordinator, engaged in activities such as fishing, swimming and cooking over an open fire. Their stress levels and blood pressure were measured both before and after the stay, and the participants were also given self-assessment tests so that the researchers could examine their well-being and connection to nature.

The results showed positive effects. All participants had lowered their stress levels, by as much as 70%, and blood pressure and heart rate also dropped. Through an association test/creativity test, the researchers could also see that their creativity increased during the days in nature.

 

During the 72h cabin study on the island of Henriksholm in Western Sweden, the participants lived in specially designed glass cabins to get as close to nature as possible. Photo: Jonas Ingman/West Sweden

 

Forest bathing

Even being completely still in nature has positive effects. This is according to the Japanese health phenomenon shinrin-yoku, which means taking in the forest atmosphere or forest bathing. Immunologist Qing Li has found evidence that nature has measurably positive effects on humans and that forest bathing strengthens the body’s immune system.

 

Why not try forest bathing this summer?

 

Among other things, he has seen that when trees are touched, the trees secrete phytoncides, odorous substances, and that these substances activate the body’s natural defense cells.

We should not talk, leave the mobile phone at home and actively listen to the sounds of the forest.”

According to his method, we should go out into the forest, preferably a coniferous forest because the content of phytoncides is particularly high there, and then wander around slowly, freely and undisturbed. We should not talk, leave the mobile phone at home and actively listen to the sounds of the forest. We will go where our feet want, touch the trees and stand by them for a while, focus on breathing and try to take in nature with all our senses, especially the sense of smell.

Happy Midsummer from Nordic Life Science!

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