The Healing Power of Nature
Throughout the history of mankind, there has been a prospering and symbiotic relationship with nature around us. From the beginning of time, man has lived off the land; hunting, fishing, gathering, migrating, exploring. Man has also reported some of the profound awe that nature has to offer us; from the beauty of our Montana mountain ranges, waters, and breathtaking landscapes, to sunsets and some of the majestic animals that live on the land.
As technology moved us along the times, there was a movement toward industrialization of land and the removal of natural forests to make way for buildings and concrete. Now, in 2021, we can reflect on the research that has been done within the last 10 or so years, around the globe, across cultures, and continents, that now shows that nature has the ability to heal us emotionally, spiritually, and physically.
Today’s society is one of screens: tv screens, cell phone screens, tablets, laptops, computers, etc. We spend a tremendous amount of time indoors compared to generations past. The result has been astoundingly negative in the effects of this type of lifestyle: increased anxiety, depression, weight gain, stress, even suicide, especially in adolescents. These extensive stretches of time spent on social media, or in front of some sort of screen, have had a profoundly negative impact on entire generations, including negative effects on our brain and in our ability to communicate effectively in person with one another.
Being in nature has been shown to decrease stress. Any physical activity has been proven to improve our heart rate, blood pressure, moods, and stress levels. Studies show that those who took walks in forests have significantly lower heart rates and higher “heart rate variability”, which shows more relaxation throughout their body and less stress, along with reporting better moods and less anxiety, compared to those who go for walks in urban settings. There is something that is in nature, researchers found, that is beneficial to us above and beyond what exercise alone produces.
Nature is shown to make you happier. Rumination is when you cannot stop thinking about something that is bothering you. This has been identified as a precursor to depression and anxiety. Researchers out of Stanford University showed in 2015 that after a 90-minute walk in a natural setting reported decreased rumination after the walk, showed increased activity in the prefrontal cortex area of the brain, which is responsible for logic, impulse control, and problem-solving.
Whatever your motivation is, take some time today and connect with nature. Go for a walk, watch a nature documentary on tv, look outside your window, whatever it may be. It is good for your health.
Angelica Bennett, MA, MAC, MEd, LPC has been in the behavioral health field for 20 years. She has experience working with children, young adults, families, in substance abuse, among other populations. Angelica has two Master of Arts degrees in Counseling, and a Master of Education in Elementary Education. She is independently licensed as a Professional Counselor. She has advanced training in trauma informed care, as well as formal training in EMDR and DBT. Angelica has worked in a variety of settings including hospitals, community behavioral health, and with Native American populations. She has experience as a therapist, a clinical supervisor, and clinical trainer, developing and administering clinical trainings for staff and stakeholders. Angelica also enjoys creating clinical programs to promote clinical growth for staff. She is fluent in Spanish and enjoys all things that have to do with nature. When she is not working on helping others be their best self, she can be found hanging out with her husband Mike, their four children, and their dog Socks doing something outdoors.