How many times have you heard, “if only there were more hours in the day?” We living beings run on a circadian rhythm that repeats every 24 hours, yet we often struggle to optimize it to serve us best. This is an important pursuit, as it turns out that irregular rhythms are linked to chronic health conditions.
Photo by Pashka May
So how do we take control of this natural rhythm and find more balance and success in the day to day? Let’s start with what governs our circadian rhythm the most, which is daylight. Daylight is a guiding force in our natural environment. Yet, in today’s busy world we are finding ourselves inside more often, isolated from the natural world and the wonders it stores.
The good news is, the solution may be more simple than we think. Researchers are continuously uncovering more and more hard science that proves that being in nature for even short periods of time has the ability to affect us on both a psychological and physiological level. There is now data that demonstrates natural environments have therapeutic effects on our immune system, respiratory system, cardiovascular system, and mental state.
Let’s take a deeper dive into the benefits being in nature can have on our mindset and overall health.
How Nature Affects Our Psychology
Dr. Qing Li was the first to coin the term “forest bathing”, or shinrin yoku. With the curiosity of a scientist, he noticed how being in the woods had the ability to change his entire demeanor. In the early 1990’s, Li and a team of Japanese researchers began to study the effects that nature has on our physical and emotional states.
Photo by Sea Witch Botanicals
By taking groups of people out into the forest and measuring certain biomarkers, these researchers were able to collect scientific data that demonstrates how nature changes us on a biological level. They found that being outside had the power to decrease cortisol levels, lower stress, and relax brain activity.
Being in nature even has the potential to alleviate depression and anxiety. Study participants experienced improved mood and cognitive function. Of those with depressive tendencies, all showed improvements in their profile of mood states (POMS) scores. This foundational study showing a compelling correlation of time spent in nature and a reduction in stress, anxiety, and depression contributes to a growing field of science referred to as ecotherapy today.
Our White Lodge Collection is inspired by our time spent basking in the glory of the forest and features fir and cedar essential oils. Transport your mind when forest-bathing is not in reach with this fresh scent profile.
Nature’s Physical Healing Powers
When the time comes to finally leave the office or your home to catch some fresh air, your body benefits in more ways than one. It turns out, there is a lot of stagnant energy indoors that can cause respiratory problems such as dust mites, pet dander, and mold spores. We advise keeping these nasties in check with our all-purpose cleaning bar Canary Clean. Particularly in the wintertime, we are even more susceptible to these insidious allergens because they are more likely to be trapped inside without a flow of fresh air. If a building needs new oxygen to maintain a healthy environment, imagine how our body’s entire system can benefit from breathing fresh air.
As it turns out, one of the best places to refresh your respiratory system is in the woods. Trees naturally release antimicrobial essential oils called phytoncides. These oils have positive effects on both our bodies and our brains.
Photo by Sea Witch Botanicals
According to studies put on by Japan’s Chiba University, inhaling these oils enhances the immune system by increasing natural killer (NK) cells. In fact, significant increases in NK cells have been shown to last a week, with positive effects lasting a whole month after just one weekend in the forest. These cells are what help us to fight off infections and guard against tumors.
Being in nature also has a positive influence on our cardiovascular system. Forest bathing is proving to be one of the best ways to reduce blood pressure naturally. Studies in Japan have shown that taking as little as 15 minutes in nature can decrease heart rates. Even hearing nature sounds contributes to lowering blood pressure and the stress hormone cortisol.
Nature for the Spirit
Nature also has a way of mending our spirit. The forest has long been a place sought after for healing and meditation. And there’s science to back this up, too - becoming attuned with all 5 of our senses while in a natural space increases the parasympathetic nervous system and heightens our awareness, leading to a state of relaxation and joy.
Being in a natural environment has a way of inspiring that sense of “awe” and wonder, sometimes referred to as our sixth sense. In these environments, we become connected to the wider world around us and experience ourselves as an interconnected piece of the whole.
These feelings increase gratitude and selflessness and reduce hostility. In fact, studies have shown that being in nature can actually make us kinder, better humans.
These findings are at the root of our scent collection, Hermitage, which refers to a place of spiritual alignment with the wilderness. The wise Hermit of mythology has withdrawn from society to commune with nature and find answers within.
Photo by Sea Witch Botanicals
Next Steps for Embedding More Nature into Your Life
- Aim for 20 to 30 minutes, three days a week in nature
According to Dr. Jason Strauss, director of geriatric psychiatry at Cambridge Health Alliance, a tangible rule of thumb is 30 minutes, three times a week in nature to help your overall health. He says the ultimate goal is to have nature outings be a part of your lifestyle.
If getting out in nature isn’t always attainable, try listening to natural sounds for a release of stress and tension. Studies show that when hearing nature sounds, human brain activity reflects an outward-directed focus of attention rather than artificial sounds proving to exacerbate inward-directed focus which occurs in states of anxiety and depression.
Richard Louv, author of Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature Rich Life, points to something as simple as finding your own special spot in nature and getting to know it through all seasons of the year. The idea is that by retreating to your spot in nature throughout different times of the day and over the changes in seasons of the year, you start to notice and appreciate the nuances of the natural world. A nod to our Hermitage collection, the Hermit teaches us the value of intentional retreat to renew mind and spirit, and serves as a reminder of our own inner-wisdom and guidance.
Our guiding motto at Sea Witch Botanicals, “Nature Misses You.” helps lead us in more ways than one. It reminds us of the power of nature on our day to day lives and also inspires each of our products that comprise our plant-based home and body care. We’d love to learn what your favorite ways to experience nature are or if you have you have experienced the healing powers of nature? Let us know in the comments below!