Why is it that a simple walk in nature, like one along a beautiful sandy beach, can leave you feeling rejuvenated? According to numerous research studies, it all points toward the way your brain positively registers nature experiences—even images.
Measurable physiological changes occur in the body when you encounter the breathtaking beauty of the earth. As an example, Japanese researchers led by Yoshifumi Miyazaki at Chiba University, sent 84 people on a stroll in seven different forests for 15 minutes, while the same number of volunteers walked around city centers, reported Natural Geographic Magazine. The forest walkers showed a 16 percent decrease in the stress hormone cortisol, a 2 percent drop in blood pressure, and a 4 percent drop in heart rate, according to the study.
Yes Magazine shares that, “Viewing natural beauty (in the form of landscape paintings and video, at least) activates specific reward circuits in the brain associated with dopamine release that give us a sense of purpose, joy, and energy to pursue our goals.” Also, according to Greater Good Magazine, a study, performed by Catharine Ward Thompson and her colleagues, showed that people with an awe and an awareness of the natural beauty around them, show lower levels of a biomarker (IL-6) that could lead to a decreased likelihood of cardiovascular disease, depression, and autoimmune disease.
To summarize in plain language—observing nature can improve your physical and biochemical wellness. Now you may wonder, why does the body respond to nature in the way that it does? One reason could be as reported by Natural Geographic Magazine, “Miyazaki [who led the aforementioned study at Chiba University] believes our bodies relax in pleasant, natural surroundings because they evolved there. Our senses are adapted to interpret information about plants and streams,” he says, “not traffic and high-rises.”
Aside from the calming effects of the natural world on our neurological systems, there is data that correlates emotional responses to nature with positive behaviors and connectedness to others. Yes Magazine references a study that tells us that, “…even brief nature videos are a powerful way to feel awe, wonder, gratitude, and reverence. Positive emotions have beneficial effects upon social processes, too—like increasing trust, cooperation, and closeness with others.”
It’s no wonder there is research observing the links between urbanization and increases in mental illness rates. According to the National Institutes of Health, “Those who live in cities have a 20% higher risk of anxiety disorders and a 40% higher risk of mood disorders compared to people in rural areas.”
Overall, the healthiest, no-cost and quickest treatment that we can give ourselves is an experience in nature—even if it’s simply sitting under a tree to read a book. If you don’t have time, watch a five-minute nature video on your phone and your body will be grateful. Also, here’s another approach that I use to supplement my experiences in the natural world. I take DNA Activators derived from herbal food medicines—they are another way to experience the positive effects of Mother Nature internally.