In a bid to seek refuge from the anxieties of the world, many people are turning to nature, from discovering hikes and camping spots within their cities to a blooming appreciation for the buds and birds of a neighbour’s garden. And while it’s clear that these moments offer a sense of healing, we don’t always stop to ask how and why.
To uncover the science behind the benefits, we enlist forest therapy and wilderness expert Jasmine Nunns, the founder of Hong Kong-born Kembali which offers therapy walks, permaculture-based life coaching and social-emotional learning presented through a framework inspired by nature.
Here, Jasmine shares five positive impacts that nature has on health and wellbeing.
1. Boosting immunity
Image Courtesy of Kembali
“Research has now confirmed what our ancestors would have known for many generations: weaving ourselves back with nature is good for our health. Spending time in a forested environment and breathing in phytoncides emitted by trees boosts NK (natural killer) cells in our body which are responsible for destroying infected and irregular cells, including cancerous ones.”
2. Regulating sleep cycles and circadian rhythms
“We can lead incredibly fast-paced and competitive lifestyles in cities like Hong Kong, which can be highly seductive. Technology means we’re able to extend daylight with bright lights and electronic devices that challenge our natural rest and sleep cycles. It was discovered in 2015 that almost 50% of the population had some degree of sleep disorder. Spending time in nature helps regulate our natural body block, reminding us to come back into the natural systems of activity and rest. Remember that time you spent a whole day outdoors, and then crashed in the evening? That was your body speaking to you!”
3. Improving mood
“There is much being uncovered about the benefits of quality time spent in nature and how it affects our mood. People suffering from PTSD have shown incredible improvements after spending regular time in wilderness spaces. Research is also showing how young people, especially girls, who suffer from eating disorders learn acceptance and even love for their bodies. Nature offers a space of unconditional acceptance; the river and the trees do not care what kind of job you have or how much weight you think you need to lose. For many who have yet to experience that type of acceptance from the human community, it can be transformative. If you’re rolling your eyes at the fact that the earth loves you (I know, I get it), remember the many gifts we have received straight from the belly of the land, like our food, water, bird songs and each breath we take.”
4. Lowering stress levels
Image Courtesy of Kembali
“Stress in itself is not necessarily a bad thing, and it can be an incredible motivator. However, chronic long-term stress can be detrimental to not just our mental health, capacity to build relationships and connection, but also our immune function and physical health. Research supports that spending time in nature can lower cortisol levels, the stress indicator hormone. There is a difference in the practice of a slow three-hour forest bathing experience versus a three-hour intensive trail run. The latter can also be therapeutic and have great benefits for your cardiovascular system, but it can also increase stress on your body. I’ve guided trail runners on my walks before, including my husband, and they often find it challenging to slow down and not wonder where the end is. Sometimes the joy of being in nature is that it constantly invites us to just be in the present moment.”
5. Offering reciprocity
“The benefits of connecting with nature are not limited to our experience. We often ask ourselves what we can get out of it, but never do we wonder what the benefits are for the earth by having us walk on her. Rather than viewing this practice as just another way of ‘taking’, we can transform that narrative to consider what we are receiving, and what we can offer back to the land. It’s important to remember that we are intricately woven and tied to the health of this planet. The earth's health is our health, so a simple practice of gratitude and an offering of thanks is always the way we complete our guided experiences. Dare yourself to imagine the possibilities if everyone walked this earth with that kind of reverence for the rivers, mountains and forests.”
Want to explore the great outdoors? Get prepped by shopping our edit of nature-ready fashion and accessories below.