In a world glued to screens and constant connectivity, it’s not just a feel-good myth—nature’s got some serious perks for our well-being. Besides the “get off your phone” and “touch grass” cliches, science backs up the fact that spending time outdoors can benefit your health. We’ve compiled a non-exhaustive list of ways that nature can be healing, both physically and mentally.
Boost your immunity
Find yourself getting sick often? Your homebody habits might be to blame. Being around trees and nature can help improve your immunity.
Plants give off airborne chemicals called phytoncides, which have both antibacterial and anti-fungal properties — protecting the plants from insects and fighting off disease. When we breathe in the fresh air, we breathe in these phytoncides and our bodies respond by increasing the number and activity of a type of white blood cell called natural killer cells or NK. These cells kill tumor- and virus-infected cells in our bodies.
Improve your mental health
Studies show that exercising in forests and simply sitting looking at trees reduces blood pressure and the stress-related hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Looking at pictures of trees can also have the same effect (albeit less dramatic). Using the Profile of Mood States test, researchers found that forest bathing trips significantly decreased the scores for anxiety, depression, anger, confusion, and fatigue. Since stress also affects the immune system, the benefits are increased.
When we’re in urban environments or the office all day, we can experience sensory overload, resulting in mental fatigue, according to UC Davis Health. Studies have shown that we tend to relax when we’re in a setting surrounded by nature. This increases feelings of pleasure and can help us concentrate and focus more effectively, according to studies in the National Library of Medicine. If you’re having a mental block, soak in the nature around you to calm down and think about how to complete your upcoming task!
Accelerate the healing process
There’s actually a way to help hospital patients heal faster: give them access to trees and nature. High levels of stress hormones like cortisol are often present in hospital patients and visitors. These stress hormones delay wound healing and therefore prolong the healing process. However, having access to nature and green views can reduce this stress and in turn accelerate recovery. According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, research found that patients with “green” views had shorter postoperative stays, took fewer painkillers, and had slightly fewer postsurgical complications compared to those who had no view or a view of a cement wall. So the next time you’re in need of some healing, turn to nature.
Whether you’re interested in improving your health mentally or physically, the science is clear — nature can be incredibly healing! TreePeople events, such as tree plantings and mountain restorations, are not only opportunities to spend time with your community but also ways to just generally feel better. Start your health journey with a TreePeople volunteer event – we can’t wait to see you!