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Nature’s Healing Powers

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It’s tempting to want to stay indoors, all cozy with the comforts of home, but the outdoors are calling and they have something good to offer: a major health and happiness boost. Researchers are now studying what’s being called “green therapy” or ecotherapy, which involves immersing people with depression outdoors to alleviating their symptoms. It’s been proven that being outside reduces depression. A study from the University of Essex found walking in nature reduced depression symptoms for a whopping 71% if participants. Just 45% of a group that walked in shopping malls had lower depression scores.

I love being outside. I crave it and always feel better when I’m in nature. I haven’t gotten out a lot over the past week, battling a bit of a virus, and I feel it. I miss connecting with that part of the world. I’m an avid hiker because it allows me to immerse myself in a peaceful world. It shifts my perspective. I realize how connected I am to everything else, and how self-constructed my problems often are. It also helps me feel a bit brighter when I’m in a darker place. The fresh air is invigorating, calming and refreshing all at once. 

Being in nature not only treats depression, one study said it can actually help prevent mental health disorders. Researchers came to the conclusion that someone could interact with nature and get outdoors regularly, as a means of early treatment for depression.  Being outside, plus getting physical activity and connecting socially were the cornerstones of this study’s proposed treatment. The authors wrote, “active,’ ‘social’ and ‘adventurous’ contact with nature may be combined with a treatment intervention to protect and enhance the health of individuals experiencing chronic mental, emotional and physical health difficulties.” There are tons of ways to get active and social outside. Go for a hike with a friend, or mountain biking, swimming, or rock climbing. The possibilities are endless.

Another study, this time from the Journal of Environmental Psychology found that being outside is also great for boosting your energy levels. Apparently, just spending 20 minutes a day outdoors in nature could give you more energy. Those with more vitality tend to have more energy and are typically more immune to physical illness.  How about that? Maybe instead of grabbing your fourth coffee of the day for an energy boost, head outside for a quick break to lift your spirits, and refuel your tank. 



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