Professor of the Practice of Law University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Nature Therapy

Mar 5, 2020

We turn the clocks ahead on Saturday night to begin Daylight Saving Time. Time-shifting can be a grind and it has been shown to impair our health. There is an upside, more time to spend in nature.

Metadata research synthesizing 143 studies of over 290 million people reveals that exposure to greenspace lowers the stress hormone cortisol, heart rate, and blood pressure, as well as reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and premature death. Participants lived in 20 countries, including the US, UK, Australia, France, Germany, Spain, and Japan where forest bathing is popular. Greenspace includes both undeveloped land with natural vegetation and urban parks.

Forest bathing is a practice meant to reverse the effects of nature deficit disorder, for those of us who spend most of our time indoors. A slow and mindful walk through a forest, appreciating the experience with all your senses, can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression, while also improving sleep, the immune system, and cardiovascular health. The health benefits of the forest may come from the higher oxygen concentration and the presence of phytoncides, natural oils that defend plants from insects, bacteria, and fungi. Evergreens are the greatest generators of phytoncides.

In an effort to determine an effective dose of nature therapy, researchers reviewed 155 studies and included 14 studies in their analysis. Participants were age 15 to 30 from Japan, the US, and Sweden, and time spent in natural settings was compared to time spent in urban settings. The research revealed that 10-30 minutes of sitting or walking in nature decreased cortisol, heart rate, blood pressure, and anxiety, while improving mood and boosting the rest-and-digest recovery system (parasympathetic nervous system activity).

Takeaway: You may benefit from a nature therapy prescription, now that the days are lighter and longer.

Sources

  1. Anisha Kalidindi, Yes, Daylight Saving Time is Bad for your Health: Here’s the Science, Massive Science, Nov. 4, 2019, https://www.sciencealert.com/need-more-convincing-daylight-savings-is-bad-for-us-here-s-a-summary-of-the-science
  2. Caoimhe Twohig-Bennett and Andy Jones, The Health Benefits of the Great Outdoors: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Greenspace Exposure and Health Outcomes, Environmental Research July 5, 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29982151
  3. Karin Evans, Why Forest Bathing is Good for your Health, Mindful, Sept. 10, 2018, https://www.mindful.org/why-forest-bathing-is-good-for-your-health/?mc_cid=845d550759&mc_eid=57aaf1254a
  4. Genevive R. Meredith, Donald A. Rakow, Erin R.B. Eldermire, Ceclia G. Madsen, Steven P. Shelley, and Naomi A. Sachs, Minimum Time Dose in Nature to Positively Impact the Mental Health of College-Aged Students, and How to Measure It: A Scoping ReviewFrontiers in Psychology, Psychol., 14 January 2020, https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02942/full
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