Look carefully at your photos taken in nature! You will see your eyes look different and your skin glows! This is not a game of lights or a reflection of colours. This is the transformative energy that being in nature creates in your body and mind.
Since living in cities surrounds us with crowded, artificial environments made of plastic, steel, concrete and glass, we have been unable to realize how stranded we are from nature. While living in a routine in which we are accustomed to high stress, noise, unnatural electromagnetic fields, we either don’t have time to go to natural areas, or even if there is time, we do not feel like it anymore. Not to mention the restrictions brought to our lives by the pandemic! So is it possible to rewind this routine?
It is not my intention to write an article that will disparage high technology, smart devices and my beloved PlayStation and VR. I can even write a separate series on the joy that high-tech brings to our lives. But it is a fact that everything in life is beautiful when it is balanced.
Research shows that being in nature, even looking at nature photos, reduces stress and anxiety. In addition it makes us feel better, and reduces our blood pressure, heart rate and the production of stress hormones. It gives us back what the indoors took from us! When we are in nature, our mind moves away from the distractions that modern life brings. This makes us more creative!
By contacting nature, we are actually giving ourselves the elixir of youth.
So what’s behind this feel-good energy?
(Those who are interested in numbers and scientific details, like me, can enjoy the bibliography at the end of the article.)
When sunlight hits the skin, a process begins in our body that leads to vitamin D formation and activation. While the amount of sunlight we need varies depending on our skin tone and age, there are many benefits of getting our natural vitamin D supplement from the sun for up to 10 minutes a day. Studies show that this vitamin helps prevent osteoporosis and cancer and reduces the risk of heart attack.
Exposure to natural light throughout the day is perfect for keeping our circadian rhythm, that is, our body clock, in balance. The amount of sunlight we get during the day has a big impact on how much we sleep at night.
When the sun comes to your balcony, to your garden or to your window, put yourself under the sun. Close your eyes, open your arms and let yourself into the sun’s welcoming light and warmth. It will make you shriek sweetly first, then rejuvenate you from your bones to your muscles!
Are you one of those who feel sleepy, hungry or restless after an hour spent in the mall? In closed environments, the body needs to work harder to get the oxygen it needs to function. This means that the heart rate and blood pressure constantly increase.
Oxygen levels in our brains depend on serotonin levels, the neurotransmitter that affects our mood, appetite, memory, and even social behaviour. Normal serotonin means feeling happier and better.
Nature’s calming effect comes not only from fresh air, but also from the ground. Research shows that Mycobacterium Vaccae, a harmless bacterium commonly found in soil, can act as a natural antidepressant by increasing serotonin release and metabolism in parts of the brain that control cognitive function and mood.
We humans are not only observers of nature’s endless movement and natural cycle, but also we are a part of it. In addition to the positive physical effects, see what else has been observed in individuals who usually spend 120 minutes outside a week and carry their exercise to nature (walking, dancing, cycling and other joyful activities):
- Increased sense of coherence and self-awareness
- Rise in creativity
- Feeling more energetic and lively
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Getting in line with the sleep routine
- Increasing productivity in the workplace
By saying to love and protect nature, you can’t make someone a devoted nature lover. This is only possible when people go out into nature and feel good about themselves and gain conscious awareness. Because when someone gains the care for the nature through their own positive experience they become more protective to nature. Those who care more to protect these magical spaces for both themselves and future generations are generally those who are in direct contact with these miraculous gifts of nature.
The name of this indescribable feeling that I mentioned at the beginning of the article is energy! This energy is the reason why our eyes shine differently when we go out into nature! The closest definition to this energy that emerges from us and mingles with nature, giving us a feeling of eternal belonging and wholeness, is JOY! A state of feeling both relaxed, calm, energetic, happy, peaceful and immense! Being exposed to the sun, oxygen and soil even for five minutes a day, sipping even a dose of joy means inviting all the benefits and transformative effects I mentioned above to your body!
The Positive Effects Of Nature On Your Mental Well-Being
Your Brain on Nature: The Science of Nature’s İnfluence on Your Health, Happiness and Vitality”, Eva M. Selhub, MD and Alan C. Logan, ND
Michael McCarthy: The Moth Snowstorm: Nature and Joy
White, M.P., Alcock, I., Grellier, J. et al. Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing. Sci Rep 9, 7730 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-44097-3
What is the Best Dose of Nature and Green Exercise for Improving Mental Health? A Multi-Study Analysis
Jo Barton and Jules Pretty
Environmental Science & Technology 2010 44 (10), 3947-3955
Identification of an immune-responsive mesolimbocortical serotonergic system: Potential role in regulation of emotional behavior
C.A. Lowry, J.H. Hollis, A. de Vries, B. Pan, L.R. Brunet, J.R.F. Hunt, J.F.R. Paton, E. van Kampen, D.M. Knight, A.K. Evans, G.A.W. Rook, S.L. Lightman
Neuroscience. 2007 May 11; 146(2-5): 756–772. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroscience.2007.01.067