Many Canadians hibernate in the winter or during bad weather and as a result, time spent on social media spikes. Several studies have indicated that the prolonged use of social networking sites may be related to signs and symptoms of depression.
One way to combat this contributor to poor mental health is to simply put down the phone and get outdoors. As Canadians we are incredibly fortunate to have nature’s bounty at our fingertips. We are privileged to inhabit the country that has more than half of all the lakes in the world. Ours is the second largest nation on the planet, with the longest coastline of any nation.
And the trees! About half of Canada’s landmass is covered by 180 species of trees that comprise the vast forests that blanket this land.
While much of our spectacular country is so remote that most of us will never see it, the fact is that regardless of the province, the beauty of Canada’s nature is readily available, accessible and can be enjoyed with minimal effort, and often at no cost.
Ecotherapy, also referred to as “Nature Therapy”, is about connecting with nature to improve one’s psychological and physiological well-being. But why is getting ecotherapy or just spending time outdoors in the Great White North, or anywhere for that matter, important? Let’s count down 8 reasons why you should get out and enjoy some time outdoors.
- Stress Reduction
Spending time in nature has a calming effect on our minds and bodies. Studies have shown that ecotherapy and spending time in nature can lower stress levels and reduce the production of stress hormones like cortisol. Immersing yourself in the sights, sounds, and smells of nature promotes relaxation and helps combat anxiety and tension.
- Improved Mental Health
Nature has a positive impact on mental health and well-being. Engaging with natural surroundings can alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety, enhance mood, and boost self-esteem. Nature offers a soothing and rejuvenating environment that promotes mindfulness and reduces the mental fatigue caused by urban environments.
In fact, if you live in the concrete jungle you might want to make forest bathing a priority, and plan on regular excursions. It’s not just for the wilderness-lover, the practice can be as simple as walking in any natural environment and consciously connecting with what’s around you.
- Physical Activity
The bounty of nature that Canada provides is a perfect backdrop for physical activities such as hiking, skiing, snowshoeing, cycling, swimming, or simply taking a walk. Engaging in outdoor exercises not only improves cardiovascular health but also increases physical fitness, strengthens muscles, and enhances overall endurance.
Regular physical activity in nature can reduce the risk of chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. And with technology like your Apple Watch or other wearables, you can track your activity rates and double down on disease prevention and management, all while helping your mental health.
- Enhanced Immune Function
Exposure to natural environments can strengthen our immune system. Studies suggest that spending time in nature increases the production and activity of natural killer cells, which play a crucial role in fighting cancer and viruses. Breathing fresh air away from pollutants and absorbing vitamin D from sunlight are additional benefits that contribute to a healthier immune system.
- Cognitive Benefits
Nature has a positive impact on our cognitive abilities. Research indicates that spending time in natural settings can improve focus, attention span, and problem-solving skills. Nature’s calming influence allows our minds to rest, promoting creativity and boosting cognitive function.
- Better Sleep Quality
Being in nature can significantly improve quality of sleep. Exposure to natural light during the day helps regulate our internal biological clock, promoting a healthy sleep-wake cycle. The fresh air and peaceful surroundings of nature can also lead to deeper and more restorative sleep, leaving us feeling refreshed and energized.
- Vitamin D Synthesis
Spending time outdoors exposes us to sunlight, allowing our bodies to synthesize vitamin D. This essential vitamin supports healthy bone growth, strengthens the immune system, and helps prevent chronic diseases such as osteoporosis and certain types of cancer. Just a few minutes of sun exposure each day can fulfill our vitamin D requirements.
- Connection with the Natural World
Reconnecting with nature nurtures our innate bond with the environment and fosters a sense of interconnectedness. Feeling a part of something larger than ourselves promotes a sense of purpose, reduces feelings of isolation, and encourages environmental stewardship. Developing an appreciation for nature’s beauty and biodiversity can inspire us to protect and preserve it for future generations.
Getting out in Nature
Embracing nature offers many health benefits. Whether it’s a short walk in the park, a weekend camping trip, doing an outdoor sport, or simply incorporating natural elements into our daily lives, immersing ourselves in nature can have a profound positive impact on our well-being, both physically and mentally.
So, to quote the famous shoe brand, “Just Do it!”. Put down the phone, reconnect with nature and experience the many rewards the outdoors has to offer. And let us know – what is your favourite way to spend time outdoors?