Dr. Lawren Chan N.D. Integrative Naturopathic Medical Centre Naturopath YVR
3 min|Dr. Lawren Chan

The Healing Embrace of Nature: Reducing Stress Physically, Mentally, Emotionally

Stories, Wellness, Mind Health, Health, Education, Gut Health, Heart Health

Reconnecting with Nature

Through my own experience I have come to realize that whenever I stop feeling like myself, bogged down by stress, decisions, moodiness, or emotions, an infallible way to change my state is to have a change of scenery. In other words, I get outside!

Unconsciously, I started doing this many years ago when I felt overwhelmed or even unmotivated. Growing up in Deep Cove, North Vancouver, I essentially had access to mountains in my backyard and ocean in the front. I remember going on walks and little hikes as a family when I was small, and then taking myself out when I got a bit older.

When I moved out to start my undergraduate degree, I was lucky enough to be studying at Simon Fraser University, located on Burnaby Mountain, where fresh air, forests, and views were abundant.

Going out for walks has kept me sane, helped manage my stress, and pulled me away from depressive mental and emotional spirals. I realize how privileged I have been to have the beauty of nature right in front of me and I want to share the power it has with everyone else.

Simply going outside for a walk, even on the street or to a park can help. Getting into nature, near the ocean, to a forest, or on a mountain is even better.

Aside from the fact that physically leaving the city separates you from the circumstances or situations that are oppressing your energy, mood or mentality, exposure to green space has been shown to reduce levels of salivary cortisol - a physiological marker colloquially called the "stress hormone" as it is released by the adrenal glands in response to stress.

I regularly experience the benefits of getting out of my head and away from indoor spaces that can sometimes weigh me down. Of course, I am not always able to immediately drop everything and go, but I now know I need to make the time to do so, preventatively and more urgently if I start feeling off. I am not suggesting that this simple act will solve all your problems, but it can help acutely to shift your state away from a downward trend so you can get back on a better path!

A recent meta-analysis has also shown that proximity to nature reduces the risk of high blood pressure, type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, and increases sleep duration.

Twohig-bennett C, Jones A. The health benefits of the great outdoors: A systematic review and meta-analysis of greenspace exposure and health outcomes. Environ Res. 2018;166:628-637.

These long term benefits, along with the immediate short term ones can be appreciated by all, and living in Vancouver, we all need to remember to take advantage of the beauty and wisdom of the natural world that surrounds us.

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