5 ways nature can improve your health

June 18, 2018 | by Amish Doshi, MD
Categories: Healthy Driven Life

How often do you stop to take in the natural world?

We get used to our routine surroundings — the office, our cars, our homes. Deliberately leaving those spaces and moving to natural surroundings for a while, unplugged, could seriously improve your health.

The phrase “forest bathing” recently spent some time in the spotlight, and deservedly so. When done correctly, forest bathing, or spending time in nature, can provide an important boost to your mind and body.

So what is forest bathing? First, go to a nature preserve. Leave your cell phone locked in your car. Then, let go of the thoughts in your head and focus on the present; the way the tree bark feels, the way the dirt smells, the sounds of birds singing and wind rustling leaves. Take a relaxed, meandering walk that gives you time to breathe and break from the pace of everyday life.

It turns out a nature walk can actually improve your physical health, besides giving you a mental rest.

Among the many benefits, spending time in nature can:

  1. Improve your memory. One study found a nature walk improved short-term memory by 20 percent.
  2. Lower stress hormones. Nature has a calming effect, which allows your body to focus on improving its systems. Many plants release immunity-boosting organic compounds into the air. Forests provide shade, help filter the air and can reduce levels of stress hormones in your body.
  3. Lower your blood pressure.
  4. Help you focus. It’s amazing what a mental break from phones, email, social media and television will do for your attention span.
  5. Reduce feelings of depression or anxiety. A long walk through a natural environment does wonders for the thoughts spinning through your brain. A 2015 study found a 90-minute nature walk slowed participants’ rumination (repetitive thought focused on negative aspects of the self).

You don’t have to make these walks a workout. Serious physical exertion isn’t necessary, and actually could take your focus off your surroundings.

If you must, schedule a walk in the woods on your calendar. Make an appointment with nature. Doctor’s orders! Spend time on yourself. Just leave your phone behind when you go.

Dr. Amish Doshi, an internal medicine physician with Edward Medical Group, is accepting new patients in Naperville! View his profile and schedule an appointment online.

Please join Dr. Doshi at 7 p.m. July 18 to explore the health benefits of a wellness-focused lifestyle in the serene setting of the Conservation Foundation grounds. Dr. Doshi will discuss habits that constitute a healthy lifestyle, including nutrition and activity, as well as the powerful benefits of time spent in nature. At the conclusion of the discussion we’ll take a nature walk on the property.

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