Nature’s Effect on Health
What we take in from our environment through any sense — sound, smell, or sight — all can change our mood. But did you know that it can also cause changes in our other bodily systems including your nervous, endocrine, and even your immune system? A stressful environment can make you feel anxious, sad, or helpless. This is paired with elevating blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and suppression of the immune system. (1, 2) There is a rapid accumulation of evidence indicating that environment can elicit substantial stress in people living in urban environments, (3) where a pleasing environment can do the opposite. (1)
We can take this information and see it as a disadvantage, as most of us spend a large amount of time in our own concrete jungles. Or, we can see this as an opportunity to better understand ourselves and our bodies and use this to better our health.
This time of year is perfect to begin your adventures into nature and discover its effects on your body. You don’t have to be a tree hugger to feel the positive effects of our greener surroundings on our bodies. Nature has a way with humans that can help with reducing stress, generate more positive emotions, and improve our psychological well being. (3)
Not the biggest fan of being outdoors, but you want the health benefits? You don’t have to submerge yourself into a forest – research has shown that even seeing pictures of nature can activate similar health benefits! (3)
Luckily for Des Moines dwellers, this is an amazing spot to start submerging yourself into nature and being able to almost forget that you are within a big city. Some suggestions to start your natural journey to improved health and wellness –
Local options for experiencing nature
Easter Lake Park
Water Works Park
Areas to enjoy nature while feeling the connections to the city
All year round – Greater Des Moines botanical gardens
Better Homes and Gardens Test Garden
Rotary Riverwalk Park
Have you explored all of these places? Have any other recommendations? If you see a fun spot that we don’t have included on our list, take a picture of yourself enjoying its nature and tag the clinic! We would love to see you using nature to better your health!
- “How Does Nature Impact Our Wellbeing?” Taking Charge of Your Health & Wellbeing, www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/how-does-nature-impact-our-wellbeing.
- Meredith, Genevive R., et al. “Minimum Time Dose in Nature to Positively Impact the Mental Health of College-Aged Students, and How to Measure It: A Scoping Review.” Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 10, 2020, doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02942.
- Park, Bum Jin, et al. “The Physiological Effects of Shinrin-Yoku (Taking in the Forest Atmosphere or Forest Bathing): Evidence from Field Experiments in 24 Forests across Japan.” Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine, vol. 15, no. 1, 2009, pp. 18–26., doi:10.1007/s12199-009-0086-9.
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