Take a Happy and Healthy Walk in Nature

The happiest 4 countries in the world, according to the 2021 World Happiness Report, are Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, and Iceland. Finland has topped the list 4 years in a row.

 

What the citizens of these countries have in a common is their pursuit of the true elements for happiness and wellbeing. 

 

This article is about one of these elements — the freedom to roam and spend time in nature (even in freezing weather where is it dark many months of the year!!).

How could walking in the woods or lying on grass in the park possibly make you happier, or improve your sense of overall wellbeing?

 

Connecting with nature helps us regulate our emotions, through soothing and calming (using the parasympathetic nervous system), instead of fear, anxiety and drive (using the sympathetic nervous system). [1]

If you, like most people, have long forgotten how your brain works and controls your central nervous system, then please watch this 3-minute video for a clear and simple explanation:

Which brings us back to the happy Finns.

A survey of 3,000 Finnish participants found that those who reported spending more of their leisure time engaged in nature-based recreational activities had higher positive emotional feelings than those who reported spending less of their free time in nature. [2]

 

Even brief walks in natural, versus urban/indoor, environments can lead to significant boosts in mood.

 

In our previous articles, we have noted that HAPPINESS is often described as feeling good and WELLBEING is described as functioning well.

People who describe themselves as “connected to nature” and therefore spend a lot of time outdoors, also report feeling many aspects of overall wellbeing:

 

  • their life is more meaningful,

 

  • they have increased autonomy and ability to freely choose what they do,

 

  • they have the freedom to be authentic,

 

  • they experience vitality, feeling fully alive and energized.

Living close to and spending time in nature has potential to be an additional treatment for health problems.

 

In 2009 a team of Dutch researchers found a lower incidence of 15 diseases—including depression, anxiety, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, and migraines—in people who lived within about a 1 km of green space. [3]

 

“Shinrin-yoku” (literally translated as forest bathing) is a healing practice in Japan, where people immerse themselves in nature, while mindfully paying attention to their senses. Often involving a walk in a forest, it aims to integrate and harmonize humans with a forest.

 

One of the world´s expert on this topic, Yoshifumi Miyazaki at Chiba University sent 84 Japanese subjects to stroll for 15-minutes in seven different forests, while the same number of volunteers walked around city centers.

 

The forest walkers hit a relaxation jackpot: overall they showed a 16 percent decrease in the stress hormone cortisol, a 2 percent drop in blood pressure, and a 4 percent drop in their heart rate.

If you are interested to learn more, click here to read this article, “Can Trees Heal People” by Florence Williams.

And then head outdoors, stand close to the first tree you find, and happily look as if you are seeing it for the first time.

nature is happiness
Erik and Iléa

 

[1] Joy and Calm: How an Evolutionary Functional Model of Affect Regulation Informs Positive Emotions in Nature, Richardson et al. Evolutionary Psychological Science (2016) 2:308–320.
[2] Korpela, K., Borodulin, K., Neuvonen, M., Paronen, O., & Tyrväinen, L. (2014). Analyzing the mediators between nature-based outdoor recreation and emotional well-being. JOURNAL OF ENVIRONMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY37, 1-7. 
[3] This Is Your Brain On Nature, Florence Williams https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2016/01/call-to-wild
1 Comment
  • Norrice

    July 8, 2021 at 5:13 am Reply

    Took a walk with my 88 year old young dad today!

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