A Walk in the Woods for Mental Health
By Randi Morse
Today more and more people live in cities. Living in a city has its advantages. You are surrounded by culture, you have multiple shopping options, and you can enjoy cuisine from pretty much any part of the world. But there are also advantages to living in nature as well. Because I have lived in a rural area my entire life, I've had the joy of watching what happens when people who have always lived in the city make their way into my corner of the world. The way they take deep breaths and seem to relax instantly always makes me smile. I've always loved living near the woods, but what I didn't realize is that where I live may be helping my mental health.
A recent Australian study was completed in order to determine how many advantages there were for those people who lived in, or near, what the research team called "natural surroundings." This study discovered that when people lived in an area where trees covered at least 30 percent of the neighborhood, those people were 31 percent less likely to have psychological problems, and were also 33 percent less likely to say that they were in poor health. How did they do this study?
Researchers from the University of Wollongong selected adults who were at least 45 years old, or older, and who lived in one of three metropolitan Australian cities. They then looked at the health the volunteers had in relation to how much green space was available within a mile of their home. What the researchers found is that it didn't matter how much green space was around the home, what mattered was how many trees were located within a mile of the house.
There have been several studies with interesting findings regarding how much being in the forest can help mental and physical health. One study about Japanese forests proved that those who spent time in the woods were able to lower their blood pressure, lower the chance of having diabetes and coronary heart disease and were able to sleep better.
But what if you don't live in an area where trees are easily accessible? If this is the case, try planning regular trips to a local wildlife park. In most states you can find parks that are teeming with wildlife and trees. Once a month or so, take a walk through the trees and spend time relaxing, breathing deep, and allowing your body to be stressed. While you might not feel some of the medical benefits immediately, it is almost guaranteed that your mental health will feel much better after a long walk in the woods.
To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Sacramento, Calif.