The Japanese practice something called “shinrin-yoku” which translates to “forest bathing.” It is a simple activity that does not require hiking or running. It only involves spending time in nature, taking it in, and experiencing and connecting to the forest through your sense of sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste.
The practice is meant to encourage people to temporarily log out of their electronic devices. It was presented as an antidote to a fast-paced and ultra-connected life, often a cause of stress and anxiety.
The Healing Power of Nature
There is a scientific basis to the belief that spending time in nature is good for you. Even a few minutes in green spaces will have a positive impact on a person’s overall health.
In one study, researchers found that people who live in urban areas are more likely to have anxiety and depression compared to rural dwellers. However, another study found that walking in a natural setting, such as a public park or your own garden, for 90 minutes every day is enough to improve mood and provide relief from symptoms of anxiety and depression. That is because when in nature, there is less activity in the brain. People do not ruminate, which leads to negative thoughts.
Being in green spaces is also known to lower blood pressure. Hypertension affects one in three Americans. The United States is estimated to spend $48.6 billion per year on costs associated with high blood pressure.
But, it turns out, spending time outdoors may aid in bringing high blood pressure down to normal. In fact, one study claims that sitting or walking in a park for 30 minutes per week will get hypertension under control.
Nature Improves Quality of Life
A long list of health benefits for both body and mind comes with spending time with nature. Its impact is most profound among seniors, many of whom already experience chronic illnesses and are more prone to mental health conditions like depression.
One research found that being around green and blue, or an environment with water, spaces leads to healthy aging among older adults.
The findings, which were published in the Health and Place journal, claim that green and blue spaces encourage a sense of restoration, renewal, and spiritual connectedness. More importantly, green and blue spaces become sites for social interactions and engagements.
While younger generations use green and blue spaces for revitalization after a busy day, for seniors, it is a place to be physically, socially, and spiritually active. In many cases, seniors who have chronic illness or disability persevere to visit green and blue spaces and experience the myriad of benefits from being in the natural environment.
Seniors are at risk of boredom, loneliness, and depression. In the United States, older adults make up 12 percent of the entire population. However, they account for 18 percent of all deaths due to suicide nationwide. It is important that they maintain an active and fulfilling social life in old age to improve their overall quality of life.
The researchers also revealed that the sound of running water or a bee buzzing can have a positive influence on the health of seniors. Hopefully, the findings can help builders realize the importance of providing green and blue spaces in communities where older adults reside.
Nature Is Key to Healthy Aging
Families should, therefore, consider access to green and blue spaces when choosing where their senior loved ones will spend their twilight years. Residential care homes with lush green gardens will open opportunities for older adults to socialize and become physically active.
Many older adults are choosing to live independently for as long as they can. Encouraging gardening as a hobby will keep their bodies and their minds healthy. Taking care of an indoor potted plant will also give your senior loved ones the same physical and mental benefits.
Moreover, it is also vital to address mobility limitations which is a problem that many seniors face. The inability to move freely and comfortably creates a blockade that prevents them from maintaining a social life. It also inhibits them from accessing nearby green and blue spaces where they can interact with other people.
Being surrounded by the natural environment is good for humans regardless of age. Everyone, but especially seniors, benefit from spending time in green and blue spaces. It clears the mind of stressors and negative thoughts, preventing or alleviating mental health disorders. It also maintains a strong body. Moreover, it is a way for seniors to remain socially active, reducing feelings of boredom, loneliness, and depression.