Your Health: The Benefits of Nature

Your Health is a six-part series exploring various aspects of personal well-being, written by NEW JERSEY BUSINESS magazine.

If Henry David Thoreau once lived minimally in a self-made cabin the woods, the businessperson today might note that the health benefits derived from spending time in nature have now been more fully explored via research released this year from the University of East Anglia.  The England-based higher education institution’s report detailed that being exposed to nature or “greenspace” reduces the risk for heart disease and diabetes, as well as high blood pressure and premature death, for example.

In broader terms separate from the study, for the New Jersey businessperson navigating a maze of highways, byways, roads, bridges and mass transportation, it is the nature trip that might not only yield said health benefits, but – in such areas where WiFi and cellular connectivity is unavailable – it may also provide a respite from the frenetic business world.

While New Jerseyans are of course familiar with the eastern deciduous forest, it is northern Maine which yields the northern boreal forest, replete with soft, seemingly carpet-padded forest floors, lichens, and – in basic terms – pine trees extending often in all directions.  The further north one proceeds, it can be at least argued the more likely one may feel immersed in nature.  Some people assert that Norway, with its hard granite and gneiss stone landscape may be more awe-inspiring, but – on the other hand – who cannot say that New Jersey’s vast Pinelands are not a glorious treasure to behold?

Perhaps any natural setting can provide the benefits one needs.  Recapitulating to the University of East Anglia’s study, the researchers there found that being immersed in nature even “reduces people’s levels of salivary cortisol – a physiological marker of stress.”

Study co-author Professor Andy Jones was quoted in his university’s press release: “We often reach for medication for when we’re unwell, but exposure to health-promoting environments is increasingly recognized as both preventing and helping treat disease.  Our study shows that the size of these benefits can be enough to have a meaningful clinical impact.”

Spending time in nature, overall, might be one component of an overall well-being plan.

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