The importance of taking time out to nurture the mind, body and soul is not to be underestimated. Whether it’s a few hours, a few days or a few weeks, everybody needs to rest and reconnect to give their physical, mental and spiritual health time to recuperate. And spending time in tranquil settings that are immersed in nature is a perfect way to do that.
Life can be challenging at times. Even those lucky enough to have their ideal job, family, income and living situation aren’t immune to the rigours of our everyday existence. Rare is the person who can operate on full steam 365 days a year. After all, we’re only human.
The evidence supporting the need for “me” time is overwhelming. And whilst taking deep breaths, meditating and shutting ourselves off from the world for a few hours can help, spending longer periods of time in new and calming settings can do even more for our overall health.
In terms of physical restoration, spending time in nature has been linked to decreasing heart rate, blood pressure and sympathetic nerve activity. Extensive tests have been carried out with the intention of trying to measure the benefits of spending time amongst the natural world. A 2011 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that compared with subjects who exercised indoors in some way, those who did the same activities outside reported a greater increase in energy, less depression, a drop in anger, confusion and tension, and greater overall revitalisation.
Even the simple act of taking in a beautiful view has its benefits. Korean scientists have found that subjects who were shown images of the natural world – forests, mountains and oceans – experienced higher activity in the part of the brain linked to emotional stability and overall positive outlook.
The Japanese even have a name for immersing oneself in nature – shinrin-yoku (‘forest bathing’) – which goes some way to underscore just how important this practice is in their culture. It’s certainly no coincidence that Japan hold such practices in high regard and have the highest average life expectancy in the world.
Luckily, gaining access to these fabled restorative environments is easily done in Australia and New Zealand. Both countries boast a wealth of immaculate natural settings, from the Victorian countryside and the Blue Mountains of New South Wales to the Northern Rivers and Byron Bay regions – not to mention New Zealand’s world-renowned scenery – Oceania is the perfect place to get lost in.
Planning an escape or retreat into the country shouldn’t be something that happens once the pressure of everyday life reaches bursting point, it should be something scheduled in at least semi-regularly to help ensure that our physical, mental and spiritual health stays on a positive level year-round. It may seem easier said than done and it may seem at times that we’re too busy to even consider such occasions.
But the truth is that the majority of chores, tasks, work or menial responsibilities we think we need to get done can wait. Our health, in all its varying forms, cannot. It’s important to give ourselves time so that any time we’re not spending on ourselves is spent in a more productive, conducive and healthier fashion.
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Image: courtesy of Tourism Australia