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It’s almost summer here in SC…a great time to get outside and enjoy the beauty of nature. With all of the national and state parks as well as beaches, lakes, and other natural spaces, there is always some way to get outside, even if it’s in your own backyard. Being outdoors can be a magical experience. Surrounding yourself in the beauty of nature in all its forms is amazing. Getting away from the hustle and bustle of daily life is soothing. And taking a break from all of the technology is necessary for maintaining health!
For those who are highly sensitive like me, the constant busyness of the modern world can often be overstimulating and overwhelming. So it is important to find healthy ways to soothe the nervous system regularly. One of the ways that have worked best for me is spending time out in nature. Being in nature benefits empaths and highly sensitive people greatly! Getting away from the smartphone, computer, television, and other demands of the world is soothing. And it has played an important part in helping me to restore my health!
Vitamin N Deficiency
Most people don’t spend much time outside anymore. Most people suffer from what I call “vitamin N” deficiency. In his book Last Child in the Woods, author Richard Louv writes about the growing amount of research that shows how vital it is for children to be exposed to nature. He introduced the term “nature-deficit disorder”. And he connects the need for time in nature and the emotional and physical health of both children and adults.
Our ancestors spent much of their time outdoors working. As a GenXer, I was always outside growing up. And it didn’t matter what time of year it was! Once we were done with homework, on the weekends and on school breaks, we were out the door playing in the backyard or riding our bikes through the neighborhood. But now we live in a time when we are disconnected from nature. And nature deficit disorder may be impacting you, especially if you are an empath!
9 ways nature benefits sensitives
It’s soothing to an overstimulated nervous system
Those who are highly sensitive have a nervous system that is far more sensitive than the majority of people. We just feel and experience everything much more strongly than others do. Because of this, it is easy for the nervous system to become overwhelmed and overstimulated. We often live in a chronic state of fight or flight. But spending time in nature can help to shut off the fight or flight response and activate the parasympathetic system, leading to a more relaxed state.
It boosts the immune system
Unfortunately, many people spend the majority of their time living a lifestyle that is sedentary and primarily indoors. According to the EPA, Americans spend as much as 90% of their time inside. But being inside all the time is preventing them from benefitting from nature. Indoor air quality has been shown to be much worse than the quality of the air outdoors. Over the past few decades, various studies done in Japan have shown that forest bathing, the act of immersing oneself in nature, improved the function of the immune system. And forest therapy is often recommended in Japan to boost immune health. Studies have shown that participants who regularly spend time in nature have an increase in white cells, as well as the “killer” cells that help to keep cancer at bay.
Most empaths struggle at times with fatigue. But Studies now show that spending as little as 20 minutes a day out in nature can increase energy levels. Those who are sensitive should think twice about reaching for that cup of coffee, or sugary snack, which can deplete them further. Instead, sensitives should opt to get outdoors and soak in some vitamin N! I can tell you from my own personal experience that spending time in nature has definitely helped to boost my energy. And it takes as little as 20 minutes a day!
A reduction in stress
Chronic stress is a problem for everyone, not just those who are sensitive. And chronic stress contributes to as much as 90% of all chronic illnesses. There is far more that demands our time and attention than 100 years ago. Because of this, most people walk around chronically overwhelmed and stressed from the demands. And yet we have been given the message that making stress management a priority is selfish. So many do nothing to reduce stress levels regularly. As you face stress each day, the body releases the hormone Cortisol. Raised levels of cortisol can have negative effects on the body over time. But spending time in nature reduces cortisol levels which in turn reduces stress levels. And these levels can remain lower for many days after spending time outside.
Lowers blood pressure
Chronic stress and high blood pressure can be an issue for empaths. But when cortisol levels are lower and the state of fight or flight has been shut off, then blood pressure levels also come down. Elevated cortisol levels raise blood pressure to help prepare the body to either fight or run. Spending time outside regularly can help to reduce high blood pressure. As a result the risk of heart attack and stroke also goes down.
A Break from External Stimulation
Sensitive people are inundated by external stimulation. Not only do we absorb the emotional energy of others, but we are at the mercy of all kinds of external stimulation. Stimulation from our phones, computers, television, and other digital gadgets keeps flooding us and forcing us to be available to others 24/7. Nature benefits those who are sensitive because is calming and allows us to have time away from many of the things that overstimulate us. I always recommend using time in nature to have a clean break from your phone and even your earbuds! There is a greater benefit to allowing yourself to be surrounded by the gentle sounds of nature than listening to a podcast or music.
Helps improve focus and attention
When you spend time out in nature, it can actually improve how well you focus and concentrate. A 2009 study of children found that children with attention-deficit issues showed improvement in their ability to concentrate after a 20-minute walk in a park. Even the focus of adults can improve when spending time in nature.
Can improve mood
If you’ve been a bit moody recently, spending time out in nature can help improve your mood! A study by the Journal of Positive Psychology showed that spending time in nature for as little as 5 minutes can give your mood a boost! The study showed that being in nature, without technology, helped participants reduce their negative emotions.
Many highly sensitive people struggle with sleep problems. But making time in nature has helped many empaths get better sleep. Because time outdoors reduces stress and cortisol levels, many find it much easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. Chronic stress and high cortisol levels are often linked to insomnia and other sleep issues.
If you haven’t been spending much time outdoors, perhaps this is a great time to take a look at ways that you can incorporate time with nature into your day. The good news is that you don’t have to travel to the nearest forest to get nature benefits. A local green park or other green space can be just as effective! Getting outside regularly can be one of the best ways to practice healthy living as an empath.
Aren’t sure if you’re an empath? Take my simple Energy Sensitivity Quiz to find out more!