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What’s the Secret Behind the Healing Power of Nature?

Updated: Oct 27, 2020


I recently spent four days in Cape Breton at a friend’s wilderness retreat. I soaked in the beauty of the natural world around me-the forested mountains, a bubbling brook, a rocky beach and the open ocean, as eagles soared overhead. I went hiking in the forest and swam in clear, cold ocean water and at night I had the best sleeps in the silence, with stars overhead. I returned to “civilization” relaxed, rejuvenated and with new energy.

Benefits of Connecting with Nature

Many studies have shown that being in nature, living near nature, or even viewing nature seems to connect with our bodies and minds, producing positive emotions and calming our nervous systems. Connecting with nature helps us develop greater openness, creativity, generosity, and resilience.

What’s the Secret?

So why does nature have such a positive impact on us? Two studies conducted by Craig Anderson and his colleagues suggest that a sense of awe may be a secret ingredient. In nature, we can experience the sense that we are in the presence of something greater than ourselves. Perhaps it helps us get perspective- to see that our worries are small by comparison to the incredible world around us. You can contribute to the study of awe by taking the Awe Quiz

And what about the biological impact of the natural world? Forest bathing is something that has been done in Japan and other countries for many years. It’s about spending time in the forest and taking in the experience through all your senses, including appreciating the sounds of the forest and the silence. Dr. Qing Li in Japan has found that forest bathing reduces physiological stress, increases people’s energy, and reduces fatigue. The higher concentration of oxygen in a forest is one of the secret ingredients. The other ingredient is plant chemicals called phytoncides, which are part of a plant’s defense system against bacteria, insects, and fungi. Phytoncides are in higher concentrations in evergreen forests.

Accessing the Healing Power of Nature

What can you do? Here are a few tips.

  • Take the time in your daily life to pay attention to the natural world, whether noticing a flower, a sunset, or a bird chirping in a tree.

  • Get out into nature when you can. We are fortunate in Nova Scotia to be near the natural world, even in our cities and towns.

  • Try immersing yourself in a forest and take in the experience and the secret ingredients-phytoncides and oxygen. Even 20 minutes in a forest makes a difference.

  • Access the high oxygen levels of the ocean by going for a walk, or even sitting near the ocean.

To learn more about my practice and the work I do, go to


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