In times like these nature connectedness is more important than ever. Nature is known to have several health benefits for our bodies. It lowers blood pressure and stress hormones, lifts up spirit and helps us to relax. Shinrin-yoku is a concept in Japan that means bathing in the forest and allowing it to heal us. In Finland nature is never really far from us, but there are ways to take full advantage of it and let it de-stress our worried minds.
Constant stress, from fear of the coronavirus, other health issues, money problems, work, relationships, or whatever reason, can cause severe problems to anyone. Loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, trouble concentrating, memory loss, anxiety, mood swings or feeling low on energy can be signs of stress. Most of us have gone through periods in our lives where we recognized stress and some of its harmful side effects. Right now when the world is in crisis, we have high changes for a long term stress. De-stressing is more important than ever.
If you have any health problems that might be related to stress, you should be in touch with your doctor. But these are our tips for preventing stress and de-stressing out in the nature.
Enjoy the cleanest air
Air quality is known to be the top class in the Finnish forests. According to World Health Organization‘s statistics from past decade, the concentration of fine particles in Finland averages six micrograms per cubic metre, which is the lowest level on the globe. Check out the current air quality index from the Finnish Meteorological Institute website. It is no wonder you feel refreshed after visting the nature in Finland. When in forest, slowly inhale a normal amount of air through your nose, filling your lungs. Hold your breath for a while and exhale easily. Concentrate on your breathing and practise your breathing skills, if needed. Actively relax your body by breathing the cleanest air in the world. The clean air of the forest is also loaded with antibacterial chemicals called phytoncides. They can boost our immune system.
Bathe in the forest
The Japanese trend of bathing in the forest and its health benefits can be proved scientifically. One research found that participants who walked in a forest had lower blood pressure and levels of stress hormone cortisol afterwards than those who strolled through a city environment. Here it is easy to go to forest, but park is also a good option. The most important thing is to head out, find some trees and let their calming effect soothe your mind. For some beautiful trees check out for example the cherry tree park in Roihuvuori in Helsinki or the hardwood grove in Katariinanlaakso in Turku.
Remember to take it easy
Excercising is generally good for your health, but if you are feeling really burn out, you might want to take it easy when excercising. Your body doesn’t know the difference between negative stress and positive stress, which is coming from any exercise that raises the heart rate significantly. While running might still make you feel good, it can have a negative impact on your body if your stress levels are already super-high. In de-stressing the best forms of exercises are slow pace activities such as walking, geocaching or foraging berries or mushrooms. Pay attention to your surroundings and don’t forget to take deep breaths in.
Take advantage of calming effect of water
In the land of thousands of lakes you can easily enjoy being near the water, whether it is a sea, lake or river. Being near water has shown to decrease overstimulation. Sound of a moving water can also be soothing. My dad has been an entrepreneur most of his life and his small business had to go through some very rough times during the early 1990s depression, but the place where he found relaxation was at our cottage by a small creek. I would venture to say that having a place like that by the creek saved him from the most severe consequences of stress. Even if you don’t have the luxury of having a cottage by a water, you can always find a place like that in the nature. If you have found a spot that helps you to relax, try to go there regularly and take some time for yourself.
It’s important to feel small and part of something bigger
A typical phenomenon in Finland and especially Lapland during dark winter months can be extremely healthy for us. Those who have experienced northern lights know what I’m talking about. Aurora borealis is such an amazing phenomenon, that it makes you feel small but in a good way. When you are looking at the northern lights dancing in the sky, you feel like you are only a tiny part of something way bigger in the universe. Experiences like this make you forget about small problems in your life. Observing all natural phenomenons from weather to wildlife helps you feel one with nature.
Disconnect and go out to de-stress
If you are like me, chances are you spend a lot more time inside than outside, staring at your computer screen or phone. While they help you connect with friends and maybe even to do your job, they can also steel your time. Pay attention to how much time you spend on your phone, scrolling news or social media. The phone can track those hours for you. And yes, usually we are using our phone for several hours per day. My personal record on my phone was six hours, which I’m not proud of. Following too many news can also be the cause for anxiety these days. So forget your phone, laptop and tv for a while and go out. Finnish nature awaits.