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Release peace: the magazine

Release peace: the magazine

Analysis & Background Stories on International Affairs

How Scandinavia Proofs the Health Benefits of Nature

Article by: Lauriane Lamare

A Study Proofs the Effects

In an era dominated by bustling cities and the relentless march of technology, the healing power of nature has reemerged as a beacon of hope for those seeking respite from the daily grind. Across the globe, large-scale, so-called nature prescription programs have gained prominence. And healthcare practitioners are increasingly recommending time spent in natural environments to combat a variety of modern-day ailments. A return to this natural world has been wildly successful in Scandinavian societies. Here, nature exists in both educational curriculums and even medicines. Scandinavian countries serve as a therapeutic sanctuary for those seeking to rejuvenate their physical and mental health. Out of 952 studies on the impact of nature on human health, 92% demonstrated consistent improvements across any health outcome where individuals engaged with natural outdoor environments.

The Scandinavian Medicine

While the global embrace of nature prescriptions is undoubtedly a significant phenomenon, it is important to recognise that the roots of this movement stretch back to Scandinavia. Here, the profound connection between humans and the natural world has been cherished for generations. Scandinavia has fostered a unique approach to nature-based education and therapy, which has since become a source of inspiration for similar initiatives worldwide. In Denmark, the concept of the “forest school” emerged as a pioneering force in reimagining education. The “forest school”, first established by Ella Flautau, encouraged children to learn and play in the unspoiled landscapes of nature, emphasising hands-on experiences and a holistic understanding of the environment. In Sweden, Gosta Frohm, a visionary educator, founded the “Skogsmulle school” in Sweden. This institution prioritised the development of ecological consciousness in children, imparting knowledge about the wilderness while nurturing a deep-seated love for the great outdoors. The impact of such schools has been profound, as they not only instil a lifelong passion for nature but also lay the foundation for healthy living and emotional well-being.

Mental Health Benefits

Nature offers a bountiful array of mental health benefits, providing a powerful remedy to the stresses of modern life. The serene embrace of natural settings acts as a soothing balm for the mind, helping to lower stress levels and quell the production of cortisol, the infamous stress hormone. However, the advantages extend far beyond stress reduction. Stepping into nature ushers in a cascade of positive emotions, reducing negative ones, and acting as a salve for symptoms of depression and anxiety. Nature’s role as a catalyst for creativity and problem-solving is equally noteworthy, with cognitive health improved by 75%. A leisurely walk in the woods or by a tranquil waterway often sparks fresh perspectives and fosters innovative thinking. Time spent in the great outdoors enhances concentration, sharpens the attention span, and alleviates mental fatigue, offering respite from the relentless demands of modern life. In embracing nature, one embarks on a path to bolstered mental well-being and an elevated sense of life satisfaction. These mental health benefits, spanning a remarkable 98% of well-being, paint a compelling picture of the profound influence that nature can have on our psychological and emotional equilibrium.

Finding Peace in Serenity

Nestled in the heart of southeastern Sweden, the enchanting landscape of Blekinge offers a profound connection to nature, which in turn, is a gateway to enhanced mental and physical well-being. From Sölvesborg on the Skåne border, to Bröms in Northern Blekinge, the area offers breathtaking hiking trails through the natural landscape. Blekinge beckons individuals to partake in a wide array of outdoor activities, many of which span across the lush Archipelago Biosphere Reserve, ARK56. This was be navigated using the ARK56 app on your phone to plan the trip from home before you arrive. The area allows for biking along picturesque trails or taking a refreshing swim in the coastal waters. Visitors can even embarking on kayaking adventures on the Mörrumsån River or take a relaxing paddle on the interconnected lakes, Halen, Raslången and Immeln. are just a few of the experiences awaiting visitors. Furthermore, horse riding trails, invigorating hikes, and even golfing along the Sweden Golf Coast in Blekinge provide opportunities to engage with nature, fostering both mental tranquillity and physical vitality.

Nature Prescription Programmes

The transformative power of nature extends well beyond its aesthetic beauty, providing endless benefits to our physical well-being. When we step into natural settings, we inadvertently step into a world of increased physical activity. This infusion of regular exercise not only reinvigorates muscles and bones but also contributes significantly to overall physical health. Large nature prescription programmes have been implemented in many countries. The most frequently recommended activities were walking in nature (46% of all programs), farming or gardening (29%) and mindfulness exercises (29%).  Not only are they scientifically effective, but being in natural settings encourages physical activity, whether it’s hiking, cycling, or simply taking a walk. Exposure to the outdoors can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease, and enhance cardiovascular health. With extended influence on our immune system, the outdoors has the tools to combat illnesses more effectively.

Inflammation and the Sun

An increased exposure to the natural world correlates with an enhanced ability to fend off diseases, fortifying our overall resilience. The effects of nature lower markers of inflammation in the body, which is closely linked with various chronic diseases. Therefore, the action of being exposed to nature becomes a homoeopathic medicine to ease underlying tensions and bring relief to the body. Taking strong, deep breaths in such environments promotes stronger lung function and provides valuable support to those with conditions like asthma. Additionally, while in the sun there is an increased absorption of vitamin D and raising its natural production – a vital nutrient essential for bone health and our overall well-being. With an 83% improvement of physical health, nature allows us to pursue stronger health and a richer quality of life.

 

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