So you’ve returned back “home”, back to work, from Costa Rica where you were immersed in nature daily, bathed in sunlight, fresh ocean air. You spent minimal time indoors, took long walks, got back into shape and your stress finally faded away. Now you’re pining away for the time you spent in the luscious salty waves and rugged jungle that many of us call our second home.
Somehow, you landed back at your desk after you swore that this last trip to Costa Rica was going to be the one where you finally made the move for good. You’re toiling away, working endless hours on the computer, commuting, walking on concrete and all this has created knots of tension in your body. Where are the all those amazing bodyworkers in Guiones when you need them? As you sit in your enclosed office, you find yourself daydreaming about all your new Nosara friends who you gathered with at sunset and all those waves you rode with the quintessential offshore winds behind you.
It’s no mystery as to why spending time in nature makes us feel wonderful and is good for our health, but now there are cutting-edge studies to prove it. Scientists are measuring the physical benefits such as how time spent “forest bathing” (the chosen research lingo) effects stress hormones in the body. In Japan, researcher’s found that blood pressure, resting heart rate and cortisol (the well known stress hormone) were all lower after a 15 minute nature walk versus a city walk of the same duration. And another study found the cells that work to support the immune system were 37 percent higher in women who spent several hours in the woods.
With all the multitasking that’s occurring in the modern world, our brains are overwhelmed and overtaxed. This type of activity suppresses creative thinking and the development of a strong sense of self explains David Strayer, Ph.D., a neural scientist at the University of Utah. He proposed that peaceful time in nature has a restorative and replenishing effect on the parts of the brain that work to hard to accomplish all day, including texting, typing, driving, care-taking,working and talking to name a few.
So a full on move back to Costa Rica or at least another vacation might not just be a pleasurable escape, it might just be an actual prescription for health. And this is exactly what is happening. MD’s are finding the research so compelling, they are writing “nature prescriptions” as preventative medicine to help treat patients with depression, diabetes and even heart disease. One doctor in San Francisco gives her patients park maps with specific instructions as to what trails to take. She asserts that “nature therapy” can be a powerful intervention for many medical and emotional challenges. So finding your way back to the Guanacaste Coast is definitely a good idea and might just be the most powerful medicine yet.